History and heritage of Mala, Fontainhas
Category : Articles
Location  : Goa

Prajal Sakhardande,
Head of History Department.
Dhempe College,Miramar,Goa

Like the Campal Heritage precinct, the Massano do Amorim Heritage precinct, the Mala Fontainhas Heritage precinct is an area with a dignified aura of difference.

While the fontainhas area is styled as ‘The Latin Quarters of the city, the Mala area is the Hindu area' with some beautiful houses with the traditional pre-Portuguese courtyards called locally as angans or rajangans which are absent in the Fontainhas Latin Style homes. The entire precinct which was declared as a conservation zone of the city in 1974 is a symbol of perfect communal harmony where east meets west in eternal bliss.

While distinguished well known families like the mirandas, Lopes, saldanhas, Costas,Gonsalves, dias, Rego, menezes, Machados, ribeiros, Pintos, NoronhasAnd many other Catholic families have made Fontainhas their home, the Mala area is also home to well known Hindu families like the agshikars, Hodarkars, pissurlencars, Bandodkars, Agnis, Raikars, Naiks, Calangutkars, Sukhtankars, joshis, Verlekars, Nagvekars and many others who have lived here since the Portuguese times.

This historic precinct gets its name from the famous ‘Fonte- Fenix'. Fonte meaning a fountain or the ‘Zhar' at Mala at the foot of the Marutigad. The Maruti temple atop was inaugurated on 25th January, 1934,during the Portuguese rule. The spring or fountain or Zhar at the foot of the hill is ancient but the structure that you see housing it was constructed during the tenure of the Portuguese Governor Viscount of  Qurem, Joaquim Jose Januario Lapa (1851-55). The Boca-da-Vaca fountain which today is a major heritage tourist attraction of Panaji was connected to the Mala ‘Zhar' through an underground tunnel.

Another historic (heritage)monument in the Fontainhas precinct is the famous St.Sebastian's Chapel originally built in the year 1818 and wholly rebuilt between the year 1884-1888. Its major attraction is the Inquisition crucifix. Eminent Historian, Astronomist and Heritage Activist, Shri Percival Noronha in his article titled ‘Fontainhas - Living with the Past' tells us that till the middle of the 18th century, the whole area was an alluvial soil with a few paddy fields which later got developed as an extensive coconut grove named as ‘Palmeira Ponte' by Antonio Joao de sequeira, nicknamed ‘Mossmikar' as he had returned from Mozambique.

Mala literally means an open field, or vegetable field, an open ground or meadow. Shri Noronha further informs that the development of Mala Fontainhas took place between the year 1810-39. The generous splash of the maroon, ochre, pink, indigo on the facades of the houses there add charm to the heritage precinct.

The road like Rua Natal and the famous 31st January road lend a nostalgic feel to the precinct. The 31st January road or Rua 31 de Janeira commemorates the historic liberation of Portugal from Spain on 31 January, 1640. It was on this day that Spanish rule was overthrown in a Bloodless coup and the Duke  of Braganca was proclaimed as the King of Portugal with the title King John IV.

History and heritage need to be celebrated. We need to preserve historic precinct, we need to preserve our forts, old houses, old furniture, old utensils, old coins, old photographs, old music and so on.

Let us not forget our old grandparents!





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