If Chicago,Illinois had been my kind of town for the last 22 years of my stay in US, Margao in Goa has been my kind of town ever since my high school days. I used to visit my brother and my sister-in-law who were staying in Verna, located few miles from Margao, when they used to work in Margao, in the eighties. Although I have been a frequent visitor to Margoa all these years, but never had the opportunity to explore the complete of Margao like I did just lately cruising around on a two-wheeler, a rented Honda Activa scooter. I Came, I Saw, and I conquered Margao to the fullest extent at last, in 2013. And it was just simply exciting, fun and a memorable experience. Viva Modgannv !
Margao is the second largest city in the Indian state of Goa, located 33 km from the state capital Panaji. Goa’s cultural capital and commercial capital, this South Goa city is also the second-largest (after Vasco da Gama) by population but arguably the busiest. Being the administrative headquarters of South Goa might create a misleading picture; Margao too is close to the central coast…. the long white-sand beach stretch, rated by an early-1970s UNDP study as potentially one of the ten best beaches in the world.
This beach spans 30-odd unbroken kms., from Sancoale in the north to the Mobor Peninsula in the south. Margao lies somewhat in the middle of this beach, five kilometres eastwards. Hence a strategic base station for beaches like Velsao, Cansaulim, Arossim, Majorda, Betalbatim, Colva, Sernabatim, Benaulim, Varca, Fatrade, Cavelossim and Mobor. My favourite beach has always been the Colva Beach, and my favourite dining shack near this beach has always been Kentucky Bar and Restaurant, where the food is good, cocktails are awesome, and there is live music to entertain you.
Like other Goan places, Margao too gets called multiple names in different languages. It’s called Madgaon by the Indian Railways, and the local Konkani pronunciations is Mudgannv or Modgannv. Marg?o is the Portuguese name and spelling. Skirted in part by the River Sal, Margao is known for his huge Indo-Portuguese style mansions — more visible around here than in other parts of Goa. Take a look around Abade Faria Road and its eastern parallel, the Padre Miranda Road, the area around the Holy Spirit Church and St. Joaquim Road that leads to Borda. Margao is crowded and hot, but it’s worth seeing. The hustle and bustle is quite incredible.
The nearest airport is Goa Airport, at Dabolim (28 km). Margao is connected by road to other cities like Mangalore, Udupi, Karwar, Ratnagiri, and Mumbai through national highway 17. Also there is a road which connects Margao to Ponda and other towns in Goa. Goa’s biggest and most important railway station, Madgaon Junction (IR station code : MAO), is located 2 km east of Margao town, off NH-17. Margao’s railway station is big and important, an intersection of the Konkan Railway and the South Western Railway (earlier South Central Railway). It is the terminus station for several Konkan Railway trains, being a major station of this Mumbai to Mangalore rail line, after Ratnagiri. Almost all trains passing through Goa stop here, and it is the gateway to south Goa. There are direct trains from most parts of India including Delhi, Mumbai, Cochin, Mangalore and Bangalore.
Margao is well connected with other cities of Goa by bus. Express mini-buses run by the (Goa government) Kadamba Transport Corporation connect Margao to Panjim (Panaji), the state-capital. These mini-buses leave from the KTC Bus Stand, on the outskirts of Margao, and one needs to queue up to buy a ticket. They ply during peak hours (not after 8 pm or so). Some inter-state buses touch Margao. For instance, buses headed to Bangalore via the Karwar route, touch Margao in the evenings, and pick up passengers there. Some of the buses for Bombay (Mumbai) leave from Margao, but this is only a few.
There are night buses to and fro Margao to Mangalore, but I like travelling by AC train which reaches Margao within 5 hours (Mangalore to Margoa), whereas a travel by bus takes 7-8 hours. Buses connect the Margao-Panjim route till 9.30 pm. Margao is also connected to Ponda, Vasco-da-Gama, Canacona, Karwar and a number of outlying villages of Margao. Margao is a major terminus on the Konkan Railway route, and local and express trains connecting to Mumbai, Gujarat, Kerala, coastal Karnataka including Mangalore, and Tamil Nadu halt here as per their schedules.
