The Braganza House – Heritage House of Goa
Goa invites a lot of tourists every year and the moment they step foot on this land, they rush to the beaches. Usually till the end of their holidays, most tourists keep hopping from one beach to another. And very few tourists make it to the hinterlands of Goa where the true essence of Goa lies.
Goa with its colonial past has a rich architectural designs that are a sustained encounter of the East meeting the West. These houses provide a fascinating insight of the yesteryears for those interested in its history. One such magnificent Portuguese mansion, the grandest amongst all is The Braganza House that is more than 400 years old. The home is unlike anything you will ever see, the grandeur and the sheer size of the entire house is just unbelievable.
For one moment, I stood in a corner imagining how the house may have functioned in olden days. High ranking officials walking around its many rooms, several servants from Butlers to Gardeners tirelessly working round the clock and some of the great Freedom Fighters of Goa including Tristao de Braganza Cunha (relative of this family) holding meetings in this house. It is said that the Portuguese Policemen would supervise their meetings. And also start hitting the Freedom Fighters if anything against their will was discussed. History fills the air around this House.
Few early generations of this family worked closely for the Portuguese. While later generations actively fought for the freedom of Goa. Time and again I would take off my shoes in this house, just like how I did in a Temple to pay respect. I was thrilled by the energy and vibe around this place.
History of this House
(skip this section if you don’t like history but I have tried to put in the best way possible)
The First owners of the House
Portuguese ruled Goa approximately from 1510 to 1961. During this period a wealthy, influential Hindu family by the name of Desai converted themselves to Christianity post the advent of the Jesuit mission in Goa(around the mid 16th century). They worked closely with the government of Portugal and were awarded as the last Royal House of Portugal ‘Braganza’. AFS Braganza Pereira was gifted this piece of land by the King of Portugal where the house stands today.
(this little piece of history is shared in the guided tour)
The East and The West Wing of the House
Few generations later, Francis Xavier Braganza became a Knight and was issued the Royal court of Arms(one such shield is still seen in the house). He had two daughters (and “no sons”) due to which the house had to be divided into two equal wings. The wings were named after their husbands – west wing belongs to the Menenzes-Braganza tree and the east wing belong to the Braganza-Pereira family. Luis de Menezes Braganza (grandson of Francis Xavier Braganza) was appointed as the next heir and hence his maternal surname Braganza was carried on.
Dark Years of the Braganza House
Luis de Menezes Braganza was one of the few Goan aristocrat who opposed the Portuguese rule rather valiantly. He published several newspapers and opposed the Portuguese rule in Goa. More about his Freedom struggle here. From days of India’s Independence(1947) to Goa’s liberation(1961), the family had to abandon their house and Goa, for safety reasons. This period away from home proved to be a costlier affair in terms of maintenance. Also cause Goa receives heavy rainfall. When they returned, they tried to restore the house in the best possible way but hey all this requires funds. Most of their income came from their inherited lands. But due to the Land reforms of 1962, they lost most of their properties. Hence the family decided to open the House for tourists.
Today both sides of the family on either wings rely heavily on tourists to fund the House Maintenance cost. And it is really sad to see how they run to invite the tourists in their respective wing! I wish they had worked in colloboration for the benefit of both.
What to expect
The House is as impressive from the outside as inside with its 28 balconies, green gardens, fountains and mosaic tile sittings. The two wings of the House merge into a grand staircase in the centre with a high arched entrance. We were met by Ashley Braganza-Pereira who took us around this exquisite Heritage House of Goa.
He began with visitors room filled with antique furnitures made out of rosewood, tiles from Portugal and a unique victorian love seat. There were elephant tusks, huge turtle shells and beautiful candle stands.
Next we entered the grand hallway with vintage writing desks, glass chandeliers, old cupboards with a collection of gifts given to the family for generations, photo frames hanging up against the walls and a pretty impressive boat shaped ceiling.
The grand ballroom came next – beautiful blue ceilings embellished with golden designs, Belgium chandeliers (that were lit with candles earlier and now using electricity), carved sittings, Italian marble floorings, old Piano and huge mirrors. What caught my attention was a pair of Royal seats gifted to the family by Dom Luis, the 19th century king of Portugal.
Adjacent to this was a passage with treasure chests, palanquin and grave stones of Mr & Mrs AFS Braganza Pereira.
The dining area just like all the other rooms had large windows that allowed so much of natural lights. There was an old refrigerator from Hyderabad (one of the few artefacts from India) that functioned without electricity. Here I met with an old lady (from the 14th generation) who gave a bright smile seeing her grandson return from school. There were Chinese and Japanese crockeries here, vintage chair and a passage that led to the family chapel. The Chapel holds a nail of St Francis Xavier that is gifted to the family.
We also visited the Guest Room with a four-poster bed, unique hanger for clothes, coats, shoes that I personally loved the most and an attached toilet seen in picture below – yes, that’s a toilet!
When the tour ended, we left for a drive through the beautiful countryside of Chandor. It had an amazing laid-back vibe and white washed churches.
One of the many balconies in the house:
Getting There: Chandor is about 42 km from Panjim (i.e. an one hour drive) and 10 kms from Margoa. Hire a private car or a two-wheeler.
Opening Hours: No fixed hours but usually from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.
Cost: INR 100-150 per person for a guided tour of each wing as donations, technically no entry fee
Photography: Only permitted in the east wing
Overall, I totally loved the tour and would always recommend a visit here.