The Politics of Renovation: The Disappearing Architecture of Goa’s Old Brahmanical Temples

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2018. “Politics of Renovation: The Disappearing Architecture of Goa’s Bragmanical Temples.” In Preserving Transcultural Heritage: Your Way or My Way? Questions of Authenticity, Identity and Patrimonial Proceedings in the Safeguarding of Architectural Heritage Created in the Meeting of Cultures, edited by Joaquim Rodrigues dos Santos, 253-263. Casal de Cambra: Caleidoscópio – Edição e Artes Gráficas.



The unique architecture of Goa’s old Brahmanical shrines is under threat today, and one reason seems to be a perception that it is not Hindu enough. Goa’s centuries-long Islamicate and Iberian connections have left behind a heterogeneous culture in many aspects, including architecture. The many Brahmanical temples built from the seventeenth century onwards are examples of this, their hybrid forms belonging as much to the Islamicate world and the European Renaissance as to local building traditions. But, while these temples still stand today and attract increasing numbers of worshippers, their original architecture is disappearing, to be replaced by forms and elements from outside Goa. This paper examines the attempts to erase these unique forms, and the relation of this to the social, political, and legal context.

Keywords: heritage, preservation, Goa, Hindu temples, Brahmanical temples.

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The Goan Temple: A Unique Architecture on Its Way Out

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The architecture of Goa is a heterogeneous one, the result of its long and cosmopolitan history as an Indian Ocean port, a part of the Islamicate Deccan, and then of the Portuguese empire. And one of its most distinctive and heterogeneous developments is in the realm of temple architecture. The Brahmanical temples that were built in Goa from the seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries were creatively inspired by Renaissance Europe (via the churches of Goa), the Bijapur Sultanate, the Mughals (via the Marathas), and the Ikkeri Nayakas, along with the local architecture. These varied vocabularies came together to produce a recognisable architectural ensemble by the end of the 19th century which spread across the region of Goa and beyond.  This is why the Goan temple should be seen as an architectural type in its own right.