October 04, 2009

A Sunday Morning in Chandor

At Guirdolim we waited at the railway crossing for the train to roar past before continuing on our way to the village square dominated by the Nossa Senhora de Belem Church as it rises over the countryside in Chandor, once known as Chandrapura, the ancient capital of Goa during the reign of the Kadambas in 11th century A.D.

Most know the church as Chandor Church. And most know Chandor for the Menezes Braganza mansion that takes up a sizeable length of the church square opposite Luis Antao’s house beside a Government Primary School.

In an open patch of land across the road from the Menezes Braganza mansion a whitewashed Church Cross stands alone on the roadside, aligned with the church entrance. Opposite, in the shade of plants, a gate opens into the Menezes Braganza mansion, its east and west wings stretching outwards from the entrance. A tour of the mansion is a peek into the opulence of the aristocracy of the Portuguese era.

Dating back to the 17th century A.D., the Nossa Senhora de Belem Church, together with the Menezes Braganza mansion, stands as a prominent signpost of the Portuguese era in Goa. The Portuguese were second to none in demolishing Hindu temples and building churches over them. Led by overzealous Jesuit missionaries and an aggressive Church that used violence to ‘persuade’ its conquered subjects to convert to Christianity, Portuguese depredation of Goa is legion.

Before Nossa Senhora de Belem Church came to dominate the village landscape in 1645, a Hindu temple, Sapta Matrika (Seven Mothers) stood in its place until its destruction by the Portuguese a century earlier. Muslim invaders were no different. Together they erased much of Chandor’s Hindu past. Forcible conversions by the Jesuits did the rest, changing the cultural character of the village. The forefathers of the Menezes Braganza family were said to be the Desai, an influential Hindu family from the village before their forcible conversion to Christianity by the Portuguese in the 16th century.

Chandor lies on the banks of the river Kushavati, and is made up of the three hamlets of Cotta, Cavorim, and Guirdolim. The city of Margao lies 15 kilometres away.

Sunday mornings in Chandor are relaxed affairs. Dressed in Sunday finery, village folk start for the church early, walking in a single file along largely empty roads. Every once in a while when fancy takes hold, children dressed in brightly coloured frocks prance on the roads before their mothers pull them to the side of the road, their gentle admonishments lost to the breeze. Gents in open necked shirts, some in black coats and crisp trousers, heads held high, make their way in silence. The faces are cheerful and smiles come easy. Colourful umbrellas twirl to the beat of the parishioners gait and lend colour to the blue skies over Chandor.

Occasionally a church-goer will pause to exchange pleasantries with a fellow villager across the road, headed in the opposite direction, voices carrying back and forth before each continues on his way.

Father Saude Pereira is the Parish Priest and is assisted by Father Damaciano Carvalho.

With the gathering of parishioners in the Church, often spilling out into the courtyard, intonations ring out rhythmically, enhancing the village idyll with lyrical cadences.

As we made our way past the railway crossing at Guirdolim the Sun slanted across the road, lighting up brightly coloured tavernas and shops. There was little or no hint of life within. Casa Miranda General Stores advertising Belo Beer was yet to open. It was still early in the morning for the folks in the village and moreover Sundays start with mass at the Chandor Church before it is time for commerce.

Drums lay against the wall partly hidden under the sloping roof and painted red. They were rusted from exposure to the elements. The door was open and I spied a man inside. A bicycle was propped against a tree. He had probably cycled to his shop on it.

We had ridden through Curtorim, passing along the way nests of Baya Weavers and womenfolk carrying cane baskets on their way to paddy fields. It was early November of last year and the threshing of paddy was nearing completion. If we were lucky we would get to see the last of the activities in Chandor that early November day.

The Sunday mass was underway when we reached the church square. Cars, two wheelers, and bicycles lay parked outside the church. A few shops stood across the road from the church. We stepped inside an inn for tea and pao bhaji. The proprietress was busy at the back of the inn when we made our way to the front of the inn and settled down at a table. The inn was empty. I expected it to fill up to capacity once the church dispersed for the day. Until then we had a gentleman for company.

