Calangute – “Queen of Goa’s Beaches”

Calangute – The Queen of Beaches…

Calangute is a palm-bedecked, sunny haven nestling in a green semi-circle of the villages of Arpora-Nagoa, Saligao and Candolim. The open end in the West has the Arabian azure bathing the beautiful beach known as the “Queen of Beaches.” The scenic natural beauty of the peaceful coastal countryside, has turned Calangute in a world destination on the tourist map.

How the name Calangute originated is explained by different people differently. Some say that it comes from Koli-gutti (land of fisherfolk) and that the name must have changed often from Kolyianguttti, Kalangutti, Kolngutt, Kongott to what the Portuguese preferred to call it – Calangute. Of course, there are people who connect it with Kalyangutti (village of art) or Konvallo-ghott (strong pit of the coconut tree) because the village is full of coconut trees.

The wards of the peaceful fishing village are named significantly. Khobravaddo, with Catholics and Hindus almost in equal proportion, must have been the habitat of renders, and got its name from khobrem or copra from which coconut oil is extracted. Sauntavaddo is named after Sawants, Porbavaddo after Porobs, and Naikavaddo after Naiks or officers of the court who lived in Calangute. There are picturesque agors (saltpans) at Agarvaddo, which was known for fights a few yearsago. Maddavaddo is full of madd (coconut trees), Dongorpur skirts a bottlegreen hillock and Tivaivaddo laces the beach. In Gauravaddo lived the gaudds and there must have been gauris or milk dairies.

The ward of Unttavaddo get its name from the camels, on which, the people of Carambolim travelled to Calangute during one of the epidemics. They were Prabhus, who after conversion became Lobos. Christianisation advanced into Calangute via Candolim.

The beautiful church we see today in Calangute, wasn’t always like that. FX da Costa refers to a document of 1556 in his Anais Franciscanos em Bardez (Nova Goa, 1926), wherein it is mentioned that in the beginning, Calangute, Orda, Solpem and Pilerne belonged to the Candolim parish. Subsequently the palm-thatched chapel, built at Poriat in 1576 to serve as a church, was affiliated to the neighbouring Nagoa parish. The second church was constructed by the Franciscans, funded by the Ganvkars in 1595. It is said that one Vinayak torched the church sometime between 1602 and 1605 because of a property fraud he had perpetrated.

The Church of St Alex, which greets the vast traffic as the CHOGM road reaches the village, came up in 1741, through the efforts of the local Comunidade and the parishioners. Two towers and a magnificent dome grace the facade of the white-washed church. Indoors display the line and beauty of its architectural style and ornate altars. In 1996, the Calangutkars celebrated the fourth centenary of their parish church.

Historical records point out that the early Christians were the local Desai families and their mundcars. The destruction of the temple of Shantadurga at Devichem Bhatt in Poriat being in imminent danger of destruction then, one Desai ran away with the deity’s idol. He took the deity, popularly invoked as Shree Shantadurga Kalangutkarin, to Nanora. Nearly 15 temples devoted to deities Santeri and Vetall and others dotted the sandy plain. In the return of the temples awaited by the Hindu community, now one sees the Shri Shantadurga Mandap at Naikavaddo, Toshavar Tastodi Mandap at Unttavaddo, Fonyar temple and Hanuman Shantadurga Babneshwar at Khobravaddo.

Traces of Buddhism too lie embedded in this coastal village. The narrow road snaking past the Bom Viagem convent along the caju covered foothills, leads to the springs at Mottant. The secluded spot is ideal for picnics and bathing. The waters are medicinal but the place being rather inaccessible remains unknown to many as does the fact that a Buddhist hermitage stood here once.

The most ancient institution is the Comunidade of Calangute, which belongs to the group of 19 village communities of Bardez and is composed entirely of non-brahmin vangods. All the nine vangods of Calangute belong to the Chardo class. As the tenth vangod, the vantely, though coming to the village from elsewhere, were given the equal rights in 1585 as in Raia in Salcete. It was a reward for their skill and help to construct and repair the dykes in the villages with khazan (reclaimed) lands. The ganvkars of the sixth vangor were Naiks, who after conversion took surnames like Fialho, Souza, Proenca, Lobo, Pires, Correia and Fernandes.

