Candolim – Exotic Resort Land…

Traditional old peace, green grandeur and golden sands have woken up to witness a new dawn in the charming, coastal village of Candolim. The almost unending Aguada fortress skirting the Sin querim plateau, the beautiful Linhares Church and the lighthouse, glowing warmly in the evening wind, buttress the historical heritage of Candolim. It has emerged into a prime resort village, which draws visitors like wasps to a flame.

Candolim’s feast of Nossa Senhora de Esperance is being celebrated on December 19. People from the surrounding villages gather in large numbers for the feast with hope and pleas for intercession. Of course, being a part of the coastal milieu with a penchant for celebrations, it’s a day of great rejoicing in the village. They also have a rare monsoon festivity called Sangodd on June 29 every year, coinciding with the feast of St Peter. The Sangodd is an aquatic tableau ma de by tying together five canoes to form a platform and decorated like a chapel. The floating stage is rowed gently along the river and the large crowds gathered along the banks move along watching the lively musical programme enacted aboard the platfo rm. Until a decade ago, there used to be three such floats but only the one at Orda Santa Cruz continues till date.

Candolim taps lightly on the shoulder of its tourism-twin – Calangute – in the North. Hill-clad Pilerne lies to its North-East, and a meandering stream of the Mandovi river separates it at Saipem from neighbouring Nerul on the West. Saipem is the gateway to Candolim from the Betim side. “Saipem, is an idyllic place, where you can forget the din and dust of big cities like Bombay, and where you can weave a cocoon of solitude for yourself, away from the stress and strain of town l ife,” wrote the eminent lecturer of Bombay’s St Xavier’s College, Prof Frank D’Souza, in In Praise of my Wife’s Village.

Sinquerim, Candolim and Orda make up the exotic village with a population of about 11,000, with a section of 1000 people comprising upcountry construction labourers and people working at the hotels. Says Tomazinho Cardozo, Speaker of the Goa State Assembly and the local MLA, “Besides Goa’s first five-star hotel, Candolim has nearly a dozen three-star establishments. Moreover, virtually every house along the coast is a guest house during the tourist season. Candolim, with a quarter of the tot al area under cultivation, has witnessed sufficient progress since 1983 in the form of basic amenities like roads, water supply and electricity.”

Fishing craft and dolphins cresting the waves make up a pretty sight on the horizon. Candolim’s bewitching sights begin atop the scenic Sinquerim plateau, which overlooks the scenic Quegdevelim beach framed by palmfronds. At the Sinquerim plateau, a ri bbon used to be traditionally tied from the Fort Aguada to Cabo, which the then General of Rivers would cut and to throw the sandbar open for navigation. The colourful ceremony was held in front of the dome-shaped chapel of St Lawrence (controller of winds) raised to a church in 1668. It is also known as the Linhares Church since it was given to the Franciscans by a deed dated 22-11-1636 by its founder the Count of Linhares.

The feast of St Lawrence is celebrated on August 10. According to Bosquejo das Possessoes Portuguesas, “Before the day of St Lawrence nobody expects to see a sail on the horizon, because it is monsoon; but with the break of dawn one sees on passi ng by a miracle, or there appears at the sandbar by his favour the vessel of the high seas, and the coastal vessels or the ships which have been lying anchored during the monsoon get themselves ready to leave. It is because of this that the church fac es the sea, the churchyard is packed with curious people, the sailors make their calculations by scanning the horizon, and the pious and devout souls fulfill and make their vows on this occasion.”

The pageant has lost much of its glitter now. The plateau remains largely deserted most of the time except for the vehicles unloading innumerable tourists every day to have a glimpse of the historic fort. The seclusion of the plateau inspires young lo vers to play hide-and-seek amidst the wooded part, unmindful of the thorny bora trees growing wild all around.

The massive fortress snakes up the rocky headland from the seashore to 260 feet above, culminating in the 42 feet high Agvadcho foler (lighthouse) with a 36 1/2 diameter. The fort was built in 1612 to ward off the British and French attacks from the sea and internal raids by the Marathas, Bhosles and Ranes. The lighthouse has been a beacon guiding the seafarers and colonials for centuries. The name “Aguada” comes from a 225 feet cistern holding 2,376,000 gallons of water of the fountains within the fortress. The ships would berth here for shelter and bunker of water for the long voyage. The fortress possessed 79 guns, two powder rooms, two prisons, four barracks, a chapel and several buildings. When coastal surveillance b ecame unnecessary, the Portuguese converted Fort Aguada into a political prison, within whose stark walls virtually every freedom fighter languished and suffered torture. Since Liberation Aguada houses the central jail.

The plateau top also opens on a breath-taking panorama of the ocean waves tickling the distant coast to the East. The crimson roof of Cabo Raj Niwas or the governor’s palace appears to crane itself to oversee the mouths of Goa’s principal rivers – M andovi and Zuari. On the return journey, a narrow lane detours downwards past the dream bungalow, designed by Goa’s exponent of natural architecture Gerard da Cunha, for Mumbai millionaire Jimmy Guzder’s. Exquisitely carved in laterite stone wit h a rock-hewn pool, the strangely designed landmark splashes own the fort ramparts merging with the beautifully structured landscape. In stark contrast is the Aguada jail about a hundred metres from here.

