The Portuguese, who founded the naval route to India through the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, reigned Goa for more than 400 years before it gained independence in 1961, and many local home designs developed by the natives kept the local style with Portuguese influence. Verandahs, columns, and red roof tiles were not new to India, and in Goa, these characteristics gave houses and structures a distinct character. The original style may be seen in traditional places of worship such as churches, as well as in public and residential structures. Mouldings, decorative features and embellishments, and intricately designed railings in the houses showcase Portuguese architecture.

An overview of Portuguese colonial architecture in India - Sheet1
Church of Our Lady of the Mount_©Nischal Thapa

The facade of the building is given priority in the design, and most homes have symmetrical frontage with three divisions with connection and lavishly ornate arched windows with stucco carvings. These carvings, as well as other decorative components and details, were used in Portuguese architecture. The railing received extra consideration and was the most elaborate piece of the home. The roofs are generally slanted to drain rainwater and are round in form with thick walls built of stone without mortar.

Unique and Hybrid

Many people have a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of Goa‘s particular architectural style. Many of the Portuguese structures were designed, constructed, and built by native Indians before they left the Indian coastlines. Though not ornamented with remarkable architectural styles such as vaulted halls, decorative pillars, flying buttresses, and so on, Portuguese-styled constructions were as appealing and compelled tourists to look at them again. Interior design and old wooden furniture were equally amazing. The homes that emerged in Goa between the 18th and early 20th centuries stand out in the world of architecture because of the combination of so many characteristics introduced by Goans.

An overview of Portuguese colonial architecture in India - Sheet2
Houses at a Street in Altinho_©Soham Banerjee

The distinctively designed houses seen in Goa are not seen in Latin America or Portugal. They also do not exist in any of the places where the Portuguese had a significant influence. The Goan architecture is hybrid in character, drawing inspiration from many native architectural styles such as Hindu, Islamic, and Jain. The colonial architecture of Mumbai, Kolkata, and Chennai differs from that of Goa. The Gothic or Neo-Gothic design style was imposed on the regional architecture by British architects who included European components. Buildings in Goa were designed and constructed by locals in the latter situation.

Built form 

The residences were originally constructed with mud walls and a thatched roof but were eventually turned into permanent stone constructions. The size of the dwellings was also expanded throughout time. All of the Indo-Portuguese homes had the same basic unit, which was taken from Southern Portugal vernacular architecture. The homes include Portuguese architectural characteristics as well as Indian and Islamic influences. The homes in Goa are very similar to those of Algarve, a town in southern Portugal. The facades were proportionately built and plastered with lime. White was used to paint the windows and door surrounds, and pilaster strips were used to highlight the corners. These were only a few of the features present in Algarve and Goa homes.

An overview of Portuguese colonial architecture in India - Sheet3
Traditional Goan House_©Aaron Geddes

Churches

Today, Portuguese architecture has emerged as one of Goa’s most popular tourist attractions. Old Goa is home to a variety of churches and cathedrals with a distinct Portuguese architectural style that correlates to the architecture of Portugal’s other colonies, such as Africa, Brazil, and the Azores. With its three floors and baroque architecture, the Basilica do Bom Jesus in Old Goa is reminiscent of late Renaissance architecture. The Cathedral of Santa Catarina, with its large Golden Bell, is a combination of Tuscan and Corinthian styles. Other religious sites created under their rule that are significantly influenced by Portuguese architecture include the Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Convent of Santa Monica, Chapel of the Weeping Cross, Sanctuary of Saint Joseph Vaz, and others. Several historical structures, such as Fort Aguada and Reis Magos Fort, are built in the Portuguese style.

An overview of Portuguese colonial architecture in India - Sheet4
Basilica of Bom Jesus_©Soham Banerjee

City Planning

Indo-Portuguese settlements were usually built on high ground, which was one of the defensive strategies used by the Portuguese from the Pre-Roman period, known as the Castrensian tradition. The towns were built in such a way that they fitted the land’s topography. Their major goal was to defend themselves and maintain control over their land. They were frequently separated into two tiers. The port and other commercial operations are placed on the lower level, while the administrative buildings, institution buildings, and residential structures are located on the upper level. Churches were strategically located in the heart of uptown to serve as a linking point between uptown and downtown.

Goa’s settlement planning draws similarities from Lisbon’s settlement planning. The whole settlement resembles a semi-circular arch, with the main roadway linking uptown and downtown.

An overview of Portuguese colonial architecture in India - Sheet5
Map of Goa (up) and Lisbon (down)_©Historic City Center, Hebrew University

Here, the houses were built initially, and then the streets were built by linking them, unlike the rest of Europe, which had a Roman-style planning system in which streets were established first and residences were built subsequently. Because of this, narrow winding roads and little alleyways were built to provide access to a small cluster of dwellings. The tiny roadways allowed for a mutual shade that was sensitive to the weather. The town’s main street serves as the major structural unit, with a small square in the center of the settlement including the Church and other key administrative and institutional buildings. Secondary roadways were placed perpendicular to the major primary street and were encircled by homes on both sides.

References:

  1. historic-cities.huji.ac.il. (n.d.). Historic Cities: Maps & Documents. [online] Available at: http://historic-cities.huji.ac.il/ 
  2. Marcel Nisha, Ar.Tony.M.N. and Jayasudha, Dr.P. (2019). Study Of Indo – Portuguese Architecture on The East and West Coast of India. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC & TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH, [online] VOLUME 8(ISSUE 8). Available at: https://www.ijstr.org/final-print/aug2019/Study-Of-Indo-Portuguese-Architecture-On-The-East-And-West-Coast-Of-India.pdf
  3. Wikipedia. (2021). Portuguese colonial architecture. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portuguese_colonial_architecture
Author

A recently graduated architect, Mohit has a quest to understand the Art and Architecture of our cities. He believes in designing things by understanding the larger context and blending them into the larger environment.

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