Architecture, Nationalism, and the Fleeting Heyday of the Goan Temple

Amita Kanekar

Published Date: Feb 28, 2022


This essay about the changing architecture of Brahmanical shrines in Goa uses archival images to argue that the period from the mid- nineteenth century to the first decades of the twentieth was the heyday of the Goan temple, an architectural type of pronounced heterogeneity. A significant number of temples were rebuilt at this time into this form, along with the definitive establishment of a vocabulary that drew from the European Renaissance and Baroque, as well as the Deccan Sultanates and the Mughals. These developments happened against a backdrop of the rising influence of the dominant Brahmanical castes of Goa, especially the Saraswats. Not only was the control of most temples now formally in their hands, this was also a time when these castes, long the pillars of the Estado da Índia, were consolidating their forces and finding new opportunities for employment and prosperity. These were all surely connected to the propagation of a new and cosmopolitan architecture that reflected their wealth, influence, modern-ness, and also Goan-ness. But by the 1940s, Indian nationalism was in the air, especially amongst these elites, and their temples were found to fall short of the new mood. The result was to reject Europe and embrace the Indo-Saracenic, the ‘local’ style popular in British India. Thus began the demise of the Goan temple, which would accelerate after the Indian annexation of Goa in 1961.The cosmopolitan architecture that had once flaunted the success and worldliness of its Goan patrons had now become an embarrassment.


architectural chronology, heritage, Lopes Mendes, Souza and Paul

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