It is very easy to get a bike for rent in Goa, So go to any of the famous Motorcycle taxi guys and ask for a bike on rent and he will be ever happy to assist you. Auto rickshaws are very rare to find while Taxis (Maruti Omni’s, ambassadors etc) are easily accessible. Motorcycle taxi’s for single person are also effective. Private buses are also very effective in traveling within Margao and nearby locations. Remember one thing unlike other states Goa doesn’t have separate men and women seating arrangement. So ladies please carry your equipment ?
Intercity/interstate trains leave from the bigger junction station about 2km from the centre of town. If you are getting a bus into the city and get dropped off here (just north of the main city square 2km), public buses only run 7am-7pm, but private buses run until about 11pm. They stop at the main rd entrance to the bus stand, close to the middle. It’s Rs10-Rs20 to the centre of town in a private bus.
Some landmarks in Margao include (around Abade Faria Road and Padre Miranda Road) include Presentation Convent (Holy Spirit Church area) and Fatima Convent (near the municipal square) are two of Margao’s oldest unisex high schools started and being run by Catholic religious congregations, for girls. Clergy Home along arterial Padre (Pe.) Miranda Road, near today’s district hospital — Hospicio, an unique edifice in its own right, founded by Rev. Antonio Joao de Miranda a humble Catholic clergyman, after whom the thoroughfare outside is named — was among the first shelters for retiring priests built by the Goa Archdiocese. Seen today is the recently reconstructed version.
Clube Harmonia was called the Clube de Margao (subsequently renamed as Teatro de Harmonia) operating from a house at the Borda locality. The idea of a modern building for the Teatro de Harmonia was mooted by its members in 1936. The present structure was built 1955. Together with Bernado Peres da Silva (BPS) Club, Clube ABC and Margao Cricket Club, Harmonia is today a leading socio club of the town.
Hindu Mathagramasth Sabha: As the ‘mathagram’ in the name suggests, it’s a Brahmin institution. Has rendered yeoman’s service in education, irrespective of creed or caste, to Margaoites. Runs the Damodar Arts & Science Higher Secondary School, one of the best higher secondary schools in Goa, if one goes by Std. XII science board exam results.
Agha Khan’s Children’s Park: Few would be aware that the northern half of the Margao municipal garden was actually developed by a businessman, Abdul Javerbhai Mavany, hailing from Margao’s minuscule Agakhani community. He did that after two young sons were lost to cancer and High Highness, The Agha Khan, was visiting Goa. The park was inaugurated by Goa’s last Portuguese Governor General, Vassalo e Silva, in 1959. Margao is home to the popular deity of Damodar, as reflected in names of local educational and other institutions.
It has four diocesan of churches, Holy Spirit in the central area, Our Lady of Grace adjoining the municipal square, St. Sebastian at Aquem and Rosary near the football stadium at Fatorda. The Holy Spirit, while entering the city from the Panjim side, is Salcete taluka’s second-oldest (after the one first built within the Rachol Fort) built 1564-65, its present (fourth edition) edifice, re-built in 1645, being more grand.
The town has four chapels with near-Parish size following at Mungul, Ambajim, Borda and the picturesque ‘Monte’ hillock, all with resident Chaplains and regular daily services. In addition, there is a major church of the Carmelite order at Malbhat, besides half a dozen chapels of various religious orders from Jesuits to Salesians. A walk around this church-square reveals some grand homes, and great photo-opportunities. Check the scenic chapel on the nearby Monte Hill. You need to check out the scenic chapel on the nearby Monte Hill.
Gomant Vidhya Niketan: After Portugal became a republic in 1910, Margao based Hindus used the end of religious discrimination and their new found freedom to establish this noble institution on on March 19, 1912. It was then known as Saraswat Brahman Samaj (renamed to the present in Nov-1962) and ran a public library at the southern end of Abade Faria road. The present building housing the library in the rear of the ground floor and an auditorium upstairs — venue of most of Konkani and Marathi stage shows to this date — was built 1965. The society also runs a physio-therapy centre from rented premises further down the road. A modern stage centre, Ravindra Bhavan, recently completed and situated near Fatorda’s Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru football stadium, promises to be South Goa’s major centre for the performing art
Among the town’s spots one could check out: the early 20th century municipal building (C?mara) and the municipal garden lying in front of it, the muncipal garden, the recently-beautified Anna Fonte (natural springs), the Old Market or Mercado Velho, the Hindu crematorium (‘smashant bhoomi’), the Catholic cemetery and the Muslim burial ground (‘kabrasthan’) all on Pajifond’s Rua das Saudades. Margao also hosts Goa’s largest Nehru sports stadium, where one can run into popular off-monsoon evening football matches, and even the occasional international cricket Test match.
