ETYMOLOGY OF PANAJI (Sanjeev V Sardesai)
Panaji – the capital city of Goa, has a blurred history before the beginning of the 1800’s. Before the shifting of the capital from Old Goa to Panaji, majority of the land around the present city, as the records go, was a marshy saline land, with hardly any prominent landmark except the Palace of Adilshah (the present Secretariat).
There were hardly any houses to name. The prime occupation through this area was the handling of the customs (Alfana) of the incoming & outgoing ships. It was in front of the Palace of Adilshah, that the ship of Afonso de Albuquerque moored, when it attacked and won the land of Goa from the ruler of Bijapur.
Panaji was connected to Old Goa, the then capital, via the Ponte de Linhares or the Bridge of Linhares (named after the Count of Linhares), built by the architectural designs by the Jesuit Priests, over the marshy land.
‘Panaji’ or ‘Panjim’ or locally called as ‘Panji’ is supposed to have derived its name due to the degeneration of the word “Pahajani Kali”. This is said was due to the custom of collecting a waterway tax, by the Portuguese. In Konkani language “Paaz” means “path”. There is also a konkani saying which goes as “fuul na pakali” (literal translation ‘if not the flower, than at least a petal’, meaning if not much, than at least a little- basically referred to donations). This may have meant the modest tax collected as royalty for use of the waterways.
The writer opines that the name of this place may have derived due to reasons of family relations, combined with the transportation system.“Panji” in Konkani means great grandmother. There is every possibility that as in olden times, there may have been a large joint family whose siblings may have been married off to families staying in the far corners of Goa. It is also an opined theory that there may have been a loving great grand mother in that family.
During the post liberation period (1961), the elders were known to be traveling from area’s such as Pernem, Valpoi, Sanvordem, Canacona, etc, by carts, machilas (palanquins) or where there were waterways, by sail boats.
Such type of commuting required a travel time of anywhere between a day to three days. During these travels, the travellers were forced to rest and then to continue their journey. As is the age old habit of elders, there would be a barrage of questions ranging from family health to the situation in the respective villages. Gossip being a favourite subject. In such circumstances, it was natural for those inquisitive people to find out where the travelers were headed.
There is every possibility that among these travelers, were those people who were related to the joint family and were going to visit the great grandmother thus leading to a reply that ‘they were going to (their) “Panji” (great grandmother)’. Based on this theory, it is opined that the local villagers, in different areas of Goa, identified this destination as “Panji” in view of the above.
The above is but a personal opinion of the author, and there exist many versions about the derivation of the name “Panaji”.