Wednesday, 27 November 2013 06:38
The stately Gaunekar Mansion at Bandora in Ponda Taluka is the home of the Naik Gaunekar family, which is one of Goa's well known family of landlords.
Upendra Gaunekar, along with Chandrashekar and Rupan Gaunekar, were primarily responsible for initiating the mansion's restoration process. Architect Ketak Nachinolkar was the consultant for the restoration.
Gaunekar Mansion is one of the finest Hindu heritage homes in Goa, having been constructed in 1878. Almost a century ago, a new wing was added to the older part and this too took the toll of time in wear and tear. Over the decades, as fewer family members were living in it, the old house was fast becoming home to monkeys, spiders and bats. However, before it took a severe spin to a crumbling stage, Upendra Gaunekar together with his uncles (Kamaladas, Shantikumar and Chandrashekar) decided to pool in resources and restore their ancestral home to its former glory with only marginal changes which were made both in the interiors and the exterior.
Appreciated for its traditional Hindu architecture, this grand mansion has a central rajangann holding the venerated 'Tulsivrundavan', four other courtyards, three wells (each used for a distinctive purpose) and around twenty rooms. Its huge front garden that once attracted many visitors, is again being given a fresh look.
The Structure of the Mansion:
The entrance path to this princely mansion evinces power and prosperity. This is seen from the lions on the main gateposts and from a pair of elephants rising in welcome on the second gateposts. The main entrance doors to the house are of wood and iron, still providing strength and security. Beside the doors are a couple of firing holes which were made to keep dacoits and marauders at bay. These plunders were attempted right up to 1910.
Stone steps lead up to the simple porch (balcao), which has seats on both sides. The tiny hallway leads to the four wide corridors beside the open-to-sky rajangonn. Still with cow dung flooring, one of the corridors houses the family 'makhar', a type of altar found in many Hindu houses. Here ancient stone images of the family deities are lodged. A distinctive feature is the painted glass tiles which adorn this altar and although most of them have had to be repainted over the years, there are still a couple which were painted in water colours in 1878!
The main attraction is the 'sala' on the first floor of the house. The Gaunekar family has rallied around to maintain this grand drawing room. The polished wooden flooring now gleams in the light of 20 traditional wall lamps. The fantastic chandelier hanging from the wooden ceiling, was procured from the Cabo Palace, as were many other pieces of antique furniture showcased in the 'sala' such as recently upholstered antique sofa chairs, with equally old chairs flanking them. Hanging on either side of the central chandelier are two brand new ones that fit in with the d√©cor. A large round marble topped table is placed in the centre of the long 'sala', surrounded with finely designed chairs while under the two other chandeliers are similar but smaller tables. Definitely worth a mention are the two S-shaped love-seats, which elegantly blend in with the other restored furniture in the Gaunekar Mansion. On the walls are two large mirrors commonly found in many ancient houses all over Goa.
The house does not have balcaos but the drawing room has around 12 doors which open to glass windows above wooden ones. In arches above each door are hand-painted frescoes, which give a semblance of framed paintings executed by the famous painter, Diukar from Mapusa. Also adorning the walls are portraits of the Gaunekar ancestors and a water colour by well-known artist Raja Ravi Varma. In the corner is a unique hat-stand, used by the elite to hang their fetas. The top is the head of a samba deer, while the arms are horns, perhaps from bulls or buffalos. As one steps out onto the first floor corridors, one is captured by the window-panes lining the corridor made up of flattened shells.
Behind this almost a century-old wing is the ancient structure of the house. Here too are several rooms such as the old kitchen with its built-in wood stoves, storehouses for coconuts and the laundry room with its attached well! Many roof tiles of the entire house had to be replaced during the restoration. The Gaunekar family engaged local carpenters and labourers for this Herculean task. However, the results have helped preserve the immense heritage value of the Gaunekar Mansion.