The Lost Mansion of Goa
We are searching for the Menezes Braganza Pereira house, an old colonial mansion in Chandor, Goa. Home to exquisite handicrafts dating to over 350 years, the house is apparently a sight to behold. Let’s see what we find here.
We were navigating through the narrow by-lanes of rural Goa, when our GPS announced that we had arrived. Our destination was the Menezes Braganza Pereira house in Chandor, Goa. The house is one of the many old mansions of Goa, which gives a peek into how the landed gentry of yesteryears lived.
The house loomed ahead as we we walked towards it. The Portuguese style facade of the house seemed to reassure us that we had indeed arrived at the right place. As we approached the gate, a lady from the house called out to us. “Do you want to see the house?”, she asked. Of course the answer was yes and just like that we climbed up the rickety old stairs of the house.
The original owners of the Menezes Braganza Pereira were wealthy merchants and high-ranking officials and the house is still occupied by their descendants. The house is a large, two-storey mansion that is almost 400 ft long. It consists of two wings that merge at a high arched entrance, each wing occupied by a different branch of the family. We were met by Ashley Braganza-Pereira, who gave us a tour of his wing of the house.
The short tour took us around the house looking at dusty antiques collected by various members of the family, old furniture, curios and collected porcelain. It included such oddities as an ancient fridge that ran on kerosene, a giant coco-de-mer nut and a victorian “love seat” – a odd piece of furniture that lets couples sit close to each other without having to move the chairs closer.
The center-piece of the house was a magnificent ballroom. With its italian marble flooring, Belgian crystal and Venetian glass chandeliers and mirrors encased in gold and silver, and zinc ceiling it looks like something straight out of a forgotten European palace.
Ashley then took us to a small private chapel. The ancient chapel serves both families as a place of worship. When St. Francis Xavier’s remains were brought to Goa, legend has it that a nail from his body was given to the family to keep as a relic in the chapel.
Finally we bid goodbye to Ashley, who had very kindly taken us around the house. Just as we were about the leave we were accosted by another lady, Judith, who asked if we’d want to take a look at the other wing. Naturally we obliged.
On entering the other wing, we were immediately taken aback by the sheer display of oriental porcelain. The room had a number of fine specimens of oriental vases and some extremely decorative porcelain stools. We asked Judith if we could take a few photographs.
“You know earlier we used to allow people to take photographs. But some while ago it turned out that a few visitors had used photographs to copy furniture from the house and try and pass them off as antiques. So now we don’t allow photography any more”, she explained.
With this we turned off our cameras, but nevertheless Judith gave us a fairly entertaining glimpse into the house’s rather exotic history.
The patriarch of the family Braganza de Pereira, represented Goa in Portugal during colonial times. He travelled extensively between Europe, India and the Orient, collecting many of the treasures that adorn the house today. Much of the land that the family relied on for it’s massive wealth came as a result of gifts from Don Luiz, the King of Portugal.
More recently it was owned by Luis de Menezes Braganza who was a journalist and Goan freedom fighter and staunch critic of colonial rule, Judith explained as we toured the library. The library housing about 5,000 rare books is the largest private library in Goa. The books reside in ornate bookshelves, while elaborately carved wooden furniture in rosewood and teak and quaint loveseats dot the floors of the library.
In the political upheaval, after Goa was annexed by India in 1962, led to the family losing all their lands from which much of their wealth came. Since then, the family has been forced to open the house for tours to help cover costs of upkeep.
We were now in a large dining room. Much of the silverware was out for polishing, but Judith assured us that the chairs were carved with the same “rose” design as those found in the dining room of the Buckingham Palace. She then showed us the ball room of this wing of the house. This was an equally fantastic room that was supposedly fashioned after Louis XIV’s Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.
Our tour coming to an end, we were now walking back to the entrance along a long passageway, with sunlight streaming through the windows, lighting up Portuguese treasure chests and other antiquities lining the corridors, when Judith pointed us towards the walls of the corridors. The walls were perforated with gun holes to shoot at unsuspecting invaders, a fascinating defensive feature in this rather old house.
Finally we bid Judith goodbye, taking away with us a slice of Goan history and peek into the riches and glamour of the past.
Chandor is about 42 km from Panjim ( about an one hour drive via NH17) and 10 km east of Margoa. Driving into town, either by a hired car or cab, is probably the best way to reach Chandor. Also reach out to Goa Tourism for organized tours to the house. On reaching Chandor, find the house opposite the church.
Best Time to Visit
The house is open pretty much all year round for visitors. Visitors are allowed between 9 am and 5 pm. While there is no entry fee for the house, visitors are expected to leave a small donation at their discretion. The funds are used for the maintenance of the heritage mansion. The recommended donation is a minimum of INR 100 – 150 per head.
Where to Stay
There is no suitable place to stay in Chandor and a visit to the house is best done as a day trip.