Santosh Koshy Joy
Traditional knowledge and indigenous legacy charm him and he yearns to preserve it for future generations to learn. The Goa Chitra Museum in Benaulim is the brainchild of Victor Hugo Gomes, a national award winner and trained restorer, who collected a treasure trove of artefacts dating back many centuries to preserve it, and for the world to see Indian heritage, particularly Goan.
The 30-acre Goa Chitra complex has India’s only carriage museum. It is graded as a ‘must-see’ by Time magazine, National Geographic and Lonely Planet call it a ‘hidden gem.’
A collection of antique wall clocks greet you as you enter the carriage museum or the world of wheels, as the curator calls it. The huge hall houses around 68 carriages from various ages and it has wheels of almost all kinds that existed ever in the world. They account for not just the carriage wheels but also dehusking paddy wheels to spinning wheels. It traces the evolution of the wheel in human history.
Human-pulled carts and rickshaws, blackbuck-pulled carts, gipsy carts, funeral carts, traditional Belagavi carts for school children, palanquins for brides, and rare Kutch carts, Gomes has collected all of it at his expense by selling personal assets so that the past could be preserved in good shape. He is a TEDx speaker and a movie about him ‘Portrait of a Goan Collector’ has won many awards worldwide.
In a time when lifestyles and priorities are changing rapidly, Gomes believes that connecting ourselves to the past is the panacea to a lot of problems that we face today. Truthful restoration, developing restoration skills and preserving precious ancestral knowledge is the focus area that Gomes and his team is passionate about.
His collection at the museum is a living testimony to the fact that castaway splendid technologies of yesteryears were marginalised by modernisation. Each of the collections in his museum is a showcase of the brilliance of our forefathers. While the artefacts and objects exhibited belong to places from across India, his collection of tools and daily use things of Dhangar and Velip communities, the aborigines of Goa are of special interest to the visitors.
Goa Chitra Museum today has grown to become a vital institution that builds bridges between the people and their past. It is frequently visited by students and foreign art enthusiasts who walk into the past with their interaction with Gomes. The museum today has more than 4000 ethnographic artefacts that help us map the everyday life of our ancestors.
Victor Hugo Gomes, an alumnus of M S University, Baroda, is one of few surviving archivists of the country. It must be apt to say that while preserving the past, he is igniting minds and striving to create a vibrant present and a promising future.