Architecture & Heritage

Goan architecture is a combination of Indian, Mughal and Portuguese styles. Since the Portuguese ruled for four centuries, many churches and houses bear a striking element of the Portuguese style of architecture. Influences from the Portuguese era are visible in some of Goa's temples, notably the Mangueshi Temple, although after 1961, many of these were demolished and reconstructed in the indigenous Indian style.



Goa’s temples combine aspects of Muslim and Christian architecture into basically Hindu layouts. Domed roofs are a Muslim trait, while whitewashed octagonal towers and balustrade façades have been borrowed from Portuguese church architecture. Of particular note are the deepastambhas (lamp towers) that are almost exclusive to Goan temples and are decorated with oil lamps at festival times.

Despite these unique aspects, Goa’s temples share many common features with Hindu shrines throughout India. The layout is pretty much standard to all. The pillared pavilion is known as the mandapa. Between the mandapa and the inner sanctum, where the deity resides, is the area known as the antaralaya, and the sanctum itself is called the garbhagriha.

On either side of the antaralaya there are usually smaller shrines to the deities worshipped at the temple. Outside the main building, the temple’s courtyard is generally surrounded by agarshalas (accommodation blocks) for visiting pilgrims.

Larger temples tend to have a storage area somewhere in these buildings where the ratha (ceremonial chariot) is kept. These carts are used to transport representations of deities around the village on feast days.


Goa’s churches owe the majority of their design features to the European traditions of their time, and some are copies of buildings in Rome or Lisbon (St. Cajetan’s in Old Goa is a replica of St. Peter’s in Rome).

However, there are some features that distinguish them from their European counterparts. In some cases, these are practical modifications to suit the local climate. Large windows are set deep into the walls, for example, to allow plenty of light to penetrate, but to keep out direct sunlight.

The churches were constructed from the local rock laterite, which is porous, so there was a need to whitewash it regularly. The lime compound with which this was done was made from oyster shells. This had the effect of proofing the walls against moisture, although heavy monsoon rain meant that the work had to be repeated every three or four years.

Since laterite is coarse and unsuited to fine carving, the more important churches, such as the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa, have façades of basalt that had to be specially imported.

Other features that make the churches unique are the work of the local Indian artisans who built them. The floral decoration inside the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Old Goa is quintessentially Indian, as is some of the flamboyant woodcarving to be found in churches throughout Goa.

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