The saga of Anjuna lays claim to great antiquity. It harks back to times remote when Bhumika Devi, primitive earth-goddess reigned supreme in her temple by the sacred tolem; the god Vetal in the vicinity near the pond of devadasis. The story tells of installation of the swayambu or self-generated deity of Siddeshwar in Cainsua by the Reddi Raja of Revatidvipa in 659A.D. In the tenth century a brisk trade in noble stallions, shipped in dhows for cavalry regiments of the Deccan via the port of Shahpura, gave this flourishing Arab commercial settlement the name hanjamana. Evolving into Hanzun it was one of twelve villages where Saraswats swooped and cultivated, setting off gory feuds with the original dwellers. Linked by natural waterways, Anjuna became a thriving hub of ship-building and fishing, while traditional crafts like making mud pottery,rope and liquor continued apace. Bullock carts transporting agricultural produce and other goods from port to market-place plied on uneven red mud roads with an occasional dovarne to relieve the humble head-loader of his burden.
The magnificent vista of a great blue canopy of sky above and a lush green valley below – that is Anjuna from a bird’s eye view! Ringed in by low brown-red hills of Baga, Arpora, Parra, Assagao and Siolim, opening only in the west to the golden sandy stretch of beach, this five-square mile hamlet nestles within a natural barricade of sea and hill. It does resemble a giant bowl in diverse shades of green, criss-crossed by wide tarmac tracks, the russet ribbon of rural roads and the scintillating shimmer of snaky streams. Acres and acres of paddy-fields in neat square chunks are interspersed by woody clumps of mango and coconut groves that cleverly camouflage human dwellings. But, set on a rocky promontory overlooking the waters of the Arabian Sea, almost defiantly the ancient fortress of Chapora stands majestic in its ruins.
Because of its strategic position at the border, the ancient watchtower fortress served as a formidable bastion against the enemy – even when the region came under the sway of the Portuguese conquistadores in the sixteenth century! Retaining its tunnels and secret escape routes, Chapora, as they began to call it, was rebuilt and fortified with turrets by Conde de Ericeira in 1717 to became the venue of constant battle. How the hills reverberated to the thump of galloping hordes of Maratha horsemen ravaging the countryside and terrorizing the local population! A mute witness to the ultimate overthrow of the Bhonsles, until annexation of border principalities a whole century later, Chapora served as a place of refuge to villagers vulnerable to attack; and it remained the prestigious northern outpost of Portuguese domain in Goa.
With the conquerors came various Portuguese missionaries to spread the Gospel. In 1603 the Franciscans erected a massive church in Anjuna dedicated to St. Michael, the Archangel. Rebuilt in 1717 on the model of the famous contemporary Mannerist styled Se Cathedral of Old Goa, this outstanding landmark is a most interesting specimen of colonial architecture of the sixteenth century. Its baroque interior presents a gorgeous glimpse of Portugal’s glorious era of exuberance and gold leaf glitter. The people of the village have in their own way kept adding to the adornments of this beautiful house of God. This village church has been the vibrant hub of existence, selflessly ministering to the many homes spread around it for miles. It has nurtured musical talent and kept aglow the torch of learning, so evident in the two high schools it has. This year having marked the peak of its fourth centennial anniversary, it has launched out a most unique programme to culminate in a true Communion of Communities.
Like every other village in Goa wayside crosses and shrines dot Anjuna’s placid scenario. They started as the venue of folk gatherings and later evolved into chapels that complement the church. At times a private chapel sprouted near the ancestral home of a priest who stayed with his family and served the people. In such a far-flung parish the chapels proved a boon to the old and the infirm living a distance from the church. Under its special direction the church of St. Michael has six chapels spread out in different wards. Charmingly retaining still the Portuguese name of their dedication, the oldest dating back to 1697 is Nossa Senhora da Necessidade at Cainsua. Nossa Senhora da Saude began in 1735 as a private chapel of the Mascarenhas family of Mazalvaddo while Nossa Senhora da Piedade originated in 1844 adjacent to the Campos home in Chinvar. Santa Cruz is at Chapora and S. Joao Baptist in Sonarvaddo while S. Antonio has lent its name to Praias, a lovely stretch of beach.
