The European colonialism has its roots in Goa with the establishment of a Portuguese colony in the 16th century. Among the time-honoured vestiges of by-gone Portuguese era, the Viceroy Gate is of particular interest. It was the gateway to new era of colonialism in India and followed by British  Imperialism.

The Viceroy’s arch in Old Goa was erected in the memory of Vasco Da Gama in 1599, by his great-grand son Francisco da Gama after he became the viceroy in 1597. He was stayed as the viceroy of India throughout the period of 1597 to 1600 and 1622 to 1628.

Vasco Da Gama was the first European to reach India by sea. His initial voyage to India (1497–1499) was the first to link Europe and Asia by an ocean route, connecting the Atlantic and the Indian oceans and therefore, the West and the East.

On top of the arch, there is a little statue of Vasco da Gama, completely attired with full regalia, gazing at the Mandovi River.

Riverside of the archway
Riverside of the archway | Credit: Kevin Standage

On the side facing the city is a sculpture of a European lady. She is wearing a crown and long decorated robe.  She holds a sword in one hand and an open book in another, gazing sternly ahead. Under her feet is a reclining figure of a man in equally decorated and flowing robe, slippers and turban, this confirms he is of a high rank. The head of this man is propped up by an elbow with a resigned expression on his face. No prizes for guessing the message here, as the Inquisition made its way liberally across the city.

20181020125323-viceroys arch

There was a ceremonial importance attached to this structure during the Portuguese rule. Every governor who took charge of Goa had to pass through the arch. The arch way was the spot where the new viceroy would be handed over the keys to the city of Old Goa the capital of Goa at that time. The structure lost its ceremonial importance when the capital of Goa was moved from Old Goa to Panjim in 1843.

There was previously another gate here, being one of the entrances to Adil Shah’s palace. Adil Shah was the Sultan of Bijapur. Before Portuguese invasion, Goa was under the Sultanate of Bijapur. The palace of the Sultan of Bijapur Yusuf Adil Shah (1450–1511), is the oldest surviving building in Goa (built around 1500 CE). As  the Indian ruler  was surrounded  by enemies, the palace  was well fortified as part of his  defence with a formidable  arsenal of 55 canons and a  moat.

Adil Shah’s Palace

The palace was used by Portuguese Viceroys for a brief  stay, rest and relaxation during their travel  to and from Portugal. Further, it was  a tradition for the new Viceroy  to stay here while awaiting the receipt of the ceremonial keys to the city of Old Goa at the Viceroy´s Arch. Likewise, the outgoing Viceroy had to wait here, for a ship bound for Portugal, after delegating his authority in Old Goa.

It is now more known as secretariat than as the palace of Adil Shah. Now that a new Secretariat is in use on Porvorim Hill across the river Mandovi, the Adil Shah Palace will be turned into a cultural centre with art galleries and concert halls, etc.

Viceroy’s Arch results from the first memorial of the nautical achievement by famous Vasco da Gama. However, surprisingly, the monument was not entitled according to his name.

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