Goa is a perfect confluence of East meets West. The blend of the Portuguese culture with the Indian roots is what makes is such a colorful and delightful place. This fusion was evident to me during the heritage tour of the Fontainhas with its narrow streets and bright houses. However, it was a visit to the “Houses of Goa” museum that really enhanced my understanding of them. I did mention some of the unique things about the houses of Goa in this post but to understand them more, you need to visit this unique museum.
The museum was conceptualized by a local architect – Gerard da Cunha, who first used this concept in an international trade exhibition. Given its uniqueness and the interest levels of the visitors, he decided to take this on further as an independent museum. Today he is the chief curator and designer of the Houses of Goa museum. Thanks to Goa Tourism, I had the fortune of meeting him and chatting with him in person. In fact, he himself, took us on a tour of the entire museum.
The museum itself is spread over three floors and has galleries dedicated to
- The History of the Houses of Goa
- The different types of houses of Goa
- The material, interiors and furniture used in the Houses of Goa
- Section on the significant symbols of the final Goan house. This is also, a small amphitheatre with slideshows of the museum.
While the entire museum was a delight to tour around, here are my highlights of the “Houses of Goa” Museum
The building of the museum
The museum is smack in the center of the road and stands out owing to its ship like shape. What is even more amazing is that when you enter in, you do not have a straight flight of steps but a spiral staircase. It makes you feel as if you are ascending a mast pole of a ship. 🙂
History in pictures
Around the spiral staircase on the first floor is a pictorial representation of the entire history of Goa and the way the entire housing structure evolved after the arrival of Portuguese. The work of the famed cartoonist Mario Miranda, these pictures are quite interesting and in some cases, comical.
Adding to that is a set of images showcasing the various monuments of the world on a timeline. The entire experience of looking through these is not just educative but also, interesting. I found myself trying to spot the various monuments that I had seen or known of.
The coat hanger at the Houses of Goa Museum
This one was cute. The hangers were kind of fold-able and when opened resembled an umbrella. I also, thought that the entire structure was quite artistic. A bit of an ethnic touch in the design with a functionality that came in from the West.
I had mentioned in this post of how the shell windows were a typical Goan concept. The Houses of Goa museum not just has these windows but also, tells you about the way it is made. It was quite fascinating to see the shell pieces that make up this cute window.
Symbols of the Houses of Goa
Remember the famous Portuguese rooster that were found on the houses in Fontainhas? If not, take a peek here. This was one of the main symbols of the houses of Goa. Quite like that, you can spot this policeguy. I do not know of its significance and truly, I forgot to ask, but I do remember him on a few houses of Fontainhas, like this bright red one below. So, the next time you are in the “Houses of Goa” museum, don’t forget to spot this cute fella and check on why he is kept on the homes.
The Tulsi Aangan & the Holy Crosses
I had shared on how one can distinguish between a Hindu house and a Christian house in Fontainhas – the whole aspect of Tulsi plants Vs. the Holy Crosses. At the Houses of Goa museum, you actually realise how many varieties of these Tulsi aangans and crosses were used. It was just a pictorial representation but quite an insightful one.
Balcaos of the Houses of Goa
The Houses of Goa Museum is where I learnt about this unique thing of Balcoas or sit-outs. All through my heritage walk of Fontanhas, I noticed these huge sit outs in the houses but did not know that they were called Balcoas or that this was used as an evening gathering place for neighbours. You can well imagine what a lively life they lead – what – with a good cup of tea and a dose of gossip 🙂
The museum has pictures of various balcoas along with a witty representation of the same by the famous cartoonist – Mario Miranda. On the same level, you can also, spot the unique Portuguese palanquin – the Machila. And while you are there, don’t miss the story of the Raj Aangans or the huge verandas that were used for feasts in the Hindu homes.
The houses of Goa museum is quite an insightful place for those who love knowing more about the culture and architecture of the local homes. It is quite well curated and unusual. Gerard has indeed done a brilliant job of preserving the heritage stories of Goa through this museum. The place is definitely another destination for those looking for Goa beyond beaches. And if you do decide to visit here, remember to opt for the tour of the unique schools built by Gerard – a story that I will keep for my next post. So stay tuned and till then, comment in and let me know on how you found this attraction.
- Goa can easily be reached by road, rail or flight from any city in India. It has its own railway station and airport.
- The Houses of Goa museum is located just 5 kms from Panjim in Torda. You can reach this place with the help of a local taxi or car.
- You can click here for the official website of this museum
- The museum is open between 10:00am to 7:30 pm on all days except Mondays.
- You can opt for a slide show of the Houses of Goa at the museum. However, for the same you will need to have a prior booking.
- The entry fees to the museum is INR 25.
- Please note that the museum is a small one and one needs to climb up to access it. You cannot carry a pram into the museum. It could also, be an issue for people with disabilities
- You will need to remove your shoes and tour the museum.
- Keep aside 30 – 45 minutes to tour this museum.
- You can club a visit to the unique schools around this museum whilst here. These schools are built by Gerard and have some unique architecture.
- I also, recommend combining this visit with the Heritage walk throughFontainhas, it will definitely help you appreciate the same better.
- Drop in to the Mario Miranda shop, near the museum, for some quirky buys – from funny badges to Tshirts and some crockery. Check them out.
P.S: I was invited by Goa Tourism to visit this museum.