Count of Linhares Bridge-Causeway

Count of Linhares Bridge-Causeway

Goa [Velha Goa/Old Goa], Goa, India

Equipment and Infrastructures

Tiswadi Island faces the Arabian Sea from Miramar Beach; it is bounded on the north by the Mandovi River and on the south by the Zuari River and separated from the mainland by the Cambarjua canal. It also has two large marsh basins now transformed into rice fields, one to the south between Siridao and Old Goa, another to the north between Ribandar and Panaji. The former is linked to the Zuari by a water channel, while the latter opens to the Mandovi via a flooded outlet over 3 km long; this is a natural obstacle to connection between the city of Goa and the Mandovi bar, and to the settlement that controlled the latter from the earliest times, Panaji. A fortress already existed in Panaji when Goa was conquered (1510). It was later converted into the quarters/palace of the viceroys, a building subject to major changes in the 1610s. In 1759 it became the residence of the viceroys and seat of the permanent government of the Estado da Índia. Goa and Panaji were connected by boat, as the land route was via a winding detour that doubled the distance. This was so until construction began in 1633 on the Count of Linhares Causeway, or simply Ponte de Linhares [Linhares Bridge], as it is often called nowadays. Since the territory was integrated into the Indian Union (1961) its west end has also been known as the Patto Bridge, after the name of the islet through which it enters Panaji. This mixed causeway-bridge structure is built on jambo (xiliadolia briformis) pilings. The causeway proper stretches in almost a straight line nearly 2,600 metres from Ribandar to that islet, whence a bridge about a hundred metres long not only enables accesses over a pier to Panaji, but also allows small vessels to pass between the Mandovi and the interior basin. Curiously, two parallel bridges also depart from this islet, crossing the Mandovi to Bardez. The Patto crossing corresponds to a length of about 450 metres, meaning the causeway-bridge as a whole measures around 3,150 metres. The causeway has the typical structure of the type, with arcades keeping the roadbed above river level, even during the rainy season. Some of the archway ducts have devices to regulate the flow of water in and out of rice paddies. The bridge was built starting with ramps from both sides, with a view to ensuring maximum clearance for navigation in the central arch. Hence the arches are wider and with more expressive support pillars than those in the causeway. Unfortunately, the bridge was thoroughly disfigured when it was widened several years ago. This is especially visible in the proportion and appearance, in the pillars (where the laterite structure is lost behind the concrete) and also by replacement of the stone ashlar protective barriers by a balustrade. The ennobling stone monument midway along its length is also gone. The structural and building quality was revealed over centuries of heavy use, almost without upkeep, even during extremely adverse situations such as intense flooding during the rainy season. Also, it was located in an aquatic environment with a continuous flow of waterborne sediments and debris. Note that beyond the originally envisaged loads it has carried all kinds of road traffic, including cargo vehicles with no weight limits whatsoever, as it is the only link between the state capital, Panaji, and the station on the recent Konkan Railway about ten kilometres away. For these reasons it is an exceptional construction, also because of the indelible yet subtle line it traces on the landscape, and for fulfilling its original purpose vis-à-vis territorial planning and infrastructure. Miguel de Noronha, fourth Count of Linhares (1585-1647), was one of the India viceroys most noted for promoting an extensive public works programme. This was largely because his governorship (1629-35) witnessed a significant rise in Dutch power in Asia and the consequent threat to Portuguese interests. Indeed, the building activities of this viceroy are especially notable in anything that has to do with the repair or renovation of various defence systems, of which I highlight those at Goa and Diu. It was otherwise during his mandate, by royal order conveyed by the viceroy, that António Bocarro and Pedro Barreto Resende produced (1633-35) their valuable report on the security of Portugal’s possessions in Asia, which we have used a great deal here – the Livro das Plantas de todas as Fortalezas, Cidades e Povoações do Estado da Índia Oriental… The origin of the Linhares Causeway should be interpreted in this context. The request the Goa Council Senate councillors put before the viceroy and king explicitly mentioned the importance of its construction, meant to ensure speedy transit between the city and the Mandovi bar during crisis situations. The fact that it clearly mentions the need for it to be large enough to allow simultaneous passage of four galloping horses is also not innocent. But it also refers to the alternative of three palanquins, which leads us to another aspect: how this work played a decisive role in the capital’s transfer from Goa to Panaji. The movements of those who sought to leave the capital and move somewhere else were then quite open, namely to Panelim and Ribandar, villages located between Old Goa and the Linhares Causeway. The Count of Linhares himself built a new vice-regal palace in Panelim, which served as effective government seat until the move to Panaji in 1759. In other words, the causeway made the latter more feasible, thus encouraging the spontaneous movement to abandon Goa for places closer to the river mouth, those that nowadays comprise Panaji. It was not likely by chance that the first neighbourhood with urban characteristics in the future state capital, Fontainhas, grew up at the western end of that structure. By way of the above and what can hence be deduced, the Count of Linhares Causeway is in my opinion simultaneously and paradoxically the most muted (because it is utilitarian and thus practically invisible) and territorially and technologically the most significant structure of all those built by the Portuguese in Asia.

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