It is around midnight when we pass Colva Cemetery.
I had arrived in Goa earlier that November evening and after settling into the service apartment I was staying in, head to Colva Beach for dinner with my friend. A delicious dinner of Italian food later, it is time for a leisurely stroll back to the apartment under a moonlit sky and a gentle sea breeze accompanying us.
We pass restaurants that are still serving dinner, tourists walking back to their hotels, sleepy dogs, shops shut tight… And then quite suddenly, a large angel looms out of the semi darkness, startling me for a second. That’s when I realise that we are passing a graveyard, the Colva Cemetery, and the “angel’ was part of a tomb.
We stop to look over the low walls of the graveyard. Of course, we can’t see much in the darkness except for ghostly outlines of tombstones and tomb sculptures. Also visible is a rather sinister and spooky-looking barn like structure with no doors or gates. Since the moonlight doesn’t penetrate inside, it is shrouded in darkness.
“What’s that?” I ask. “It can’t be the church, can it?”
“No. The church is behind us, and across the road. Maybe a chapel?” my friend suggests.
“Maybe. But why is it so dark?” I shiver involuntarily.
“Let’s come back tomorrow morning and find out, shall we?”
We come back in the morning and see one of the most beautiful graveyards that I have come across.
The first thing we notice in the light of the day is that the sinister and spooky looking ‘barn’ from the previous night. It has transformed into a beautiful whitewashed structure with a tiled roof and a façade typical to Indo-Portuguese architecture. It is open on both sides, and contains neatly laid out graves with wooden crosses as markers. At one end of this covered structure is a crucifix.
The elaborate decorations on the gravestones — flower decorations, rangoli-like decorations, chalk drawings, flower vases, candles, lamps — are initially a little surprising, till I realise the date. It was All Souls Day (November 2nd) a few days prior to my visit and all decorations are because of that..
It is quiet and peaceful at the cemetery and there is no one around except for us. Outside, that is outside the covered structure, are rows upon rows of simple graves with wooden crosses as markers. There are niches with stone slabs on the wall indicating more graves. Then there are the more elaborate ones with stone slabs and elaborate carvings and what looks like family burial vaults.
In my opinion, the most beautiful part of the cemetery are the angels. I loved every single one of them !
I visited a graveyard for the first time in London and it was quite by accident. I was quite homesick at that time and that visit gave me a lot of peace and comfort. Since that first time I have visited a few more and always came away with a sense of peace and comfort. The Colva Cemetery was no different with the peaceful atmosphere and the angels.
Though I would have liked to spend more time at the cemetery, I decide to leave when some people walk in with fresh flowers. I say a silent prayer and leave. Over the next few days that I am in Goa, I stop and say a little prayer, each time I pass the Colva Cemetery and have that comforting sense of peace surround me.
This post is not meant to promote cemeteries as a tourist attraction; it is to share my personal experience. However, if you do visit the Colva Cemetery or any graveyard for that matter, please respect the dead. Do not walk or climb over the gravestones. And if there is a burial happening, please respect the privacy of the mourners and leave.