City Information :: Panjim History
Panjim/Panaji and its history

Panjim the capital city of Goa comprises 30 wards like Fontainhas, Mala, St Tome, Alto Pilotos, Boca de Vaca, Portais, Bhatlem, Tonca, Alto Guimaraes, Campal, St Inez, Gaspar Dias, Ribandar, Dona Paula, etc. Panjim’s history is long.  Historical accounts of this place date back to Kadamba King Shasthadeva (1007-1050). An inscription of the Kadamba King Vijayaditya I, dated February 7, 1107 and it refers to Panajim as Pahajani Khali. Another interpretation of the name is that Panji or Ponji is said to mean the “land that never gets flooded”. Yet another interpretation is that it is a variation of Pancha Yma Afsumgary or five wonderful castles where the Muslim King Ismail Adil Shah and his wives used to live. The name was later changed to Panjim by the Portuguese and when Old Goa collapsed in the 19th century, Panjim was elevated to the status of a city on 22 March 1843 and was renamed “Nova Goa”. After Liberation in 1961 it was known as “Panaji”. Panjim was originally a neglected ward of Taleigão village. The only conspicuous construction was the 15th century castle built by Adil Shah on the left bank of the Mandovi. Viceroy Dom Manuel de Saldanha de Albuquerque, Count of Ega, remodelled the old castle and a palace was built which was later used as the Government Secretariat. The moat around the castle of Adil Shah was filled up and made into a road, the harem was levelled and in 1851-55 the building of Contadoria or Fazenda which is now the Accounts Department was constructed.

During the first forty years of Christianization, the Portuguese set up three main churches in the area covered by the old Taleigao village. In Panjim, a hermitage came up prior to 1541, under invocation of Our Lady of Conception which was built on the slope of the hillock. This hillock was named as the Oiteiro de Conceição (Hill of Conception). It is surmised that it was uilt by workers from Portugal.

The Dominicans were in charge of it till the end of the 16th century. In 1600 it was made a parochial church and was rebuilt in 1619. Its majestic double staircase, rising in angled planes from the main church square was built in 1870. In Taleigão the church was constructed by the Dominicans in 1544. At St Inez, there was a hermitage which was built in 1584 by Dom Francisco d’Eça, who after its construction donated it to the religious order of St Augustine in 1601. However a few years later, Dom Francisco d’Eça reconstructed the hermitage which was raised to the category of church by the Archbishop, Dom Frei Aleixo de Menezes in 1606. It was at this stage that the areas of Panjim and St. Inez got detached from Taleigão and formed separate parishes.

Viceroy, Count of Linhares, Dom Miguel de Noronha, linked Panjim with Ribandar village by a 3.2 km long causeway; know as Ponte Linhares (Linhares causeway). The Jesuits of the College of St Paul in Old Goa designed and executed it in 1632 and the massive bridge-cum-causeway, the longest and the oldest in the whole east, was built on alluvial soul after stabilizing it with solid trunks of a local tree known as 'zambo or jambo (Xiliadola briformis – Benth). The superstructure of the bridge was built with laterite stone. The marvel is that this bridge was originally designed for light traffic of horse-drawn carriages, yet almost 400 years later this bridge takes a continuous stream of very heavy speeding vehicles.

The ward of Fontainhas lies on the eastern side of the city. It was an alluvial stretch with a long canal, shielded on the west by a low hill. In the mid-1750s this area was leased to Antonio Joao de Sequeira, who turned the alluvial area into a coconut palm grove and named it Palmar Ponte ‘palmar’ meaning ‘coconut grove’ and ‘ponte’ meaning ‘bridge’. When Sequeira died the land was donated to the Carmelite nuns. At that time the area of Fontainhas was inhabited by fishermen, sailors and persons engaged in the coconut oil extraction trade.

Meanwhile conditions in Old Goa were deteriorating with disease due to unsanitary conditions and many offices were shifted to Panjim between the years 1810-1839. Requests for lease of land poured into the convent. The Carmelites leased out the land without observing any rules of urbanization. The areas of Portais and Fontainhas were urbanized in a haphazard way with narrow paths winding through small dwellings and huts.

