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Coining history along the way

The old Mint House stands witness to the history of Goa and houses as much currency as it has people, over the last two hundred years

india Updated: Nov 10, 2009 22:03 IST

In Panjim’s Post Office Square stands Casa da Moeda (the Mint House). Literally meaning ‘house
of coins’, the building functioned as a mint from 1834-1841. Flanked by the Mandovi river on one side, and the red and white buildings of the post office on the other, Casa da Moeda is an important witness to Panjim’s history.

Antique architecture
With its tiled roof, attic windows, wooden verandah and striking yellow arches, the house evokes the architecture and grandeur of a bygone era. After being used as a mint, the building was owned variously by individuals, the public exchequer, and even housed the telegraph offices of the British and the Portuguese before it was purchased by General Dr Miguel Caetano Dias, whose descendants still live there. It may be one of the few buildings in India that was occupied by both the Portuguese and the British governments. From its high ceilings, Dutch doors, wooden floors and fragile window panes, this is an edifice that has retained much of its antiquity.

Getting nostalgic
Dr Luis Dias, the great-grandson of General Dr Dias remembers how, as a child, his brother Victor and he scoured the house looking for coins. Luis recalls his father telling him how they used to take tables and chairs to the river bank next to the house (before that land was reclaimed for the bridge) where they dined alfresco. According to texts, the Viceroy of Goa, Dom Manuol de Portugal e Castro, was unhappy with the coins minted in Velha Goa. So he ordered that the mint be shifted to Panjim in Nova Goa.

Housing the best
Several eminent personalities lived and worked in Casa da Moeda after it became a private residence in 1904. General Dr Dias was the first and only Goan to be designated as General by the Portuguese. Dr Victor Manuel Dias, the eldest son of General Dr Dias and a distinguished physician, is remembered for heading the Saneamento de Velha Goa — an ambitious plan in 1948-49 to eradicate old Goa of its scourge of malaria and disease.

His siblings include the eminent engineer Luis Bismarck Dias, who is credited with designing Vasco da Gama, the Praça do Comércio in Panjim and the Dona Paula Miradouro among others; Dr António Dias, a surgeon who revitalised Hospicio Hospital in Margão; and Álvaro Dias, an eminent judge. If you’re interested in taking a dip into the rich history of Goa and this building, head to http://casadamoeda for more details.