If one looks on the Internet and reads history books, there is a lot of Goa, the smallest state in India. Goa was known by many names in the past. Ancient texts list some of these names for us. They are Gomanchala, Gopakapattana, Gopakapattam, Gopakapuri, Govapuri, Govem, and Gomantak. Other historical names for Goa are Sindapur, Sandabur, and Mahassapatam. And even though this jewel is one of India’s smallest, it has a vast heritage to its name which some Goans are doing their best to fiercely protect. This group of like-minded individuals is known as the Goa Heritage Action Group (GHAG).
How the Goa Heritage Action Group was formed
Formed in 2000, the Goa Heritage Action Group is a registered non-government organization dedicated to the
preservation of Goa’s priceless heritage. Until a few years ago, they used to hold the Fontainhas Festival of the Arts but this was discontinued for various reasons. Goa Heritage Action Group also has a listing of heritage properties and sites in Goa and the restoration of Betim Cross, the Tonca Pillar and markers in Old Goa to its credit.
Members of the Goa Heritage Action Group
The new Executive Committee was elected last year in April. The office bearers are Cezar Pinto (Chairman), Prajal Sakhardande (Vice Chairman), Raya Shankhwalker (Hon. Secretary), Harshvardhan Bhatkuly (Hon. Treasurer) and Rajiv D’Silva (Jt. Treasurer).
Other members of the executive committee are Poonam Verma Mascarenhas, Anna Maria de Sousa Goswami, Anthony Gaskell and Jack Ajit Sukhija.
Here’s what the group has to say about heritage – Our legacy and what we consider of value from the basket of what we have inherited from our past and our peers. Sounds like too broad a definition? Try this: Anything that is of historic, architectural, archaeological, aesthetic value or of value because it is part of a group of things that are of value or is part of a whole of value. This thing could be either tangible or intangible. Buildings, monuments, houses, streets and street furniture, streetscapes and roofscapes are tangible pieces of our heritage. Folk arts, crafts, music, dance, customs, traditions, songs, and rituals are the intangibles.
Goa’s heritage definitely needs saving
The Goa Heritage Action Group has been instrumental in bringing about awareness about how much we need to save our state’s heritage. They’ve done a lot for the Fontainhas neighborhood in Panjim, also known as the Latin Quarter as well as Campal. The Borda and Comba areas of Margao have also benefitted from the Goa Heritage Action Group’s efforts. The Fontainhas Festival of Art was one successful event that they held. Almost every house in the neighborhood was turned into an art gallery and it was quite an interesting affair.
Now, more than before, with all the changes going on in Goa, it’s easy to see and fear how we could lose these precious parts of our heritage and history. Therefore, it’s important to be vigilant and make sure that all of it is not lost forever.
Speaking after being elected to the committee, well-known architect Raya Shankhwalker said, “As a group, apart from our current focus on the conservation of Goa’s built and natural heritage, it is imperative that we also focus on the many intangible aspects of Goan heritage. We have a few key projects lined up for protection and harnessing Goa’s rich history, tradition, and culture.” He is also the group’s Hon. Secretary.
Renowned historian Prajal Sakhardande, who is also a vocal and hands-on activist for the protection of Goa’s heritage, had this to say, “It is a continuous struggle for heritage campaigners to educate stakeholders about the priceless value of our heritage; and to lobby with the state to protect endangered heritage properties.”
The group has some interesting walks that they do as well as other activities. Check out the website link for more information on these.