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When in Goa, head to a museum

When in Goa, head to a museum

If you’re in Goa and want a break from its fine powdered beaches and shacks promising calamari floating in butter garlic sauce and fried shark, head inland to explore its museums. For such a small place, Goa has many museums, with new ones opening on a regular basis. Whether you are interested in seeing new things or just learning about another culture, here’s a round-up of the best ones around.

Houses of Goa
Hidden in a valley to the east of Porvorim, about 5km from Panaji, this unusual ship-shaped building is the brainchild of noted architect Gerard da Cunha. The museum explores the unique Indo-Portuguese architecture and explains how the influence of the Portuguese reflects in the details—the storeyed houses and steep roofs that dot the landscape.

The museum is on three levels —you can explore the history of Goa and the story of world architecture, get a sense of architecturally significant Goan homes and walk through a gallery that encourages you to explore the use of balcaos (porch), raj angans (courtyards) and the importance of objects such as tulsi vrindavans, the traditional planter for basil, and crosses. A new wing, dedicated to illustrator and cartoonist Mario Miranda, allows you to get nostalgic with his iconic drawings ( ).

The Goa State Museum
The Goa State Museum in Panaji’s Patto district has some incredible treasures. Right next to the Krishnadas Shama Goa State Central Library (worth a visit for its five floors of books, art and sculpture), the state museum has over 10,000 artefacts spread over 14 galleries. The museum is desperately in need of renovation and occasionally smells like a toilet at a railway station—but ignore that. Make your way through the winding halls and explore an impressive collection of stone sculptures, bronzes, coins, paintings, instruments, furniture and machinery. Terracotta objects from the Indus Valley and even a fossil bone dated to 10,000 BC are part of the collection.

And whether you are a fan of television game shows or not, you will be fascinated by the pair of huge lottery-draw machines containing thousands of wooden balls, a far cry from today’s tacky plastic lottery machines ( ).

The Museum of Christian Art

Located in Old Goa, it is a jewel of a space close to the Augustine Tower. Housed in the Convent of Santa Monica, the museum preserves Indo-Portuguese Christian art and painstakingly restored artefacts. The displays include a striking pair of 18th century life-sized angels in green dresses with gold borders, pointy helmets and boots. Look carefully and you can see that one hand of each angel is balled into a fist, indicating that these were actually candle-holders at one time ( ).

The Archaeological Museum
Visitors to the The Archaeological Museum in the beautifully landscaped premises of the Sé Cathedral, one of Goa’s most important churches, can view a modest collection of ancient and modern artefacts. A gigantic bronze statue of Afonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese conqueror, greets visitors. The “Key Gallery” reflects the Hindu influence in Goa before the arrival of the Portuguese. Sculptures from the Kadamba era, like a basalt statute of Uma-Mahesa from 13 AD, jostle for space with a number of “hero stones”, slabs made in memory of fallen warriors, much like a gravestone.

What attracts your attention, though, is the incredible statue of 16th century Portuguese poet Luis Vaz de Camões in the middle of the room. The bronze statue of the one-eyed poet holds a copy of Os Lusíadas, his best-known work. Selected verses from the poem are depicted on the glorious wall of azulejos (blue and white painted tiles ) in the Institute Menezes Braganza in Panaji.

A Portrait Gallery on the first floor has over 60 portraits (of a collection of over 170, the rest of which are kept in storage) of Portuguese viceroys and governors, along with a large coin collection and 17th century paintings.

Museum of Goa
Goa’s newest museum is also India’s largest private museum. It is artist Subodh Kerkar’s effort to bring art to the masses. Contemporary art, a sculpture garden, a studio and an auditorium all come together in an enchanting and energetic space ( ).

The Naval Aviation Museum
This museum in Vasco da Gama is worth visiting for its fleet of aircraft and helicopters, some quite rare. The Short Sealand aircraft is one of three surviving Sealands in the world. Apart from the aircraft, you can read about the key battles fought by the Indian Navy and see vintage photographs, uniforms and weapons, including bombs and torpedoes.

The Goa Chitra and Goa Chakra Museums
This is a beautiful space devoted to all things Goan. One of Goa’s finest ethnographic museums, the Goa Chitra in Benaulim has thousands of artefacts that date back to the early 19th century. The Goa Chakra, devoted to the wheel, has dozens of faithfully restored chariots, carts and other wheeled treasures from across the country. A new wing for medical history and jewellery has been added recently ( ).

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