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Dona Paula – fact or fiction?

Some say she was an adulterous woman, some say a lonely widow. How many actually know the real story behind Dona Paula? There is one quality that is repeated in all those versions; Dona was a charitable lady with a kind heart. It is because of this quality the villagers decided to honour her by naming the village after her. Let’s find out more about Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior, her real name. Dona, according to Portuguese customs is a title given to married women.

Our larger than life storytelling has made many mortals immortals, who are cited even today. Goa has a humble example of such sort, Dona Paula. From the name, it is easy to guess the female connotation.

Some accounts about Dona Paula given out by tourist guides to the tourists in Goa

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Version 1 – she was from an affluent Portuguese family in Goa. Her lover was a lowly fisherman of Goan origin. Due to the class difference, the relationship was not approved by Dona’s family. Finding no other way, both decided to end their lives together by jumping off the cliff. The statue on the cliff of a man and a woman is a tribute to these immortal lovers.

Version 2 – Dona was wife to Paulo, a fisherman from the village. As usual, he ventured into the sea but never returned. She being a dutiful wife stood every day on the cliff hoping her husband would return. He never returned and it is said that Dona had turned to a rock awaiting him.

Version 3 – Dona Paula was the Lady- in – waiting for the Portuguese Governor- General’s wife in Goa. She is said to have developed a relationship with the Governor which was discovered by his wife. It is said that Paula was beaten, stripped and thrown off the cliff wearing nothing but a pearl necklace. Even after three centuries of her death, some Goan villagers claim to have seen her apparition walk out of the sea wearing nothing but a pearl necklace.

A more stable version does exist and it isn’t as tragic as above mentioned accounts. The most trustable version states,

Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior was the daughter of Portuguese Viceroy of Jaffnapatnam (Sri Lanka). Her family is said to have arrived in Goa in 1644. It is here that Paula married a Spanish Fidalgo Dom Antonio Souto Maior in 1656. He is said to have owned land from present-day Raj Bhavan (Governor’s palace) which was formerly known as Cabo Raj Niwas to Caranzalem in Goa.

Dona Paula Amaral Antonio de Souto Maior is said to have passed away on December 16, 1682. During her life, she is said to have done a lot of charitable work in the village and worked towards their betterment. To honour her memory the village of Oddavell was renamed, Dona Paula. Her grave exists in the chapel situated inside the Goa Governor’s residence.

The statue atop the cliff was sculpted by Dutch sculptress Baroness Yrse Von Leistner in 1969. ‘Image of India’ is the name given to the statue. The inscription below the statue reads, ‘lead us from untruth to truth, from darkness to light and from death to immortality’.

The jetty at Dona Paula has been a tourist hot spot for many years and can be called the jewel of Goan tourism. A beach next to the jetty and water sports activities makes it worth visiting. The National Institute of Oceanography is located in the proximity; Marine Biology Museum and Taxonomy Reference Center are major attractions here.

Written by Shailesh Shriram Tanpure

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