Hidden Charms of South Goa

Loutolim – South Goa 

The sky was the same colour as my blue curaçao, only prettier with tufts of fluffy white clouds strewn across it. As I sat sipping my cocktail at my hotel’s lounge bar Amalia in Cavelossim, a vibrant painting caught my attention. It was a Mario de Miranda painting of Amalia Rodrigues, the Portuguese singer who sang and popularised fado. Miranda hailed from south Goa’s Loutolim. Known as the ancestral village, it features some of the oldest Portuguese bungalows of Goa. Intrigued, I set out to explore this tiny village in Salcette. Lush green paddy fields on one side and vacant roads on the other, the Zuari river meandering through the village glistened in the morning sun — Loutolim is an otherworldly haven of tranquility, far from the madding crowds of north Goa.

History whispers from every corner — from the 1586 sprawling structure of the Saviour of the World Church to the 250-year-old Casa Alvares mansion. With its north-facing facade and ornamental interiors, the church is a central landmark in the village. The edifice is said to have been built on the design of the church in Rachol.

Next up, the Ancestral Goa museum, painted in blue and outlined with red and yellow borders, stands in stark contrast to the red earth. A few steps from the entrance is the statue of a Portuguese soldier brandishing a spear — a marker of the Portuguese role in shaping Goa’s culture. The statue of Lord Parashuram, who is said to have shot an arrow from Sahyadri mountains into the Arabian Sea creating Benaulim, greets you as you enter the open-air museum. I see a fisherman holding a rod and dressed in a kondo, a palm-leaf coat, to protect himself from sun and rain; fishermen in kashti, a small piece of garment wrapped around the waist, worn like a sarong; women in saris and children in skirts of leaves as they celebrate Sao Jao, the feast of Saint John, at the village well.

Women selling fish, farmers working in paddy fields, fishermen weaving nets, selling coconut — the museum exhibits occupations of the past. The Goan farmer lived in sulche noode, a one-room establishment made of mud and laterite stone and clay-tiled roof. Folk dancers in bright dresses stand next to men playing ghumot (percussion). I learn that feni was a grandmother’s remedy for bad cold.

The Big Foot museum displays a laterite stone carved in the shape of a foot, said to be of Mahadar who prayed to God for years. A wish made to the foot is said to come true. I hop over to the Casa Alvares mansion that belonged to the Portuguese lawyer Araujo Alvares. It is peppered with antiques, paintings and period furniture. I notice the typical shell windows, the high ceiling and the heavy carved wooden furniture. The dining room could seat at least 30.

It is noon as we head to the Jila bakery, situated inside a lush green bungalow of Jose Inacio and Ludovina Antao. Started in 1972, it serves angel wings (sugar-coated, heart-shaped puff pastry biscuits), eclair and assorted biscuits — baked in the old-styled ovens made of stone. Here, I learn that in olden times, toddy was mixed with flour to make bread before yeast was invented. Hunger takes me to House No. 2 café, called so because it was the second house ever to be built in Loutolim. I scarf down a sumptuous spread of fish curry, rice and recheado fish. As the flavours unfurl on my tongue, I realise how villages like Loutolim has kept Goa’s charm intact.

This article was published in The Indian Express – Sunday Eye on 28 April 2019


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