On the other side of the hill towards the northwest, a large tract of land from the CCP building right up to the Pharmacy College was also a dense coconut palm grove known as Japão which belonged to the Conde de Nova Goa, a Portuguese count. The government acquired it from the family for development of the new township. The land in front of the Panjim Church known as Matmor or Palmar de Miguel José was leased to Dom Miguel José da Conceição. Part of this land was a dense coconut palm grove. The other non-cultivable land was acquired later by the Panjim municipality which was used for the development of Panjim square.

The Viceroy, Dom Manuel de Portugal e Castro (1826-35) devoted himself to the development of Panjim. He has been called the ‘Father of Panjim’. He carried out extensive works of reclamation and levelling of sand dunes in the area from the old Goa Medical School and Hospital complex, and covering the whole of Campal and Gaspar Dias till Tonca. Thus was formed a large flat land which was called ‘Campo de D Manuel’. To avoid flooding in this area, two long canals served as drainage and to make the traffic smooth, five large Roman arched culverts were laid over the canals. The massive constructions in the town like the Customs building, the large complex presently housing the Police Headquarters, Central Library, Printing Press, Collectorate, etc, were also due to his initiative.

On March 22 1843, Panjim which was called ‘Nova Goa’ was raised to the category of a city with all the privileges, prerogatives and liberty, similar to other cities of Portugal.

The Fontainhas marshes were drained and the canal was built with roads on both sides during the time of the Governor, Viscount of Ourem, Joaquim José Hanuario Lapa (1851-55). The road on the Fontainhas side of the canal was named after him. During his time, the fountains of ‘Phoenix’ at Fontainhas (Mala) and Boca da Vaca which provided potable water to the city were also built. The Governor, Count of Torres Nova (1855-64) introduced sanitary measures in the new city, developed the Church Square (then named Praça de Flores) and the present Municipal Garden named ‘Garcia da Orta’ in memory of the great botanist and medical man of the 16th century. He also began work on several internal roads in Fontainhas, Portais and the construction of a five kilometre trunk road from Don Bosco School up to Dona Paula which was a major achievement in the development of Panjim. An overall plan for the central and peripheral zones of the new city was devised by the Governor Januário Correia de Almeida (1870-71). His successors executed his plan after his early transfer.

Another Governor who had a short tenure (1877-78), left his mark with planned urbanization of the city. Panjim city was also linked with the village of St Inez through a road which bears his name.

Governor Caetano Alexandre Almeida de Albuquerque (1878-82), decided to remove the barrier of Conceição Hill which separated Fontainhas from the central zone of the city. He cut a 302 m long section through the ridge known as Corte de Oiteiro. The huge quantity of soil from cutting the ridge was used to fill up swampy areas in the central zone of the city. He also stabilized and drained the area near the Secretariat and built a motorable road around the Secretariat.

During the tenure of Governor Carlos Eugénio Correia da Silva (1882-85) and his Chief Secretary Dr José Maria Teixeira Guimarães, minor roads and maintenance of gardens was undertaken. A sizeable settlement had come up behind the Lyceum buildings and it was connected to the Rua de Natal in Fontainhas by way of a masonry flight of steps. The area is called Alto Guimarães. A new look was given to the capital city when the Governor, Eduardo Galhardo (1900-05), set footpaths to the main thoroughfares of the central zone of the city. Also the building of new link roads continued.

The new city received however, a great boost to its development and beautification in the construction of a four-carriage avenue with ornamental trees, starting from Hotel Mandovi up to the Military Hospital near Kala Academy, which was renamed D B Bandodkar Marg. This avenue is one of the landmarks of Panjim, conceived and partly executed by the last monarchical Governor, engineer Jose Maria de Sousa Horta e Costa (1907-1910).

