The other day breezing through the online papers of Goa I came across this report where in a well known lecturer and writer of Goan History Mr Prajal Sakhardande, expressed his concern about the deteriorating condition of heritage structures in Goa.
Earlier this month I happened to be in Goa and was taking a friend around to some places, both well and little known, and I had this same feeling as we drove around. Most of the focus on protecting historical monuments is on Old Goa, and a few temples, but there are numerous small forts around, and smaller structures like crosses, temples, ruins of roads, ruins of tablets lying neglected in the forests of Goa, all of which need restoration and proper documentation, so that the people of Goa and abroad can appreciate them.
Thanks to the Portuguese, Goa is fortunate to have at least the last 400 years documented; there is tons of documentation that has tremendous scope for study, all lying neglected and forgotten, deteriorating beyond repair each day.
What makes me sad to the point of delusion, is that all this rich and varied heritage (and I use the word in the complete form) lies largely hidden, forgotten and neglected, and we, the younger generation are obvious to our rich culture.
I’m positive a quick quiz would reveal that the students of Goa know more of Greek, Roman, English and Egyptian history than about their own mother land, and when we are ignorant, we neglect, abuse and destroy.
Sometimes I feel the foreigners who buy houses in Goa are more appreciative of the heritage they buy and do more to restore old Goan houses to their former glory even while we go about pulling down are old houses, which in fact are tiny architectural beauties, and replace them with concrete structures that have an astonishingly short life due to the high salinity in Goa.
I think what we need in Goa is a legislation. Something that will prevent the tearing down of old structures and encourage their protection. When it comes to restoration Goans face a hard time accessing expertise, what we need is for polytechnic and the ITIs to offer courses on masonry and other aspects of restoration. A course for architects on Goan architecture. A course for school children, they must study Goan history for at least 3 years.
Goan heritage has been Goa’s Unique Selling Proposition for tourism. Protected, restored and promoted, Goa can offer a living example of an era to the hordes of Indian tourist who come to Goa.
There is much to be done to further protect places already protected. Just to take the example of the Old Goa churches, the structures are imposing and awe inspiring and that’s why they are a major tourist draw, but much can be done in terms of making their history known, there are few books available for sale at the place, why cant there be a large library where people can read or buy books about Goa and Old Goa there. The plaques need to be more frequent, so we give more information, perhaps the plaques could be in Hindi and English. Many of the places are disabled unfriendly; they need to be made accessible to the disabled and the elderly.
If you are Goan and reading this I’m sure you’ll agree and have a whole lot of suggestions of your own, but most important, we need to learn to love Goan heritage and culture, we need to spread this love to those who are ignorant of it. And the seeds for this love for Goa has to be sown in schools.