Traditional Ancestral Goan Home
(Line Artwork by Tony Fernandes)
Old Goan homes such as the one in the drawing above were mostly built by the rich and wealthy 'battkars' (land-owners), the affluent ones who were better off by working abroad, especially in the Portuguese colonies in East Africa. These traditional houses carryied a status symbol and were based on the western designs - now commonly known as Portuguese house - with local construction ideas, materials and labour.
The houses were erected with strong foundations of up to 4 to 5 ft deep and walls consisting of laterite stone. The walls were finished with cement-mortar course and painted white. The average plinth was 5 ft high. with long balconies and verandahs. The higher the plinth and the number of steps leading to the balcony - the higher the status of the owners!
Forming an integral part of these house were decorative railings with roof covered with Mangalore tiles on a strong framework consisting of longitudinal teak wood rafters and lateral red-wood ribs that were nailed to the rafters. The floor was finished in red cement and grooved impressions that suggested tiling work. These houses had ample number of windows that provided natural light during the day.The windows were works of art in themselves - an intricate pattern mastered and perfected by Goan carpenters over the centuries. It consists of vertical wooden strips into a timber framework, slotted to accept square pieces from the nacre of the mother-of-pearl shell which are inserted into a slotted timber framework.
The doors were made of teak and fitted with heavy duty long steel latches fitted on the door frames.
A compound wall around the house consisted of a broad gate with a drive way as well as a smaller gate for a single person's entry in the front. The rear of the house had a narrow gate with a latch. An out-house was constructed within the confines of the compound wall at the rear with a small opening through the rear wall.
The front was quite elaborate with decorative garden and steps leading to the main door of the house and a long balcony with cement or wooden benches on both sides of the entrance.
Apart from the imposing facade of these vintage houses, a common feature of these houses was a Holy Cross in the case of a Christian home or a Tulsi in front of a Hindu home.