Almost unknown among the ancient monuments of Anjuna is a grim reminder of the days of the Inquisition in Goa. An enigma to many, it is what historical records call A Pedra de Maldicao/ Accursed Stone. Indelibly etched on the six-foot granite monolith, long shattered by the elements in two, and no longer erect, is the spine-chilling legend of a murderous assault by some persons in Bamonvaddo on a defenceless Portuguese priest who was visiting the area. His principal, adhering to the currently harsh dictum, had ordered a Brahmin widow to bring her posthumous child to the church for baptism. The stone records also how, as punishment, the guilty were sent to the galleys, their houses destroyed, their fields rendered infertile. And it ends with a severe warning. Today candle stumps and charred agarbatti articulate reverence, or fear, of the locals to whom it has become a shrine of sorts. However, rather than arouse aggressive sentiments, the presence of this monument in our midst should serve to highlight our crying need for greater sensitivity and inter-communal harmony.
Some extremely charming old villas in Anjuna mirror the grandeur and grace of Goa at the close of the eighteenth century. Yet, certain architectural features of their interior like secret trap doors and underground recesses reveal the turbulence of those same times. With a highly ornamental coat of arms emblazoned on its threshold: Fidalgo Cavaleiro de Casa Real, an array of portraits of decorated ancestors, and an immense dance-hall with mezzanine floor for the orchestra, the gracious Gama-Pinto residence on the Assagao border certainly showcases a bygone era of opulence and ease. So also does the family seat of Caetano Diogenes Mascarenhas, Visconde de Damao in Mazalvaddo – replete with Chinese screens, crystal chandeliers and antique carved rosewood furniture, which is an epitome of elegance. But who could fail to be impressed by the stately fairytale castle on the road to Vagator – a miniature of the palace of the Sultan of Zanzibar – built in the last century by the celebrated Dr. Manoel Francisco de Albuquerque?
Fr. AGNELO de SOUZA
Many know Anjuna today as the birthplace of the saintly Agnelo Gustav de Souza who in all probability will shortly be raised to the altar. His ancestral home has already become a place of pilgrimage. Born at Sonarvaddo on 21 January 1869 to Miguel Arcanj de Souza and Maria Sinforosa Magalhaes, Agnelo lived along with his seven brothers and an only sister. He attended the local primary Portuguese school and after further study joined the seminary of Rachol. Meanwhile he lost his parents one after the other. Drawn to the Missionary Society of St. Francis Xavier at Pilar he was ordained a priest of that order. In the course of his pastoral duties his eloquence in preaching and his sympathetic attitude in the confessional became known and he was called conduct missions all over Goa. In fact, he died in harness, as a result of a stroke while on the pulpit at Rachol. Fr. Agnelo’s exceptional humility and virtue are an inspiration and favours have been wrought through his intercession.
The lovely long stretch of virgin beach at Vagator used to draw people from all over Goa during the languid summer spell to come chase away the prickly heat, aches and pains with a glorious dip in the blue waters. Hotels were undreamt of, but entire families camped in the homes of friends along the shoreline or pitched makeshift shacks with palm frond roofs that provided shade from the fiery sun. They drank pure cool water from the sparkling springs of Ozran which itself is a quaint and enchanting cove. The solitary seaside villages of Cainsua and Chapora provided a rich variety of seafood including chinaniois – the mouthwatering mussel for which Anjuna is still famous! To climb up the craggy rocks to the ruined fortress, or to Baga on the other side, or more adventurously to cross the choppy sea in a loppy odhem and explore the wonder of Morjim beach with its wild seagull sanctuary, were delights unimaginable! While the elders sat to drink, chat and make matches, many a romance budded beneath the stars at night.
Only after Goa’s liberation, with an eye for scenic beauty and tranquility, the hippies were the first outsiders to discover paradise in Goa’s virgin beaches. Overnight Anjuna Beach, with its jutting rocks once the peaceful haven of anglers, landed on the international tourist map. With innate Goan hospitality every second home near the beaches turned into a guesthouse; gradually restaurants, bars and dormitories mushroomed into existence.
The Flea Market came to stay: If it’s Wednesday, it must be Anjuna! Along came a babel of tongues, skins of all hues in dress and undress drug pedalling, nudism, sex orgies, midnight moonlight rave parties on the beach, raucous music blaring all hours. The character of the village transformed; yet more tourists rained in… the hotel industry flourished, better roads, houses, buses and banks, cyber cafes, more jobs. Yet, what of the moral damage? Even school children are victims to drug and child abuse. Happily KRIPA Foundation in Casa Manoel Francisco de Albuquerque rehabilitates addicts.
