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Braganza House – Stranded in Time in Goa

For an address that has remained the same for over three and a half centuries, Braganza House is a little difficult to find. Traveling further south from Panjim, leaving the bustling town behind on the way to the highway that leads to Mangalore the journey to Braganza House can become a drive through lush green countryside depending on the wrong turns you take. Maps, travel guides, GPS and the classic asking for directions can tend to differ almost like chalk and cheese and it takes some time to get to Chador, a small town 15 kms south of Madgaon in Goa.

More about the Braganza House

Occupying an entire side of Chandor, the Braganza House stands a mute witness to times that aren’t the same anymore. Once upon a time it would have been the grandest address in all of Goa; today it’s just a relic. Spread over an acre the Braganza House is divided into two equal wings. Inherited by two sisters of the family who named the wings after their husbands the west wing belongs to the Menenzes-Braganza tree while the east wing is home to the Braganza-Pereira family. This segregation happened generations after the death of AFS Braganza Pereria, the man who was gifted this piece of land by the king of Portugal.

One of the last remaining remnants of a dying Goan-Portuguese style of architecture the Braganza House isn’t what Aida de Menezes; the ninety-four year old matriarch of the Menezes-Braganza family remembers it as. She sits quietly in one of the 28 balcony windows of the first floor. While some days she looks out for her son, who stayed in Brazil for some years and visits her regularly; most days she sits there waiting for visitors who called in and are perhaps on their way for a visit to her house. Offering a slice of her family’s story, Aida’s home allows a walk through centuries for visitors upon whose contributions the upkeep of the dying heritage lingers on.

The Braganzas history mirrors the rise and fall of Portuguese Goa. They came into existence after an affluent Hindu family of the area converted post the advent of the Jesuit mission in Goa around the mid 16th century. The next three hundred saw the family prosper to unprecedented heights. Francis Xavier Braganza, Aida’s great-grandfather, was knighted by King Ferdinand II in 1848 and was also awarded a service to the royal household.

Holding on to the memories and the almost invisible pride of the family, Aida rarely speaks but times have forced her to showcase her family history. Aided by Judith, who never mentioned her relation with Aida, as you walk along the rooms and the hallways the echoes of the once glorious past still manage to impress. Muted for centuries the artifacts look derelict and lost but once upon a time they must have illuminated.

The Braganza House grew to become the grandest address of Chandor. With 110 metres in length Francis Xavier Braganza’s house was built in three stages and has artifacts from all over the world. A stately ballroom, a dinning hall that could seat an entire town, the largest private library in Goa with over 5000 books (many of them rare first editions) each room has a distinctive character. Fine carved wooden rosewood and teak furniture, some of them centuries old, Portuguese tiles, crystal chandeliers from Belgium, windows adorned by colored glass from Italy and oyster shells…nothing could go wrong.

Dark Years of the Braganza House

Francis Xavier left everything to Luis de Menezes Braganza, his grandson, as he had no heirs. A man of words, Luis took his maternal name and rather valiantly opposed the Portuguese. By the turn of the 19th century Luis started the first Portuguese paper of Goa called O Heraldo, which was followed by four more publications. His vehement opposition of the Portuguese invited the wrath of the Salazar who stopped the press and also subjected the family to pains.

A product of Portuguese rule in Goa, the Braganza became disillusioned with the mother country. Luis now wanted autonomy for Goa and after his death in 1938 the family rooted for liberation by India. But from 1947 till the Liberation, the family was forced to abandon Goa to avoid the Portuguese. The time spent away from the house proved to be too much for the grand mansion and it slipped into dilapidation from which it never really recovered.

A teary eyed Judith looks over her shoulder at Aida, who sits in the sun and muses. Aida recalls the years after the turbulent times where they tried to restore Braganza House’s glory. Post liberation they depended on the income from their lands but that was also lost as a result of the Land Reforms of 1962.

Aida took some years to settle her children and in the early 1980’s decide to bring back the beauty and finery of her ancestral house. Today the two members of the family occupy the two wings and both rely on visitors to help in maintaining the house. It’s sad to see a near scuttle amongst the two wings to attract the attention of sightseers and tourists.

It’s sadder to say no to the other on the way out.

The Braganza House Address

Casa Menezes Braganza, near Chruch, Chandor, Goa. Ph no. 0832-2784201

The author was touring Goa in September 2010

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