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Will Goa's Vasco da Gama town go the Sambhaji Nagar way?

By Ians

Panaji, Mar 16: Goa's port town of Vasco da Gama, named after the 15th century Portuguese explorer, was once briefly called Sambhaji Nagar, according to Goa Speaker Rajendra Arlekar who has now called for indigenisation of the names of places with a foreign legacy.

Arlekar said the initial proposal to rename Vasco had been derailed due to "political pressure" and that the global trend of re-christening of places after names of local icons should be practiced in Goa too.


He was speaking to a select group of journalists on the sidelines of a press conference on the 358th birth anniversary celebrations of Sambhaji, the warrior son of Maratha king Shivaji.

"We should not have names (after) foreigners. We should have our own names. This is a worldwide trend," Arlekar said when asked whether the port town should be named after foreigners who came to India for trade and ended up as rulers.

Arlekar also reminisced about the days, when for a brief period during the regime of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), soon after the liberation of Goa in 1961 from over 450 years of Portuguese colonial rule, the town of Vasco located 35 kms from Panaji, was known as Sambhaji Nagar.

"The Vasco railway station was called Sambhaji Nagar. While entering Vasco there was a plaque which said Sambhaji Nagar and the Mormugao municipality signage also said Sambhaji Nagar.

"Railway tickets also had Sambhaji Nagar printed on them. All this was there, but the issue lagged behind due to political pressure," said Arlekar, who is himself a long-time dweller of the port town and was once elected MLA from the Vasco constituency.

While Vasco da Gama has been credited with discovering a new sea route to India in 1498, when he landed in Calicut, Sambhaji is a Maratha hero with several ballads eulogising his fight against Muslim rulers of the Deccan region and Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb.

Arlekar also claimed that while it is not known if Sambhaji ever visited Vasco during his time, there was enough evidence to suggest that he did arrive in Goa.

"I don't know, but his presence was in Goa," Arlekar said.

Sambhaji had also marched into Portuguese-held Goa in the late 1600s to fight the Luso colonials, but could not see the campaign to fruition.

Goa has seen several spats, in the last decade and more, over renaming of roads, cities and landmarks which are named after Portuguese icons of the colonial age or in the Portuguese language.



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