India // Goa //

Panjim

Stacked around the sides of a lush terraced hillside at the mouth of the River Mandovi, PANJIM (also known by its Marathi name, Panaji – “land that does not flood”) was for centuries little more than a minor landing stage and customs house, protected by a hilltop fort and surrounded by stagnant swampland. It only became state capital in 1843, after the port at Old Goa had silted up and its rulers and impoverished inhabitants had fled the plague.

Today, the town ranks among the least congested and hectic of any Indian capital. Conventional sights are thin on the ground, but the backstreets of the old quarter, Fontainhas, have retained a faded Portuguese atmosphere, with their colour-washed houses, azulejo tiled street names and Catholic churches.

Panjim’s annual hour in the spotlight comes at the end of November each year when it hosts the International Film Festival of India, or IFFI, for which a galaxy of Bollywood glitterati, and the odd foreign director, turn up to strut their stuff.