This ancient behemoth, still well-preserved and standing proud today is considered to be one of the foremost coastal forts in Goa. Mormugao was an important port for Portuguese ships. It is said that the fortress, which is just a few kilometres away from the Mormugao port, was built to guard the mouth of the harbour.
This fortress is one of Goa’s pre-eminent tourist spots and remains exceedingly popular to this day, probably due to the degree to which it has been preserved. Its formidable bulwarks and bastions are intact and fortify the area to this day.
The fort is located near the Mormugao port, a few kilometres north of Vasco.
Although there are no specific timings, it is advisable to visit during the daylight hours rather than at night when the uneven nature of the terrain is hard to navigate. The fort is said to be at its best during the summer season.
The Portuguese always feared attacks in the coastal regions as their most important source of income was from trade ships. They therefore needed to be in complete control of the harbours and ports of Goa. The Mormugao fort was constructed to secure the port and the harbour.
In 1624, the Portuguese began the construction of a fortified town in this area. The then Viceroy was disturbed by the repeated forays of the Marathas and considered shifting the capital city of the Portuguese Empire in India from Old Goa to Margao. This necessitated additional fortification of the surrounding areas.
In 1703 it is said that the then Viceroy of Goa shifted his residence to within the walls of the fort. However, subsequent Viceroys felt that this area was not central enough and they shifted base back to Old Goa. This turned out to be a fortunate move, since the Marathas conquered the fort in the 17th century and it spent a few years under Maratha rule before being ceded back to the Portuguese.
This monstrous fort covers an area about 10 kilometres in circumference when measured outside the existing walls. Although the bulk of the fort owes its architectural features to the prevailing style of Portuguese architecture there are also places where traces of the Maratha occupancy can be seen, where they have refurbished or added to the original fortifications.
The original fort included three magazines, towering bulwarks, five prison blocks, a chapel and accommodation for a garrison. Additionally this fort was equipped with the firepower of 53 guns and canons. Many of these features remain intact till today.
One of the unique draws of the fort is the presence of two fountains, the Fonte de Malabar and the Fonte Santo Ignacio, which were believed to originate from a gold mine and sulphur mine respectively. These fountains are said to be operational in the present day.
The entrance to the fort has also been carved with the names of the King and the Viceroy under whose aegis the fort was constructed i.e. King Dom Fillip and Don Francisco da Gama. The inscription commemorates the then Viceroy and was carved at the inauguration of the fort.
The Fort Today
Tall and proud, guarding the mouth of the harbour till this day, the Mormugao Fort has become a popular tourist attraction. The fort provides ample scope for lovers of scenic beauty and also for imaginative people who enjoy places steeped in historical significance.
The fort’s position overlooking the scenic Varca beach, has also added to its charms. During the summer, when the traditional wooden fishing boats are lined up on the shore, the beach presents a pleasing spectacle of which the fort has a bird’s eye view.
All in all this is a not to be missed attraction on your trip to Goa. The fort is a great place for a day trip although it is advisable to carry food and water with you, especially water. The location, not too distant from the city makes it a convenient stop over. It is also a brilliant example of fort architecture in Goa.