Margao’s name is believed to come from “matha-grama” (the village of religious maths) as it was a village of temple schools (mathas) — including the principal Vaishnavi ‘math’, Jeevottam, before it was shifted to Partagal in Canacona half a millennium ago. Margao’s main Matha, Jeevottam, was shifted to Ordhofond, Partagal in Canacona in 1475, as political battles took on religious tones in those medieval days. Margao was also a temple town, with as many as 13 temples in 1544 when the population was around just five thousand, according to writer and former Margao municipality chief S Valmiki Faleiro.
Margao’s Holy Spirit church square is also known for its baroque architectured church. It also is lined by palatial mansions around it. Structures in this area are low-rise, adding to the stately nature of the locality, with a maximum of two structures. Many have balconies (the balcao or balcoes) and varandas facing the square. Running parallel to the Church Square is the Old Market’s commercial street. Next to the church is a landscaped area called the Praca da Alegria (Square of Happiness).
Another landmark in Margao is the commercial-shopping area around the municipal garden and the old bus stand. Part of the garden was developed by the Mavany business family, and dedicated to the Aga Khan, during a visit of his to colonial Goa. Swami Vivekananda is also known to have stayed in the home of another business family, the influential Narcinva D. Naik residence, during a visit to Goa way back in 1892. The mansion also houses Margao’s well-known temple-hall Damodar Sal.
In Aquem Alto, Arlem was Goa’s first brewery started by the Chowgules at a locality of the same name (Arlem), on the outskirts of Margao. Incidentally, Goa’s second brewery was the Mallya’s, at Bethora-Ponda. Former politician Monte Cruz must have been the last to join the club with his brand of Kings. Cupid’s Haven is a recent-coinage open air event venue located nearby. It hosts dances and wedding receptions. Also part of the city’s map are places like the Pandava cave (near the current St. Sebastiao Church at Aquem, Torsannzor — a healing mineral spring, more famous than Ana Fonte in yesteryear — among others.
Some of the buildings are still styled in a colonial way, from the Portuguese past. Some places to visit in and around Margao are: Municipal Building, believed to have been built around 1770; Indo-Portuguese styled Houses along Margao – Borda Rd; Holy Spirit Church, and the Church Square at Margao. Dating back to the 1564-1675 period; Monte Hill. From atop this hill one can see the whole of Margao; Colva Beach, some five kms out of Margao; Old Market, dating back to the pre-Portuguese era; District Court (1777) and jail; Peace Cottage Fine Art Gallery. perched between two luxury hotels.
See the musical fountain on weekend evenings, near Nanutel hotel; If you go around May/June, there is a feast of the Holy Spirit Church. To celebrate this, there is a huge street side sale on everything from clothes to furniture to kitchen utensils. It’s located near the KTC bus stand along the road; Try to lay your hands on the inexpensively priced “Margao Heritage Walk Map”, that has been researched by architect-urban planner Ashish K Sinai Rege of Altinho Panjim. This is a creatively crafted map that offers suggestions for three ‘heritage walks’ around Margao. Each is of 20, to 35 and 45 minutes.
Margao also has a ‘covered’ market (earlier Mercado de Afonso de Albuquerque, near Pimplapedd or Pimpalakatta in Konkani), along Francisco Luis Gomes Road (a.k.a. Old Station Road), even if the town’s main market today adjoins the Kadamba bus terminus near its northern reaches. There are markets all over the place :Gandhi Market; In and around the Municipal Building, in the heart of town; Near the KTC Bus-Stand, at the entry to the town, from the Panjim side;If books are your cup of tea, check out the Golden Heart Emporium (whose claim of being “Goa’s biggest bookshop” is contested by Panjim’s Broadway).
