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Cotula walk – I

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

This essay describes my walk through the famous Cotula ward in the village of Saligao, Goa, in the month of April 2008. A document of the Saligao Communidade dated 27 March 1759 gives the names of the nine wards originally existing at that time in the village: Salmona, Arady, Sto. António, Dondo-vaddo, Mollebata, Murdavady, Cotella, Vaddlem Marada and Dacutem Marada. The other wards, with which we are familiar nowadays, had their origin much later.  

As you might have noticed, the document I specified mentions the ward “Cotella”. This was later lusitanised into Cotula. In Konkani it is written as  Kotula or Khotla. The chauri or chauddi (that is, the Communidade House of Saligao) was located at Cotula, which was the seat of the village administration. Here was the residence of the Khot, from which the name of the ward ‘Khotla’ is probably derived. According to some, however, the name is derived from Kotwal, the village patil, the forerunner of the regedor of the Portuguese era, who had his office there. The post office and later the telegraph office as well as the first Latin Portuguese school and the Lourdes Convent school were initially set up in Cotula.

Adjacent to this ward and exactly opposite the present tinttó (market), the Panchayat Office, (as well as the Communidade hall and post office, which are in Mudd’davaddi), lies the Vinan vaddo.  Originally the carpenters (sutar  or vinani or thovoi) occupied this area, hence the name of this ward, which is actually an extension of the Khotla ward. Vinan derives from vin’nem or irnem i.e. chisel. This ward has its own small chapel dedicated to St. Joseph, more or less opposite the present post office. It takes about eight minutes to walk from the chapel to the main Saligao church, and the road going towards the Church from this locality is known as the Vinan-vaddo-Cotula Road. As I stand on the road named after D. Pedro V, I am joined on this walk by my friend and Mater Dei School colleague Salvador Mascarenhas. Salvador   was residing earlier in Mudd’davaddi near Marques mansion, but now has his own house in Mollebhatt at the foot of Mollebhatt-Aquem hill.

As we began exploring the Vinan-vaddo-Cotula wards, Salvador asked me who D. Pedro V was. I told him the story of the 30th king of Portugal, son of Queen Dona Maria and King Fernando. D. Pedro V was born in Lisbon in 1837 and reigned in Portugal from 1853 to 1861. During his short reign Portugal made notable progress. During this period the first railway line and aerial telegraphs were inaugurated there. Cholera and yellow fever epidemics in 1856 and 1857 resulted in thousands of victims being hospitalised, especially in Lisbon. D. Pedro V visited the victims in the hospitals, comforting and consoling them, and the people regarded this visit as a very good gesture by the king. He was a very noble character, erudite, and a deep thinker. After his death, notes and letters written by him were published, which clearly attested to his generous intentions.  He left behind his wife,  princess D. Estefânia de Hohenzollern-Sigmarigen, who herself died the following year. The Betim-Pilerne-Saligao-Parra-Mapuça was named in memory of the good king D. Pedro V.

“Look to the left,” said Salvador, and pointed to the famous aula, the Portuguese school. Many boys and girls completed their primary education in Portuguese through this school. “Once, it was presided over by a well-known pedagogue named Antoninho Cordeiro,” I added.

At this point we were at the small shed that serves as a bus stop. It was built by Vincente de Saligao, whose house was in the vicinity. Vincente was one of the famous Konkani dramatists (“tiatrists”), and he excelled in playing female roles. We moved slowly ahead along the D. Pedro V road. As we passed the  coconut grove in Vinan-vaddo Salvador reminded me of the times when, for the feasts of Mae de Deus and St Anne’s, we would collect toddy from the   .  render mama (toddy-tapper) who lived there.

Then he pointed to the house of Punaji Achrekar, the first MLA representing Saligao, during the term of Dayanand Bandodkar, Goa’s first Chief Minister.  Achrekar’s father was an important man for Saligaokars when they returned to Saligao from Africa. They used to alight from the steamer at Mormugao Harbour. The father of MLA Achrekar used to meet them and transport their luggage via voddém-cart to their destination.

We next came upon the house of  Aleixinho and Luis, our school colleagues. Their father was the xirô-marpi of Saligao. In those days it was believed that blood-letting was the best treatment for high blood pressure. He had a small box with different sharp instruments that he used to draw out blood by cutting a vein in the patient’s foot. The blood oozed out from the cut and collected in an earthernware utensil called koddém.  He would also attach leeches to the cut, which then sucked out the blood.

At this point we met Stephen Rodrigues, the ex-Attorney of the Saligao Church Fabrica Committee, who was standing at the window of his house. A little further on we met the present Attorney, John Machado, and the Treasurer of the same Fabrica Committee of the church and discussed a bit about the renovation work of the church.  He told us the names of other committed parishioners and consultants in this project, such as Fr. Carlisto Coelho, architect Dean D’Cruz, senior structural engineers Sylvester D’Souza and Rajendra Palyekar, civil contractors Darryl Pereira and Austin D’Gama (who was also the coordinator of the entire major renovation of the neo-gothic church. Then there were fabricators Jude Fernandes and Arnold Sequeira.  The fund raising drive carried out by the Fabrica members until that point was around Rs.75 lakh, they said.  The church would be thrown open to the public by 16th July, 2008 by the new Parish Priest, Fr. Luciano Fernandes.

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