Called Panjim by the Portuguese, Panaji, which means "the land that does not flood" is the state capital of Goa. Unlike many capital cities, Panaji has a distinct unhurried character. It is situated on the southern banks of the Mandovi River, which makes this town all the more charming.
For centuries, Panjim was little more than a minor landing stage and customs house, protected by a hilltop fort, and surrounded by stagnant swampland. It only became capital in 1843, after the port at Old Goa had silted up, and its rulers and impoverished inhabitants had fled the plague.
Although the last Portuguese Viceroy managed to drain many of the nearby marshes, and erect imposing public buildings on the new site, the town never emulated the grandeur of its predecessor upriver --a result, in part, of the Portuguese nobles' predilection for erecting their mansions in the countryside rather than the city.
Panjim expanded rapidly in the 1960s and 1970s, without reaching the unmanageable proportions of other Indian state capitals. After Mumbai or even Bangalore, its uncongested streets seem easygoing and pleasantly parochial. Sights are thin on the ground but the palm-linth squares and atmospheric Latin Quarter with its picturesque neoclassical houses and catholic churches make a pleasant backdrop for aimless wandering.
Worth A Visit
Although one can completely bypass the town when one arrives in Goa, either by jumping off the train or coach at Margao or Mapusa or by heading straight off on a local bus, it's definitely worth spending time here. If only a couple of hours en route to the ruined former capital at Old Goa.
The area around Panjim attracts far fewer visitors than the coastal resorts, yet its paddy fields and wooded valley harbour several attractions worth a day or two's break from the beach. Old Goa is just a bus ride away, as are the unique temples around Ponda, an hour or so southeast, to where Hindus smuggled their deities during the inquisition.