Christianity ushered in charitable, religious and educationational institutions to ameliorate the lot of the humble populace. The Congregation of St Alex was the first Diocesan Congregation founded by Msgr Herculano Gonsalves (from Cana in Benaulim) in 1935 at the Araddi hillock. It was renamed the Congregation of the Handmaids of Christ and has spread to several villages in Goa. The nuns run the St Alex Orphanage for unwanted and needy children of every caste and creed. To the ignored senior citizens these nuns reach out through their Home for the Aged. The benevolent institution is commonly known as Boa Viagem, because of the chapel built by the seamen of Calangute around 1707. People generally go for fresh flowers, wreaths and boquets.

Realising the need for women’s emancipation, Msgr Herculano Gonsalves, who was the local parish priest, established the Little Flower of Jesus School for girls in 1930. Thirty fruitful years later, the school earned recognition by the SSCE Board in 1960. By 1966, they acquired a plot of land at Naikawaddo, where the institution serves the cause of education.

Fr Vital Sales founded the Don Bosco High School near the church at Naikavaddo in 1963. The affairs at the school took a different turn subsequently and some teachers rebelled. This resulted in the establishment of the People’s High School in Calangute. It was later named the Mark Memorial High School after the local freedom fighter the late Mark Fernandes. In between, a group of socially enlightened alumni of St Xaviers College in Bombay – Alexyz Fernandes, Valentino Fernandes, Peter D’Souza and others – raised a school for non-formal education. The school was called Happy Learners and was run by aid from Holland. Though it’s lying in limbo today, there was a time when the Learners’ Society had hosted the first seminar of all India teachers of non-formal education.

By 1980, Fr Edward F Rego sowed the seeds of the St Joseph High School in Calangute by dint of hard work and sacrifice. The late Fr Rego loved children and the St Joseph Boys’ Home took care of unfortunate boys and orphans. Benefectors like Annie Marie Steiner and her pals helped raise donations in Switzerland to build a double-storeyed school building at Tivaivaddo to replace the four small cottages in which Fr Rego used to put up his boys. The school is now run by the Monftfort Brothers of St Gabriel. Sometime in 1970, Shri Vinayak Naik established the Vidyaniketan High School to make the village self-sufficient in the field of education. With a burgeoning population of high school students it’s time Calangute had its own junior college. Perhaps the building fraternity will take a step in this direction and compensate the village for having congested it.

One cannot overlook the work of Fr Adrian Le Tellier , sj, who set up in 1953 the Baga Retreat House, overlooking the village and the Arabian Sea, at the Baga hilltop. Dedicated to St Francis Xavier, it was known as the Casa de Retiros. Fr Le Tellier was responsible for extending the road from Sauntavaddo to Baga. He died a saintly death on July 12, 1961, and on his death bed people forded the Baga creek to receive his blessings.

Today we find a son of Calangute in Bishop Alex Dias as the Bishop of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Bishop from Calangute is fluent in English, Hindi,m Konkani, Portuguese, Italian, Germand and Sadri. Two of his sisters are SFX nuns. Hailing from the family of the famed choir-master the late Francis Xavier Dias, he is the first Bishop of the Pilar Fathers. His house at Tivaivaddo is in the vicinity of the house of Joe Pereira, one of the foremost Goan composers and musicians in the field of jazz.

In the field of vocal music, we have heard of the late Olegario Frank from Calangute, the famed baritone who made waves not in Bombay alone but in the UK and even acted on the silver screen. Coastal villages are where Goa’s cultural heritages glitters. Significantly there are two art galleries here – one owned by Dr Subodh Kerkar and the other by Yolanda. Artists like Justino, Xavier and Jacinta Lobo hail from here. But one looks back to the time when Ian, the Flying Dutchman, gave Goan art the right push and price.

Besideses music and art, Calangutkars also excelled in sports and one just can’t forget the formidable footballer Joveniano de Souza, whose daughter Yolanda de Souza dazzled soccer lovers in women’s soccer. Her other sister, Susan de Souza is the present Director of Sports in Goa. Alex Miranda, Digamber and Anthony D’Souza too were the cynosure of all eyes on Goan soccer fields until curly haired Bruno Coutinho shot like a meteor on the country’s soccer firmament. “Bruno skiperred India in international soccer a number of times. A few others too have made it great but hence forth it’s unlikely that a Kolngottkar will shine in football,” moaned an elderly villagers.

