Panjim is one of the most charming and best planned cities in the country, with a network of main avenues and connecting roads, a sewerage system, gardens and excellent Indo-Portuguese architecture. The city rises from low lying salt flats and rich mangrove clusters upwards to the Altinho hill topped by the Archbishop’s Palace and the Chief Minister’s official residence. The city has the Mandovi river and the Miramar Beach. Further there are a series of beaches from Caranzalem beach, round the bluff with the Cabo or the Governor’s residence perched high on it, to small beaches like Hawaii and Orchel.
So many entries to this capital city of Goa and each one takes the visitor completely by surprise. One entry is from Old Goa and Ribandar along the 3.2 km long causeway Ponte de Linhares (pronounced as Pont the Leenyaaresh) with salt pans and mangroves on the left and the gently flowing Mandovi on the right, with a couple of barges steaming importantly up the river to load iron ore, some yachts, and a clutch of blue fishing trawlers. Beautiful at any time, early morning and late evenings are the best times for a delightful drive on the Ponte de Linhares. This was described as the oldest and longest causeway of its kind in the whole of the East.
The Taleigao plateau entry lets you cruise down past along the Caranzalem-Miramar coast, through the heritage area of Campal and beautiful tree-lined avenues, past Kala Academy the cultural centre of Panjim and the location for the International Film Festival, past Children’s Park and into the market area of the city. A third entry is through Four Pillars and the long road that arrows its way through fields and khazans into the Latin Quarter of Panjim, the much celebrated Fontainhas area on the left of the Ourem Creek with a modern business sector Patto Plaza, on the right bank.
But by far the most spectacular entry to Panjim is zooming down highway 17, from Mapusa. The road rises slightly at Porvorim and then rushes down as though in a hurry to show you a jewel of rare beauty. Twin Mandovi bridges carry you across the silver river and one could swear one gets a feeling of physical embrace as you enter this special city which as one city planner the late David Menezes, once wistfully remarked, is “a gift from God.” This is Panjim. Or Panaji, as it was referred to in Post-Liberation times.
What is it that distinguishes Panaji from any other city in India? It is the only city in the country that has stepped streets. It is the only city in India with a seven kilometre long promenade. It is the first city in India to be built on a planned grid system and the only city to be so user friendly. It is also the only city in India to have been relocated stone by stone from a capital that fell to disease and ruin. Architectural styles range from Goan Domestic, to Indian Art deco, to Indo-European, to Indian Baroque and to British Colonial styles.
These are only some of the things that make the city unique. Finally, it is the people that live here that make it what it was in the past and what it is today. They will decide what the city will look like in the future. It is when the people of a city react to something the city planners are doing that one knows that they feel that this city belongs to them.