Stuck to the wall behind the counter an envelope announced NO SMOKING. On an open flap of the envelope transgressors were warned of a fine of twenty rupees for smoking. A picture of Jesus graced one corner. Light streamed into the inn, brightening up the counter before losing its way inside.

We asked for pao bhaji before relapsing into silence. At the entrance a Tiatr performance was advertised on a board propped up against a glass case displaying snacks. The samosas had likely gone cold. An old issue of The Navhind Times lay crumpled in one of the shelves.

Two plates of Usal made their way to our table accompanied by pao (bread). As expected the masala used was strong. We ate in silence.

Shortly afterwards the Sunday mass concluded and parishioners filed out of the church and into the village square. The quiet roads now throbbed with people. Some came by the inn. A middle-aged lady came in and ordered for six plates of pao bhaji to be packed for home delivery. Her young son was with her. The proprietress asked after his studies, affectionately berating him to do well on his mother complaining of his lack of interest in his studies.

“He keeps cycling around the village all day or is out playing football with his friends,” his mother told the proprietress. The boy, embarrassed, shifted on his feet, evading their gaze.

“Collect the package in twenty minutes,” she told his mother before exchanging village banter.

Not all parishioners had waited for the Sunday mass to conclude before leaving for home. A few had left just as it was drawing to a close.

From among the rest a few lolled about in the square catching up with friends. Others stepped into shops for provisions to carry home while still others got behind their wheels and backed out of the open parking lot while children cycled merrily along the roads. Behind the church lay the village soccer field. Further up was the cemetery.

At the head of the road that branched off the main road along the church before running by the inn, bisecting paddy fields along the way north, I paused to watch an elderly Catholic couple dressed for the Sunday mass walk lightly home on the deserted road.

A swarm of swallows settled on electricity lines that ran high up along the road. Numbering in excess of hundred they somersaulted in the air before returning to their perches on the wires and basking in the Sun to the east. Oblivious to their presence the elderly couple walked along, their umbrella occasionally bobbing from side to side. She probably held the umbrella open out of habit for, while the morning was warming up in the Sun a pleasant breeze meandered joyously along.

The road ran straight and narrow. Coconut palms rose in the distance, merging in the backdrop of hills that towered over the route to Quepem. The hills of Chandranath must lie somewhere close I thought. Mud dug up to widen the road lay heaped along one side. The red of the mud offered a stark contrast with the green of the grass.

We started down the open road, reveling in the sunshine of a Sunday morning, pausing to marvel at Small Green Bee-eaters show off their acrobatics in the skies above a field abutting a coconut grove. As they zig zagged after prey we let out excited whoops on catching sight of their successful dives.

There was no one around to share our ringside view of the acrobatics except for a Holy Cross sheltering under a tin roof and set off by grass that had turned to a burnished gold in the warmth of a sleepy little village on the banks of an ancient river called Kushavati.

In a moment of sheer joy happiness makes for happy company.


marja-leena said...

What a lovely morning! Thanks for the tour, Anil.

The Girl From Cherry Blossom Street said...

I love this post, Anil. I would be so delighted to spend one morning in Chandor any given Sunday!
This reminds me of how we used to dress up going to church. Oh our dresses would be pressed, shoes polished, hair styled and teased.

I would love to try some of that pao. Sheer joy indeed!

Anu said...

what a beautiful description.... you made me experience the small village for myself!! thanks a lot...

harini calamur said...

lovely set of pictures and write up

kenju said...

You write so beautifully!

My knowledge of world history is sadly lacking. I had no idea that there had been a Portuguese presence there.

Vetrimagal said...


Nice photoraphs. Made us feel like going to Goa for yet another visit.:-)

This is what makes Goa a place we long to visit again and again.

Lunatic said...

What an excellent write up...with the snaps and all....i am a fan.

Cate said...

I was there with you waiting for the food in silence with you, hearing the sogs of praise from the church, absorbing the scene. Woderful story!

Merisi said...