When tarred roads were rare in Goa, the village had the privilege of two parallel concrete lines from the Calangute beach through Saligao to Mapusa and through Saligao and Pilerne to Betim. The few reminders of the past includes the Saturday bazaar in the palmgroves near the new Post Office. The bazaar is a kaleidoscope of colour and commodities like fish, meat, groceries, textiles, earthenware, household articles and other provisions. Toys and trinkets, piglings, chicken, eggs and brooms and all the traditional, rural produce finds its way in the Saturday bazaar.

The most beautiful portion of Calangute is Baga and its enchanting beach. At Baga once stood a temple dedicated to goddess Bhagwati and the ward gets it name from the goddess. The place near the Hotel Baia do Sol, St Anthony’s Bar & Restaurant is called Vaddoll, probably named after stormy weather. The Baga river splits the village and across lies the Arpora-Nagoa section of Baga with the Retreat House on the hilltop and the river bank lined with hotels and restaurants. Across the river lies the (in)famous Coffin Bridge.

The once sunny atmosphere of Calangute has now ripened and nearly withered like an attractive woman who has borne too many kids rather too fast. Calangute was a peaceful, fishing village once, whose god-fearing population of Hindus and Christians lived in perfect harmony. The demographic composition of the population as well as the physical look of the village has witnessed a sea-change in recent years. The Hippies discovered the pristine surroundings and ecstatic peace of Baga and its golden sands. The Hippies also spread the word around and brought hordes of European tourists. Decades later, tourists still trudge down the dusty, illkempt roads in search of that idyll and tradition-filled coastal Goa. Unfortunately, Calangute hardly possesses anything of its significant past. On its lovely beach Goans spent summers salt-bathing in the quiet solitude of the sea, sun and sand. They sat beneath the whispering palms after the bath to dine on rice with home-made torachem lonnchem or khareacho or chourisam (home-made too).

They’d laugh at you now if you mention these traditional Goan things which have been replaced with frankfurters, potato chips, beer and booze. St Anthony’s Bar, Jacques Corner, Britto’s and Tropicana, where one lazed with a drink and snacks, are a thing of the past now. Even the old time tavernas snugly tucked in discreet corners and the shacks which came in with the advent of the Hippies, have been shooed away by the builder and the hotelier. A Pizza Hut is also a possibility.

Glitzy pubs, cafes and restaurants vie with each other with gaudy decor, which will never reflect Calangute’s warm, friendly and traditional ambience. At the music filled cubby holes, the whites with bucks are thoroughly skinned and browns shunned like bugs. Swanky air-conditioned Marutis, Tata Sierras and Ciellos pull up, spilling noveau-riche crowd, some to drink in the beauty of Baga and others to ogle at the colourfully, skimpily attired white women.

With hundreds of Europeans spilt all along the busy thoroughfare where Rajasthani, Kashmiri and Nepali hawkers ply their wares, Baga and Calangute have lost the Goan look. Walking down the road, from the noisy market place and the continuous rush of traffic, to the beach, where the Tourist Hostel stands amidst other establishments, ain’t a pleasure anymore. Only nostalgia remains – of the pleasurable Sunday evenings, once spent by bus- loads of young and old coming from all over Bardez, and the famous Simla Beat Contest which used to cause almost a beach stampede.

Times are changing rapidly and the population of about 15,000 consistently swells with a floating population brought in by tourism, and migrant labour employed at the innumerable construction sites. Along with traditional occupations like toddy-tapping and fishing, the ethnic culture whose tiatr and zagor played a vital role in socio-cultural entertainment, has been thrown overboard. Locals recall fondly the Konkani songs and acting of Souza Guiao, Roglo Naik, Bom Jezu, Antonio Francisco de Gauravaddo, Diogo Cardoz de Khobravado, Dummulo de Gauravaddo, Damiao D’Costa, Filipe Dias and Peter Gomes de Untavaddo. Peter, of course, was a professional tiatrist, having penned 20 plays and composed as many as 500 songs. The mellifluous yodelling of the aging Souza Guiao, heard over the Emissora de Goa (All India Radio), is yet to be matched by Konkani kantorists (singers).

Everywhere there is a commercial buzz of a crowded township. Calangute will probably have more buildings than even the Mapusa town very soon. Hence the old Panchayat structure is hardly sufficient to meet the challing needs of urbanised Calangute. Buildings, houses, travel agencies, shops, discos, money changers, departmental stores, banks, hotels, bars and restaurants increase daily but the infra-structure hasn’t budged a bit in several years.

