Chapora Fort or Dil Chahta Hai Fort
This ancient laterite fort on the Chapora river, although long since abandoned from a military standpoint, is nevertheless majestic and an enduring historical monument. Known for its spectacular views and sunset vistas, this is a popular spot for tourists to visit especially in the evenings.
Although little remains of the barracks and other buildings that once stood within the forts embrace, it continues to attract historical buffs, who know about the great battles that were once fought here. To the average visitor however, it is a collection of sturdy, irregularly shaped walls, with just a hint of secret tunnels that can be found by the keen observer.
More recently, Chapora Fort’s biggest claim to fame is that it was the fort used during the filming of the Hindi blockbuster film ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ (the heart desires), a 2001 comedy-drama movie starring Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshaye Khanna, Preity Zinta, Sonali Kulkarni and Dimple Kapadia. In fact, it is often known as the ‘Dil Chahta Hai’ fort, after the movie gained cult status.
Best time to visit
The fort is best visited in the evenings, once the fierce afternoon heat has receded. It offers a spectacular view over the peninsula, the Chapora River and the beaches of Chapora, Anjuna and Vagatore. It is also a great place to watch the panorama of a fiery sunset over the Arabian Sea. This alone, makes a visit and the climb up to the Chapora fort, more than worthwhile.
Located in the Bardez Taluka, Chapora Fort is easily accessible from the market town of Mapusa, which is about 10 km away. There are buses that run from Mapusa to Anjuna and Vagator with a stopover at the fort.
The history of the fort is long and varied. It has been held by many rulers for varying lengths of time. The village of Chapora, and the fort, get their name from ‘Shahapura’ or, ‘the town of the Shah’. This was due to the fact that it was once the stronghold of the Sultanate of Bijapur.
When the Portuguese defeated the Shah and seized the fort, it had great military significance for them, as the Chapora river marked the northern boundary of Goa, with Pernem on it’s opposite bank, being the province of the Maharaja of Sawantwadi.
This fort, although formidably built has fallen multiple times to the Maratha might, once in 1684 and again in 1739. In 1741, during the ‘Novas Conquistas’ or New Conquests, the Portuguese regained the fort and further conquered the Northern territory of Pernem, thus decreasing the military significance of the Chapora fort.
The Bardez Taluka, where the fort stands, was held by the Portuguese from 1543. They built the Chapora fort over the remains of an old military outpost which belonged to the previous ruler, Sultan Adil Shah. This was to protect their Northern boundary from incursions made by the Maharaja of Sawantwadi, who ruled over Pernem, on the opposite bank of the Chapora River.
With all the use that they made of the hilly terrain and the native laterite stone, the Portuguese were unable to stop the armies of Sambhaji, ruler of the Marathas when he invaded them in 1684.
Unfortunately they, in their turn were unable to hold onto the fort for long and the fort returned to the Portuguese in 1717, who then proceeded to rebuild it, constructing secret underground passageways to allow access to supplies in case of a siege, or a passage out, in case they were overrun. This was, perhaps fortunate, because they were indeed overrun, once again by the Marathas in 1739.
Although the Portuguese did not reclaim this fort per se, they acquired the province of Pernem at the time of their Nova Conquistas, or New conquests. This greatly reduced the military significance of the fort as it was no longer in a position to protect the northern border. The Chapora Fort was abandoned in 1892.
The fort is the only laterite fort in the village of Chapora. Its walls follow the natural slopes and drops of the peninsula. This makes them steep and difficult to climb (although not impossible if legend is to be believed). The walls also had irregularly spaced bastions with large embrasures to hold canons. The bastions are topped by cylindrical towers with lend an air of interest to the fort.
The main gate is small and unadorned, but the path is narrow and deep so that it would be more difficult for an enemy army to march up that way.
There was once a church dedicated to St. Anthony that stood within the walls, however it is no longer standing. There were also barracks and officer’s quarters to house the defenders within the fort’s walls, little of which remain today. When the Portuguese rebuilt the fort in 1717, they added tunnels to allow to the fort’s defenders a safe retreat should their battlements be breached, a fortuitous decision as it turned out. Visitors can just see the mouths of these tunnels today.
There is a very interesting story told about Sambhaji’s conquest of this fort. Since the fort is built using the natural slopes of the terrain, it was thought that the enemies of the fort would be unable to scale its walls. However, the shrewd and canny Maratha leader had his men cling to 1.5m long monitor lizards and so easily breached the forts walls.
It is said that the Portuguese general in charge of the fort was so taken aback and reluctantly impressed, that he surrendered the fortification without firing a single shot.
The fort is a monument rich in historical lore and intrigue. Of course, none of this can be seen in what remains of the fortifications today, it is left instead to the ingenuity and imagination of the observer. What the fort does offer is a great view of the sunset, since it has a limitless view of the Arabian Sea from its western walls and a spectacular view over the peninsula, the River and the beaches.