In 1922 during the tenure of Governor Jaime Alberto de Castro Morais (1919-1925), a progressive engineer, Luis A de Maravilhas, was invited by the Panjim municipality to improve the urban pattern and settlement zones of Panjim City, with the exception of Fontainhas, St Tome, Portais and Secretariat zones. The area beyond Church Square and covering the whole western zone of the city till Tonca was planned by engineer Maravilhas. It was a logical plan with a grid pattern of roads of more than average breadth and large footpaths with provision for tree plantation was soon put into action.

Panjim received further boost during the time of Governor João Carlos Craveiro Lopes (1929-36) when a programme of tarring of all the roads of the city was undertaken. He was also responsible for the development of Altinho area. Electrification of the city was introduced in 1931.

In 1940, Dr Froilano de Melo, president of Panjim municipality, devised a plan for the beautification of the city, particularly, the Church Square, the present ‘18th June Road’ and the 'Campal’ zone.

During the Exposition of St Francis Xavier in 1952, Panjim witnessed an overall face-lift. All commercial stalls were removed from the stretch between State Bank of India and Secretariat and a wide marginal road was opened linking it with the Campal Avenue. Modern buildings to house the River Navigation and the Customs annexe were also constructed on the bank of the river Mandovi. In the main avenues, new poles were erected for electrification and a special programme was implemented for the arborisation of the city’s avenues.

By Order dated November 16, 1953, a new body with statutory powers Comissão de Urbanização was set up in Goa, Daman and Diu, to control the urbanization and construction activities in the cities of Portuguese India. An architect of PWD and an engineer of Panjim Municipality were sent to Europe to study the latest developments in the field of urbanisation. In 1957 round-the-clock water supply to the city was provided. Earlier an efficient system of drainage in the city area was laid which was proved adequate since no flooding during the monsoons was ever noticed.

On September 8, 1960, the Governor General, Manuel Antonio Vassalo e Silva, unfolded an ambitious plan of urbanization of Panjim city. This plan was conceived in a controlled manner taking into account the existing cultural and traditional values and the future expansion needs which called for a comprehensive road network, open spaces and green belts, adequate zoning and planning regulations etc. A note that touched the hearts of Goans was the appeal made by the governor to the residents of Panjim, inviting them to come forward with their valuable suggestions, so as to improve the plan. One of the main features of the plan was a long avenue similar to the Marine Lines of Bombay, running from the old PWD building at Patto till Dona Paula (NIO’s Location). While the plan was on the verge of execution, Goa was integrated into the Indian Union on December 19 1961.

Suave and sedate architecture with marked Latin traits, houses running in straight alignment, white-washed walls, high windows and sloping roofs were the salient features of the buildings of Panjim. Apart from this, her clean tree-lined avenues and unhindered footpaths were adding grace to the city, once called the Princess of Mandovi.

At the beginning, Panaji developed in a most shy and candid way. She remained small, cut off and parochial. Then came the far-sighted D Manuel de Portugal e Castro (1826-35) who embarked confidently on the difficult task of converting partly swampy, partly sandy stretches, into a potential area for the new capital of Goa. Though relatively small, Panjim, lapped and nourished by the waters of the quiet flowing placid Mandovi river, grew with a distinct individuality and an old quaint charm that was quite fascinating. 168 years of history.

In a short span of a little more than thirty years Panjim has had to suffer the physically traumatic insertion of large RCC blocks, designed with scant regard to the climatic and environmental aspects, in place of sedate vivendas of the old city. Town Planners should be the custodians of the built environment as well as creators of it. They need to develop a discerning eye not only for the potential of sites for future development but also for the potential of existing occupied sites and buildings for their rehabilitation or for their better use.

Progress is inevitable and a generally desirable process in all human societies. Few would cavil at the improvements in the lives of the majority that recent developments have brought, but only the most insensitive philistine could fail to hope that in the future, enough of the old charm of Panjim will remain to enable posterity to recapture the essence of her 168 years of history. On March 22, 2011 Panjim city will be 168 years old.