Once known as the ancient city of Chandrapura, the village of Chandor, once served as a capital from the Bhoja dynasty period to that of the Kadambas and was later colonized by the Portuguese.  The village is known to have both ancient and modern aspects to its history and the Fernandes house stands testament to this. The Fernandes house in Chandor village is one of the oldest remaining palacios in Goa. Occupied was by the late Mrs. Sara Fernandes, her grandson Ranjeet and his family. The house has a decided air of elegance. The original house, which exhibits a Hindu Influence, was built more than 800 years ago. The portuguese influence is noticeable in the portion of the house constructed in 1821 by the Fernandes family.

 fernandes house

The Fernandes House Is A Fusion Of Indo-Portuguese Style

Voddlem Ghor, currently known as The Sara Fernandes House is commonly known after its deceased occupant, in the vicinity of Isvorachem, stands tall to its glorious past and its recent status of a Heritage House. Unlike those who were killed or fled during the colonial religious persecution, Hindu landowners of the time like the Fernandes adopted Christianity. Built in the pre-Portuguese era, the edifice is imposing not just on the outside but also in its interiors. It houses a secret 500-year-old passage that was used by the family to hide whenever there was a local rebellion against the Portuguese and its policy of proselytizing. Typical of traditional Indian design with a central courtyard, the house has witnessed transformations and the exteriors now appear similar to other Portuguese mansions of the area. It has a secret basement hideaway, riddled with gunshot holes, and an escape tunnel.

Originally wealthy Kshatriyas, the Fernandes family, in order to protect themselves, converted to Christianity, though never quite giving up their Kshatriya beliefs, evident in the house’s layout, like the private access in the backyard to the river. As you enter the Sara Fernandes house, you are introduced to the Machilas that were used to carry the aristocrats around town. It was also used to carry the Hindu priests. In 1600s when the family was converted to Christianity, the catholic priests started using the Machilas.  Inside the house also rests an antiquated palanquin that were used by the ladies of the house a few centuries ago.

The Indian Artifacts Found At The Fernandes House

Inside the passage way of the Fernandes house hangs a photograph of the backyard of the owner’s house which was done by the Archeological Survey of India. The Fernandes house is a mixture of old Indo-Portuguese artifacts and one such example is the measuring vessels used to weigh rice called ‘Maap’ in Konkani. The measurements are of 15 kilos and less.

Since the Fernandes house was an Indian house prior to the Portuguese inquisition, it was known as the Dessai house. It was told by Mr. Ranjeet Fernandes that the entrance of the Indian house was actually facing the river sides. According to Mr. Ranjeet, nobody knows in century was the Indian part of the house was built and one would have to strip down the house to know which dynasty built it. The walls are also covered with gun holes through which members of the house used their long barreled guns to drive away bandits and rebels whenever they struck or attacked them.

The house also adorns a sculpture called the ‘Bairav’. It was the corner stone of the temple which was stripped down and constructed into a chapel. The corner stone dates back to the 7th Century. The chapel can be seen on the way to the Fernandes house. An inscription in Kannada is seen resting among other artifacts of the house. It is said that the inscription was recovered by late Mr. John Fernandes from the village of Quepem.

There are also agricultural tools and a coconut Ganesha found inside of the Fernandes house. Mr. Ranjeet also said that a section of the house is very old, it could be seen through a deeply carved door and is still not known which dynasty has built the house.

In a photograph shown by Mr. Ranjeet, he explains about the folk dance performed during the ancient times till date. It is called Masull dance that belonged to the Kshatriya class. The Fernandes family helps preserve the local cultural heritage. You may ask the inmates about Masull Khel, a local dance procession on Tuesdays and Wednesday evenings and even more pronounced during the Intruz festival of Goa. Now known as Chardo Christians or Roman Catholic Kshatriya, this erstwhile Hindu warrior community comes out in colorful traditional wear to perform this dance with bamboo sticks. Once performed at the Mahadeva (Shiva) Temple, dancers now invoke Lord Jesus and Our Lady, reflective of current beliefs. When the procession reaches Voddlem Ghor, the Fernandes family welcomes them with traditional lamps. This Indo-Portuguese mansion is also open to the public.

The Fernandes House Is A Glimpse Into The Portuguese Era

A flight of stairs later, you are introduced to the ballroom built in a European style. The house has a lots of European,Portuguese, Macau and Goan influences in the design the furniture and the windows. For starters the house in build more higher than the ground almost 8 feet for protection from floods and wild animals and even invasion , the windows have clear Belgium glasses that are still clear even after so many centuries at the side of the windows are small visible gun holes through  the walls which were used for defending the house by invaders the roof of the house is very high close to 2 floors and has wooden ceiling this in turn keeps the heat of the warm laterite tiles away , the house has a huge ballroom with beautiful furniture as many a grand European houses , the furniture is European and Goan designed especially the end of the bed room.

The house has a green salon along with an antique grand piano resting at one end of the ballroom which is still in use.  The second floor of the Fernandes house has huge rooms ran the entire length and depth of the building. A dining room and a living room were there, with arched windows opening onto ornate cast iron balconies. Crystal chandeliers and sconces provided light, and heavy ironwood carved chairs provided comfort. The colonial details of complex ornately arched windows, wooden floors and inlaid tile floors were present, as was a central atrium that provided light and a refreshing breeze to the core of the building. This house also had a gilded altar dedicated to a Christian saint and a cabinet that housed a collection of the saint’s medallions. Everything in the house appeared to be sturdy, from the beamed ceilings and thick walls, to the solid floors, and the presence of the ancestor, who had inherited this mansion. There is a deeply carved secretary desk that housed hidden boxes that secretly protected jewels and money. There are also old copper plate and another coconut Ganesha found in alleyway.

The Secret Passageway In The Fernandes House

However, to experience the real draw of the place, you need to walk down an ominous looking trapdoor through the bottom of a false cupboard that leads you to a narrow passage below the river; the family’s secret hideaway and escape tunnel. With the walls still bearing covered gun holes, the tunnel was the Fernandes family’s way to escape whenever bandits and rebels struck and attacked them. Walking down the trapdoor and through the tunnel sends a shiver of excitement up your spine. The escape passageway is considered to be over 500 years old, still as sturdy and strong as it was five centuries ago. Occasionally, well-placed holes had been drilled at just the right angle through which to aim the barrels of rifles in self-defense. This escape route at one time lead to the river, where a boat would have been anchored, transporting the family to safety. In modern times, snakes had found the passageway inviting, and the Fernandes family finally sealed it off from the forest.

History Of The Fernandes House

Another interesting fact about the Fernandes house is that, at conversion the Dessai family were given the surname Carvalho. The Fernandes house also has a framed portrait of Pascoal Anton Carvalho hanging on the walls of the house; the first christian convert in the family. According to Mr. Ranjeet Fernandes when the daughter Fernandes family got married into the Carvalho family, somewhere down the line the children of the house chose the to use the matriarchal surname ‘Fernandes’.

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