The Church of Mary Immaculate Conception is a prominent landmark of Panaji, the capital of Goa. This church is known as one of the oldest churches to be structured on the soil of this place. Along with this, the bell of the church is said to be the second largest in the world. When the sun sets, the entire church is lit up with thousands of small electric lights. At this time, the huge statue of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and the premises of the church looks magnificent. The interior beauty of the church is adorned with simplicity. People from all around the world come to receive the blessings of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception and also to enjoy the exquisiteness of this edifice. Every year on the 8th of December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is held to commemorate the origin of Jesus Christ by the Virgin Mary. This is carried on for three days and attended by large number of followers.
It is believed that this church was built in 1541 and reconstructed in 1619. The Great Bell, also known as the 'Bell of the Inquisition' is of great importance. Earlier, this bell was located in the basilica of Our Lady of Grace in Old Goa. But after destruction of the church by the Portuguese, the bell was shifted to Aguada Fort in 1846. Again, in 1871, it was placed in the Church of Mary Immaculate Conception. This happened when Panaji was declared the capital city of Goa. In 1918, there is a statue of St. Francis Xavier that was brought here from the Idalcao Palace.
The Church looks simply alluring after sunset, when it is lit up with numerous light bulbs. It is supposed to give a glimpse of Paradise on Earth. The backdrop of the main altar is embellished with complex designs giving it a grand appearance. There are two other altars where one is dedicated to Jesus Christ and the other is devoted to Our Lady of Rosary. They are both impressive in terms of structural design.
Apart from the above, there is the marble statue of St. Peter and St. Paul on both sides of the church. The architecture and motifs mesmerize visitors from all around the globe.
The best time to visit this church is during the annual fiesta, organized in the month of December. The atmosphere during this time is enjoyable and cheerful. However, you can also visit Goa during May when the feast of Our Lady of Fatima is celebrated according to the calendar of the Church. October to April is when the weather is moderate and favorable.
How to Get There
The Dabolim Airport of Goa is at a distance of 29 kms from Panaji. It is connected with many domestic flights from Mumbai, Bangalore, Cochin, Delhi, Chennai and Tiruvananthapuram. There are also international flights that cater to landing in Goa. After reaching the airport, hire a taxi to reach the capital of Goa to visit the church.
The major railway stations of Goa are Margao (Konakan terminus) Railway Station, the Vasco da Gama (South Central terminus) Railway Station and the Dabolim Railway Station. They have trains from every major city of the country. When you reach the station, take a taxi or a local bus to reach Panaji.
Panaji is connected with Maharashtra and Karnataka by the national highways. To reach Panaji, you can take public or private coach to the Kadamba Bus Stand. From there, take an auto to the church. If you have your own conveyance, then it is preferred.
The Church of Mary Immaculate Conception is one of the most popular tourist spots besides being a holy place. Mainly, the church is visited during the evening when one can feel the pleasure of appreciating the statues in its complete grandeur.