For Heta Pandit, chairperson of the Goa Heritage Action Group (GHAG), the Basilica is “landmark and iconic”. Elaborating that “we are a syncretic society (we borrow and lend from one another’s beliefs and practices)”, she says what is most interesting is that all Goans across faiths believe in the power of the saint. “Hindus and Christians call the saint Amcho or Goencho Saib or the ‘Lord of Goa’ and the belief that if the saint’s remains are taken out of Goa, Goa would collapse adds yet another dimension to the history of the Basilica.”
Self-styled conservationist of Indo-Portuguese heritage, Homen Cristo Prazeres de Costa, fondly remembers his journey as a 10-year-old in 1952 in a “full-packed camiāo” to the Exposition (a decadal event when the saint’s mortal remains are put on public display) as he enjoyed his first chouriço-pão (bread stuffed with local sausage) after the mass. “For Catholic Goans the Basilica is the shrine where the Goencho Saib and ‘Goan Protector’ rests and is venerated.”
“The Basilica is more than just a sacred space for a particular faith, it is a world heritage structure that is identified by Goans across faiths and across the world as part of Goa’s heritage,” says Fr. Victor Ferrao, a professor at the Rachol Seminary.
Litany of concerns
Highlighting the “chief concern” that the structure “may be de-notified from the Unesco world heritage list if its neglect continues”, Sakhardande lays the onus of responsibility on the ASI, saying, “I am greatly disturbed about the news of ASI’s neglect. In the past I have been witness to beautiful conservation carried out by ASI of the said monument; why this apathy now?”