Margao isn’t as rich in decent eating places, as compared to the touristic coast nearby. But because Margao is a town rather than a tourist destination, the restaurants are open year-round. Check some on these list: The restaurant at Hotel Nanutel (Indian/Chinese/mixed); Hotel Woodlands’ bar; The restaurant of Hotel Saaj (Malayalee specialities); Shahi Durbar along FL Gomes (Old Station) Road for Mughlai/Indian, with nice cuisine even if a crowded area; Gaylin along Varde Valaulikar Road (behind the Collectorate) and Rice Bowl at Reliance Park, along the Margao-Colva Road, just beyond the municipal limits (Chinese), which is worthy of a recommendation; MainLand China – Behind Loyola High School , a newly opened Chinese franchise; Kamat Hotel Colva Bus-stand; Golden Chariot’s Relish – Multi Cuisine Restaurant; Kandeel is very popular with locals, including retired couples. The ambiance is very plain but the Goan food (fish curry thali) and cocktails are inexpensive and excellent.
And as always my favourite joint -Longuinho’s Bar and Restaurant, Luis Miranda road. One of Margao’s most popular old world hangouts; serving excellent Goan, Indian, Chinese and Western dishes. Great place for morning tea or coffee with warm Portuguese-style pastries, you’ll find it across the road from the Margao Municipal building. Small bars dot the town- for that matter Longuinho’s is a good place for a cold beer or something stronger if you like. My favourite dishes at Longuinho’s are Shark Ambot-thik ( a sour shark fish curry), Chicken Xacuti ( Goan curry with roasted grated coconut with pieces of Chicken), Balchao ( a curry based on a traditional sauce from macao, made from shrimp, aguardante, laurel, lemon and chilly) Porl Sorpotel, pork/chicken Vindaloo, and steaks. Croquettes ( Beef cutlets) are great as appetizers to go along with a beer or few pegs of Feni ! And for dessert, the Goan traditional Bebik (Bebinca) will be the right choice to end with your happy meal.
The town which is also known as the cultural capital of Goa – A cultural center named ‘Ravindra Bhavan’ was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Goa, Digambar Kamat in July 2008 at Fatorda which is also an Official Venue For International Film Festival of India . It also has Goa’s biggest sports stadium, the Nehru Stadium at Fatorda. Some of the theatres in Margao include the Gomant Vidya Niketan, OSIA Multiplex, Vishant and Lata; in addition to Goa’s biggest theater, the Metropole.
People from all over Goa congregate at the special market to buy spices and dried fish to be used during the oncoming rainy season. The usual specialities that are found in the cuisine of Goa are also to be found in Margao. The curry of Margao is a praised local speciality. Cans of curry of Margao are currently exported to Portugal and elsewhere. Marg?o is also the name of a brand of spices sold in Portugal.
So next time you decide your trip to Goa, don’t forget to visit Margoa- just go out there and make the most of it and make sure you put your posts on the sites of your choice, till the law allows at least. Lots in store laid out for you in this peak season moment in Goa…just enjoy yourselves, and yes, do so responsibly by ‘ self-regulating’ yourself and do follow the ‘code of ethics’ that your heart and head tells you to follow. There’s always something about Goa/Margoa that keeps pulling people there again and again. It’s like you just can’t get enough. Maybe there’s something in the water there or in the air. Whatever it is, just enjoy being in Margoa. Viva Modgannv !
About the Author
Alfie D’Souza, was a well known name in Mangalore before he immigrated to United States in 1990. During his college days at St. Aloysius, Mangalore, he was Secretary of Co-Life Association, and also the editor of Co-Life magazine. He was editor of Mangalore Jaycees Bulletin, which twice won the Best Bulletin Awards in Karnataka State Jaycees. He was also the president of Rock Society, a entertainment organization which organised various local and international shows/concerts in the 80′ and 90’s.
In Illinois, USA, Alfie D’Souza is a regular columnist for The Times–a newspaper published daily in Ottawa,( a Chicago Suburb)who covers various stories of Indian and western origin on various events. He is also the editor of District 1-K Lions Illinois newsletter, and also the editor of Marseilles Lions Club, Illinois newsletter. He is an active member of Indian Catholic Association, Chicago; Mangalorean Konkani Christian Association, Chicago; Knights of Columbus, Ottawa; Ottawa Fine Arts and Music Association; Ottawa First Recreation Association; Ottawa YMCA; Ottawa Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Author: Alfie DSouza- Illinois