A discerning eye may even observe ominious traces of something unhealthy, unwanted likely to befall this beachland if things don’t improve right way. Obviously, the village is filled with riff-raff, not excluding drug- lords/gang-lords, of every shade and every place under the sun. They are non-Goan, non-Calanguntkars and in the process the sons and daughters of the soil have almost lost their inborn, ethinic hospitality. Notice how they treat a Goan or an Indian at the funky bars and restaurants.

The cops, heavily burdened with assorted crime from robbery, murder to rape, have shifted from the Quartela at the Panchayat building to a more removed police station near the border of Saligao. With an awfully insufficient stock of potable water and a meagre supply of electric power, the PWD and Electricity departments respectively seem to be extinct. Garbage collection of a semi-urbanised habitation should have been the government’s main concern but it’s not.

Mosquitoes and malaria are already resident here. Phaedophilia and AIDS lurk in probably every nook. The posse of tourism police is probably caught in a traffic jam somewhere in the village; they can’t be spotted when needed badly. All the beautiful things said of Goa are only found in the glossy brochures.

The glint of glazed glass doors with ornate powder-coated aluminium frames can never work up the grandeur and richness that wooden doors and frames once did. It has been said: where the wood is scarce, where the tree is extinct, habitation is in danger, no matter how much water and electricity you may pump into the place to revive the waterholes of the denizens artificially.

Young men have shifted their sights from the sea to the cluttered indoors. They have stopped flying to the Gulf, because they already have jobs, money and fancy tastes acquired not from travel abroad but watching foreigners dine and dance and do all the things they do back home and smoke the stuff which is banned back home. So the locals hire their home and their motorcycle for money, which they can spend freely. Money can erode character and that’s probably what one sees happening in Calangute.

At other places construction denutes hills and forests. In Calangute the silvern sands are being pushed back into the Arabian sea to make room for tourists. How long this process will go on no one knows or cares to know. The sands of time run out literally and something needs to be done to preserve what is left of the precious idyll, which was primarily responsible to draw the hordes of visitors to this once unknown, fishing village.

No one today exclaims in horror as they once did when the saw a white man or woman naked on the sands. “No Nudity” boards are for the crows to perch when the sands are too hot. Kashmiris, Nepalis, Rajasthanis and all others clutter the narrow roads with gaudy wares, which one wonders whether any foreigner every buys. Because there is too much of the same thing all over the place. The travel weary tourists get confused when the prices quoted are at times even one hundred percent more and no article should be bought without haggling.

Congestion invariably affects hygiene. In a recent study, the Goa University students found that the 13 wells in Calangute were polluted and their water had as high as 6,00,000 per litre E-coli. Since E-Coli causes all kinds of water-borne diseases, the water of these wells was not fit for human consumption. The Health department bothers not to check the pollution despite the Tourism department’s concern to retain Calangute on the world tourist map. It was found that the two-km long nullah running through Gauravaddo was polluting the wells. Hence it was decided that no hotel or residential complex would release sewage into the nullah. It was even decided to desilt the nullah before the 1997 tourist season.

On September 10, 97, the Speaker of the Goa State Assembly and local MLA assured that if the problems persist during the ensuing season, Goa Public Health Act would be enforced. He said that he would persuade the government to implement its Rs.26 crore project to set up a sewerage system in the area.

One sees paper wrappers and plastic bags flung from posh cars while they travel along the quiter stretches on the road. There are many inidividual foreign tourists who take up small rooms but seem ignorant that Goa too is a place and garbage need not be dumped anywhere in Calangute, which is known to have half-a-dozen journals published way back in the mid- nineteenth century.

According to writer Dr Carmo D’Souza, in Calangute were published A Phenix de Goa (1861-1862), Aurora de Goa (1863-1865) by Benjamin W de Proenca and others lighted the flame, which was carried forward by succeeding writers. In the nineteenth century, the scintillating articles from Calangute sowed the seeds for intellectual debates on the Goan political horizons. The villagers were politically active and the climax of electioneering in the village in pre-Liberation days was around 1926, in the famous Baluarte de Calangute.

Goans returning to their native village long to see the orange orb of the setting sun lurking from behind the tall coconut trees. But the skyline is to crowded for them now to drink in this pleasant sight. “We do not see when the shadows lengthen but we see them only after the shadows have lengthened,” film director Shyam Benegal quoted a famous writer. Does the same apply to Calangute?

Joel D’souza