I sneaked away several times today,
to come visit your blog and read those wonderful stories about places and people you bring into our lives so vividly and unforgettable. As always, it was a fantastic experience, thank you so much for taking the time to share all these stories with us! I can only imagine how much time and knowledge and research and care it takes to put all of this together. I sure hope that some day, somehow, something that remunerates you for your exquisite effort will be born. Thank you!

Anil P said...

Marja-Leena: Thank you.

TGF Cherry Blossom Street: Thank you. I'm sure you'll quite enjoy Chandor's idyll were you to decide to stay on for a bit.

Dressing up for Sunday mass is more than just a ritual, it is a way of life to many in Goa. I can imagine the joy children feel at being dressed so.

Made well, pao bhaji is sumptuous to say the least.

Anu: Thank you.

Harini Calamur: Thank you.

Kenju: Thank you.

The Portuguese landed in Goa as traders and with the help of local forces inimical to the incumbent rulers overthrew the latter and annexed Goa in 1510, holding sway over Goa for close to 450 years until their defeat by the Indian Army in 1961.

Only for a brief period in the 1810s did they relinquish control of Goa to the British during what came to be known as the Napoleonic wars.

Vetrimagal: Thank you. Oh, you must.

Lunatic: Thank you. It's a pleasure to learn you enjoy my posts.

Cate: A pleasure indeed. Thank you.

Merisi: It's a pleasure to bring these stories, more so knowing they're read and lived through even if far removed in geography and culture.

Thank you for your kind comment. It has been a satisfying experience to be able to share them with you over the years, and I appreciate your interest and empathy for the effort that goes into writing them, making it worth my while even as it encourages me to keep going.

Hopefully someday they will amount to something.

Thank you, Merisi.

Lola Nova said...

I wanted to thank you for the comment you left on my blog, said so simply and eloquently, better than I.

What an amazing blog you have! I have enjoyed looking and reading so much. The rich descriptions you provide have allowed me to travel in my imagination. Very lovely.

Sunita said...

What a great post, Anil. You've made me reminisce about everything I love about small-town Goa.

Anya said...

Interesting post
Amazing photo's :)
Thanks for your visit ....

Kareltje =^.^=
Anya :)

magiceye said...

beautifully written ...
enjoyed the trip to chandor with you!

Antarman said...

I love the feel of Goa...I tried misal pao at Mangeshi temple, it was nt good at all.

radha said...

what a lovely account supported by pictures. I had a quick look at your blog, will definitely read your older posts too.
And thanks for dropping by!

Anil P said...

Lola Nova: Thank you. It's a pleasure to know you enjoyed reading the post.

Sunita: Thank you. Small-town Goa, away from the bustle of the tourist side of the state is a lilting melody of calm.

Anya: Thank you.

Magiceye: Thank you.

Antarman: Usually depends on whether one has acquired a taste for it or not, or upon the culinary skills of the cook, and lastly if one likes the sev dry our immersed in the gravy. I take mine dry when I ask for Misal Pao.

Rakesh Vanamali said...

Awesome blog here! Very colourful, both in words and pictures!

Thanks for visiting my space and leaving me your comments!

Paz said...

Very nice scenery on a Sunday morning. And I liked to read about the history. My favorite photo is of the birds. ;-) Thanks for sharing your part of the world with us.


Mumbai Paused said...

This Goa is beautiful. I once had the good fortune of staying with a friend in Colvale, in North Goa. And to visit an island called Zuem that's surrounded by the river Chapora. This story took me back there. It's a wonderful place.

Anil P said...

Rakesh Vanamali: Than you.

Paz: Thank you. The birds were many, and they like open fields and electricity wires.

Mumbai Paused: Yes, it is. Chapora is up North, quieter still.

Amber Star said...

Anil P.,
The Catholic church has done some ruthless things in its lifetime. I'm sorry they did such an insensitive thing to your Goa. And by the way I had NO idea that the Indian army regained it in 1961! That was in my lifetime! Actually, there have been a lot of things that happened in my lifetime.

I looked for the food you ate or looked at in the shop and found this recipe link:


Your stories and pictures are wonderfully colorful and clear.

