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Winner | The Chronicles of Placelessness in Old Goa

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While Old Goa's charm extends beyond Basilica of Bom Jesus to St. Paul’s College Gate, and more, urbanization threatens its identity, with concrete facades erasing historical essence, as Ravjyot Kaur writes. The essay is the winning entry for the Urban Imprints essay writing contest, March-April 2024.


Old Goa has an eclectic charm, and for many, it is simply synonymous with the Basilica of Bom Jesus! The list of the oldest inhabitants of Old Goa does not end at the Basilica of Bom Jesus. In fact, the list is decently long and also includes St. Paul’s College Gate, the abode of the very first printing press in India; St. Augustine Tower, Se Cathedral, and so many others.

Driving on the NH 748 from Panaji to Old Goa, one is welcomed by concrete blocks on either side of the highway, leaving one confused as to when one has officially entered Old Goa. Supermarkets, multi family gated residential developments in massy concrete greet one and paint the entrance to Old Goa. Well, the chronicles of Placelessness sit at the very façade. Hence, very naturally, the first impression is painted that the entirety of Old Goa looks this way, and perhaps the oldness has all vanished!

View on the left when driving on NH 748 from Panaji to Old Goa. Source: Google Maps
View on the left when driving on NH 748 from Panaji to Old Goa. Source: Google Maps

Has Placelessness become the new normal? Have we accepted it as the face of our ‘sites of heritage importance’?

Many newspaper reports have also expressed concern over instances of dampness on the walls of the Basilica of Bom Jesus. Furthermore, in Oct 2023, a week-long rainfall even caused the submergence of some parts of Divar Island. Uniformed material palette choices, concretization and loss of vernacular Architectural systems have often proven to be the sure shot recipe of increased damage during disasters and supremely poor resilience. It is alarming that our heritage sites are now getting neighbored by coarse grained blocks. The forces of tourism and urbanization have led to increased investments in Old Goa which have changed the coarseness, particularly of the residential urban grain.

Loss of identity is a sad and slow death. While the surfacing of new building typologies, is but an imperative bit of evolution of a settlement, more sensitivity and urban design guidelines are the need of the hour. This needs to be dealt with—with the opinions of the Goans who have inhabited this scape and continue to do so and, hence, understand their environs like no one does.

The 'Old Goa' of 2023. Source: Author
The ‘Old Goa’ of 2023. Source: Author

Mentors’ Comments

“Nicely structured and written; it could be developed more in terms of insight and new information.”
– Arpita Das

“Very interesting—good depth of thought, difficult subject to write about.”
– Peeyush Sekhsaria


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