In the course privatisation, 3,13,630 square metres of plateau land have been leased to the Indian Resorts Hotels Company Limited for 50 years. A Rs.100-crore recreational park comprising joy rides, theatres, a model village, shopping arcade, sp orts facilities, club house, health centre, etc. will come up here. The government will get five per cent of the income, or crore, for the land acquired by the government in 1986 from the Candolim Comunidade for Rs.53.02 lakh.

Tourism is raging like fire at the northern flank of the peninsula. The abandoned stone wharf of a deserted harbour, was renovated by the Taj group in 1974, to lay the foundation for five-star tourism in Goa with the Fort Aguada Beach Re sort. Subsequently, the Taj Holiday Village emerged, and in 1983 it played hosts to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at the Aguada Hermitage. The resort ambience gradually merges with the the fishing boats and nets of the tra ditional fisherfolk, because from here begins North Goa’s scenic, undulating beach belt.

Among the fishermen and toddy tappers, mingled Erwin Tiegel, Herbert Hartmann, Breitkerp, Walter Sedlaczek and dozens of World War II Germans, whose ships went up in flames at the Mormugao Harbour on a Carnival night in March 1943. The scene is r ecreated in the English movie Sea Wolves shot in Goa. Some of the war-torn Germans from the ships remained behind and even married Goan girls.

Among the hardy local community thrives the strains of a rich cultural past. From this earthy lot emerged some of Goa’s reputed singers and writers like the late Young Menezes and Alexinho de Candolim. They composed and sang timeless songs depicti ng the woes of the poor and unlucky. People still remember tiatrist Coutinho, who went by the name Miss Julie. He would go about everywhere dressed like a female, traipsing in his typical stage gait and parasol in hand, as on the stage. Mis Julie had a rough encounter with the pakle (Portuguese police), who were known for their escapades if they found a female figure all alone on country roads.

Helping revive Konkani folklore and develop Konkani drama has been Tomazinho Cardozo, playwright, director, singer, sarpanch of Candolim for several terms and now the Speaker of the Goa State Assembly. Of course, multi-faceted Cardozo hails from P omburpa but has been an asset to Candolim.

When someone says that Goans love feasts, football and feni, it’s probably Candolim which one refers to. At the bustling Candolim tintto (bazaar), the traditional taverna shows signs of modernity. Dhirios (bullfights) have made their exit but football still retains it feverish pitch at the Panchayat Grounds named after the late Dr Gustavo Monteiro, who is still remembered for his selfless social service. Being bang by the road, people gather here eagerly every evening to watch t heir favourites play.

Where the land dries up sufficiently from the swamps and mangroves of the Sinquerim river, the villagers are involved in cultivation. Quite early there was an exodus of people first to Africa and then to the Gulf to escape the misery of the c olonial times. Now tourism is the major money spinner. Candolim, which had just one building a few years ago, is teeming with buildings and hotels of every style and size besides shopping malls, travel agents, money-changers, et al.

Candolim is the birth place of Fr Jose Custodio de Faria, the famous Abbe Faria, the discoverer of Hypnotism and animal Magnetism. He was influenced by the 18th century Pinto’s Conspiracy, which was a frustrated reaction of Goan na tive priests and laymen in the Portuguese colonial set-up. According to A Short History of Goa(1957) by C.F. Saldanha, S.J., “Fr Jose Custodio de Faria, of Candolim, had won a certain amount of influence at the Court of Lisbon, but on the failu re of the conspiracy he escaped to France, where he made a name for himself among the fashionable and intellectual salons of Paris, by his theories on the occult sciences, which later developed in the science of Hypnotism, also known as Mesmerism.” Abbe Faria got sucked in the vortex of the French Revolution, till he came to be imprisoned, and died of a stroke of apoplexy. He has been celebrated by the French novelist, Alexander Dumas, as Abbe Faria, in the novel, The Count of Monte Cristo.”

Bishop Angelo Fernandes, Bishop of Delhi (retired), hails from Candolim, as do Lt Col Jose Antonio Pinto and Isabel Carvalho, renowned psychologist at Boston, US, and councillor for emotionally disturbed children. The roll of honour also include The Pintos (of the historic Pinto’s Revolution), the late Prof Joaquim Antonio, Konkani grammarian), and the late Shridhar Kakulo (of MSB Caculo), an industrialist.

The noteworthy houses in the village are those belonging to Dr Desiderio Costa Frias, Dr Gustavo Monteiro and Pinto’s house. Half of the last named house has been converted into the Bosio Hospital. Candolim has a Government Primary Hospital beside Bosio. Perhaps the population requires enough medical attention with malaria being endemic here. Their aged folk too are well cared for with the homes for the aged – private and government.

Being a village which has kept a watchful eye on Goa’s strategic coast for centuries, we can understand why Candolim is called Kan-dolle (ears and eyes) of Goa. It is also called Kanda Halli (onion village) though chillies and sweet po tatoes are also grown here. However, everyone feels that a blue-blooded Kandolkar should be left with the task of explaining the etymology succintly. Anthony Veronica Fernandes, now in the Gulf, used to stand up for his village once. Perhaps he and other Kandolkar or Kandolkaram will shoot back and throw more light on their beloved, ancestral Candolim and its friendly folk spread here, there and everywhere.

 Joel D’souza