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Central Goa - Goa Velha 137


for families and stressed businesspeople. There are overpriced cottages and rooms, a pool with waterslide, a gymnasium, activities such as tennis and a riverside location with private boat trips on offer.
GOA VELHA
Before the establishment of Old Goa as the Muslim capital, the major port and capital city under the Kadambas had been on the south side of Tiswadi Island, on the banks of the Zuari River. The Kadambas knew this city as Govepuri, but the Portuguese, distinguishing between the new capital, 'Goa', and the old site, called it 'Goa Velha'.
In its heyday, Govepuri was an international port, attracting Arab traders who began to settle in the area. In 1312 the city was almost totally destroyed by Muslim invaders from the north, and over the following years repeated invasions by the Muslims caused havoc. It wasn't until Goa was taken into the Vijayanagar empire in 1378 that trade revived, but by this time the fortunes of the old capital had begun to decline anyway, both from the crushing blow of its destruction and also from the fact that the waters on which it based its livelihood were silting up.
In 1470 the Muslim Bahmani sultanate took Goa, destroyed what was left of the old city, and moved the capital to the new site in the north, which they also called Gove but which is now known as Old Goa.
Little remains of Goa Velha, the site of which lies 3km north of the small village of Agassaim, on the northern side of the Zuari bridge. There are, however, some interesting sights to be seen nearby, and since the Panaji-Margao road runs straight through the centre of this area, the sites are easily accessible.
Church of St Andrew
Just off the main road, at the northern extent of Goa Velha, is the Church of St Andrew, which hosts an annual festival. On the Monday a fortnight before Easter, 30 statues of saints are taken from their storage place and paraded around the roads of the village. The festivities include a small fair, and the crowds that attend this festival are so big that the police have to restrict movement on the national highway that runs past the village.
The procession has its origins in the 17th century when, at the prompting of the
Franciscans, a number of life-size statues were paraded as a reminder to the local people of the lives of the saints. Originally the processions started and ended at Pilar, but in 1834 the religious orders were forced to leave Goa and the statues were transferred to the Church of St Andrew. Processions lapsed and many of the original sculptures were lost or broken, until, in 1895, subscriptions were raised to obtain a new set.
Church of St Anne (Santana)
About 5km north of Goa Velha, the Church of St Anne - known to the local people simply as Santana - is one place that has really suffered from neglect over the past few years. A hand-painted sign by the side door still boasts the claim made by some observers that this is one of the greatest churches of its type (it's in baroque style with India architectural differences). However, it's hard to feel anything other than sorry for the appalling state it's in now. Even so, blackened as it is, with vegetation growing out of the facade and broken shutters hanging down, the place is still undeniably impressive. The huge front of the chapel is set off by the large cross before the building. If you peep through the doors you can see that the interior is still intact, and the whole thing has a rather ghostly air about it.
Pilar Seminary
North of Agassaim, set on a hill high above the surrounding countryside, is the Pilar Seminary, one of four built by the Portuguese (only two of which still survive, the other being Rachol Seminary, near Margao). The hill on which the seminary stands was once the site of the large Hindu temple overlooking Goa Velha. The original church on the site was built by Capuchin monks in 1613. They established a centre of learning here and named the seminary Our Lady of Pilar, after the statue they had brought with them from Spain.
Abandoned in 1835 the seminary was rescued by the Carmelites in 1858, and from 1890 became the headquarters of the Missionary Society of St Francis Xavier. The movement gradually petered out and in 1936 the buildings were handed over to the Xaverian League. Today the seminary is still in use, and is also the scene of local pilgrimages for those who come to give thanks

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