The earliest form of village transport used to be the humble bullock cart. A few in Anjuna were privileged to own horse-drawn carriages, which they kept using till the advent of the motor-car. Most of the affluent families owned a machila or two. Of eastern usage, this palanquin shamefully required a couple or more servants or slaves to lift it on their shoulder. Even the church had its machila for the parish-priest to make his rounds of the village. But for the middle class almost till the middle of the twentieth century the only option was the hired “match-box”, drawn by a pair of bullocks and true to its name in size and shape. But by then the camiao had also come on the scene. The only form of organised public transport under the Portuguese, this brassy contraption of a bus with a blaring horn, was made for twenty but obligingly halted on request to accommodate double that figure. During the 1920s the Gama Pintos and Mascarenhas sported the first private cars in the village. A regular taxi service also began with a man known as “Potto”. Since liberation, roads have improved vastly and a never-ending fleet of buses, cars and motorbikes ply constantly.
In Anjuna certain beliefs have been handed down the ages purely by word of mouth and remained a tradition. To add a top storey to a house is considered taboo; notable families that ignored the warning did not go on to the next generation inviting a curse. Which some attribute to Bhumika Devi, others to some Muslim from pre-Portuguese times. Yet a similar fate has befallen several who have built no top storey. Similarly, to keep a white horse does not augur well. An interesting legend is attached to the site of the former temple of Siddeshwar in Cainsua. A tunnel aperture once provided a secret escape route down to the sea. Local carpenters tell of a hunter led to this orifice while following the trail of porcupines. Crawling on his belly he was led by an incandescent glow to an inner pool. Near it sat longhaired rishis who demanded he leave, and keep secret what he saw. But returning home, the man blurted out his adventure and was immediately struck dumb! Others attempted to take the forbidden track, but halfway through, the path was blocked by a huge boulder and they never returned.
The village was always self-sufficient. Close to the temples dwelt people from its ancilliary professions lending the name to the area..For example goldsmiths resided in what is still known as sonarvaddo and the humble potters in Anjuna’s khumbarvaddo. A row of houses was inhabited by chamars or cobblers , who later prospered in their line in East Africa. In place of doctors, traditional experts handed out effective local herbal remedies even for snake bite. After the horse trade died down, ship-building continued. Saw mills were set up near the Chapora jetty and carpentry of sorts flourished. Fishing in the deep sea and the rocks has always been productive. But the mainstay was agriculture. Rice was cultivated in the lowlying fertile belts and millet on the hill slopes. Salt was drained from the creeks. Enclosures near wells coaxed small kitchen gardens to yield chillies, onions and leafy vegetable. Coconuts, being aplenty in groves along the shoreline, were put to much use.A daily requirement in Goan food is the coconut.The surplus kernel was dried in the sun and oil extracted by pressing it in the ghano – a mill worked by bulls rotating round it. Coconut husks were utilized to make crude rope by hand; dry palm fronds served as a protective roof, and were also woven into floor mats. Even reed, scraped from palm leaves tied together, were used as brooms; and the tree itself was cut for rafters in houses. Jaggery, the substitute for sugar, came from sweet coconut milk; the same, fomented and distilled gave feni and uraq for which Goa is still known.
One of the oldest shops in Anjuna is the General Provision store of the Kamat family in ChaporaThis Saraswat Brahmin family hailed from Assagoa; at the fag end of the nineteenth century Anant Satu set up business at the Parra junction in khumbarvaddo. Around 1912 his son Vasudev moved to Chapora and put up a small godown to hold rice, their main item of sale. He and his brothers travelled to purchase the rice in bulk mainly from Burma and Kudnapore near Mangalore. Returning with the stock by pattimar/ country craft, they stacked it in great piles of mudi/ matted straw reaching up to the ceiling. From the shop the rice was again transported by bullock cart to be sold wholesale in the markets of Mapuca and Panjim.This was the heyday of the Kamat business which lasted until Second World War. Meanwhile another branch of the family opened business at Morjim in a house that was almost identical to the one at Chapora. 1942 witnessed a gradual crash of Kamat enterprise because it became difficult, and later impossible, with the war in Burma to procure their stock from source. Rice became a scarce commodity. For a period the Kamats stayed under a cloud; but with sheer resilience they bounced back, diversifying as general household provision merchants. With the tourist boom of the sixties the store prospered . The family too became more progressive and four out of the five sons of Vasudev Kamat took to independent professions: one a Chartered Accountant, another Engineer, another Insurance Evaluator, and another a doctor. In 1969 their Kamat cousins set up, in addition to the Chapora shop which they were managing, a Tile and Provision store at Mapuca. The Chapora shop has remained in the family for almost a century.