One day soon I'll go downtown here in Fort Worth and maybe out to the North side of town. I've had a need to tell about our cowboy heritage recently. Yesterday out of the blue I got all caught up in cowboy hats and the creases and brims and how they are made. When my kids were much younger and living at home they had horses and it was all about the hats, the chaps, the spurs, the jeans..and on and on. It is meant for me to write this, well because of the whole cowboy hat thing and I just heard on tv that today is Mad Hatter's day. Every good cowboy hat has a red ribbon in it and that is a salute to the men who died from using mercury to make the hats, all hats not just cowboy ones. Nobody knew mercury affected people in a way to make them appear to be insane, but it did. Hence, the mad hatter saying. "He's crazy as a mad hatter."

Peace be with you and I did read that Ghandi's birthday was the other day.

Anjuli said...

Thank you for taking me on this wonderful tour of chandor. You not only did a marvelous job of taking me through present day chandor but also the past.

Sad background to a beautiful modern setting. It is often regrettable what people do in the name of religion. I just reread that sentence and felt I wanted to say something stronger- but we will leave it at that.

Now you have brought beauty in this post and this is wonderful.

Amber Star said...

When I was here before I forgot to ask if the monsoon rains came in time for your country. Parts of Texas have had a drought for the past couple of years and it was getting very desperate for them. We have been getting lots of rain for a good while now. Hope you did, too.

Brian Miller said...

thanks for dropping by today and the wonderful description of sunday in chandor. beautiful.

bindu said...

That was a nice stroll through Goa - I loved it the past two times I've been there.

Anil P said...

Amber Star: Goa faced the brunt of destruction of temples by the Portuguese, and during the Inquisition, forced (often violent) conversion of the Hindu subjects to Christianity.

Pao Bhaji is a preferred choice (at breakfast or tea time) for a sizeable section of Goans, and very sumptuous too if prepared well.

The Bhaji is an accompaniment to the Pao (Bread), and is usually prepared spicy for taste. The Pao is eaten with the Bhaji, best when the Bhaji is hot.

Depending on the recipe and ingredients used, the Bhaji can vary, namely Salad Bhaji, or Alsana Bhaji, Usal Bhaji, Sukkhi Bhaji, Patal Bhaji, Tamat Bhaji among others.

There'll be a lot of Cowboy heritage where you live, and will make for nteresting stories to narrate. Using mercury to make hats, sad!

Mahatma Gandhi's birthday was on October 2.

Yes, it did rain later, though very erratic. The pattern was not consistent so farming was severely affected. The last week saw severe floods in Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh after the dams discharged water on catchment areas filing up.

Thank you.

Anjuli: Thank you. Yes, true. Organised religion is usually destructive, more so when it is not separated from State.

Brian Miller: Thank you.

Bindu: Thank you :-)

Sarah Laurence said...

I’ve been thinking of you while reading about the horrible flooding in India. It’s reassuring to see some dry images and to hear that your region was spared.

I love how you take your readers along with you on your journeys. That last image is gloriously golden and lush. Thank you!

Sorry to be slow to visit - computer problems.

bARE-eYED sUN said...

well, well, Anil,
a truly wonderful surprise
this visit to your blog.

the pix and passage go together

'twas a real treat to spend a Sunday tour with you.

thank you very, very much.

and, please,
keep on bloggin'



Lori ann said...

Thank you for this very interesting tour. I hope to see some of this part of the world someday, until then I love coming here.

Anil P said...

Sarah Laurence: The floods in South India have caused widespread devastation the last seven days. Some of the places submerged are those I've visited many times.

The field had turned golden. Thank you.

Bare-eyed Sun: Thank you for staying on :-)

Lori Ann: Thank you. Sure, do visit India.

Coffee Messiah said...

A wonder your country is and amazing to see read your interaction with it when you post!


Anil P said...

Coffee Messiah: Thank you :-)

Judith Ellis said...

What a wonderful journey! Thank you.

Anil P said...

Judith Ellis: Thank you.

Merisi said...

Are these swallows congregating to get ready for their seasonal migration? So lucky to be able to observe bee-eaters!