This ancient and imposing fort on the river Tiracol is perhaps the best preserved and most visited fort in Goa. This is partly due to the Fort having been converted into an exclusive hotel. However, even with the modernizations made by the hotel, the fort is still steeped in historical lore and has been witness to many a gory battle.
The Fort Tiracol is open to the public every day from 9.00am to 7.00pm.
Located on the Tiracol River (North Goa, Goa 403524) it is about 40km from the capital city of Panaji, and one needs to take a ferry in order to reach the fort.
The fort stands tall and proud crowning the hilltop at the confluence of the Tiracol River with the Arabian Sea. Topped by turrets, it is an awe-inspiring sight. The fort also commands spectacular views over the confluence of the river and sea waters as well as a bird’s eye view of the Querem and Kalacha beach.
Today the fort has been converted into a luxurious boutique hotel. Visitors to the fort can also treat themselves to a gorgeous luncheon at the hotel restaurant.
This fort is more than just the sum of the walls and ramparts which still stand today. It a symbol of hope for all of Goa; it gives silent testimony to the hard won freedom that Goa enjoys today. If these old walls could talk they would surely be able to tell us many stories of battles fought, of victory and defeat, of pain and sacrifice, strategy and cunning, bravado and daring.
The fort was originally built by the Maharaja of Sawantwadi, Khem Sawant Bhonsle. However, it was wrested from him by the Portuguese invaders in 1746. After being revamped by them in 1764, it became an important military bastion, guardian of the mouth of the Tiracol river and the first line of defense for the Portuguese colony of Goa.
In 1895, during the Portuguese Civil war it was used as a rebel stronghold under the command of Dr. Bernardo Peres da Silva, the first Goan born Viceroy of Goa. However, the rebel forces were overthrown and the fort returned to the empire.
The fort was also the site of many historic Satyagraha marches during the freedom struggle of Goa, and was finally ceded to India by the Portuguese in 1961.
The name Tiracol comes from a Marathi word meaning steep river bank. The fort was built between 1627 and 1640 by Raja Khem Sawant, Maharaja of Sawantwadi. It remained in control of the Bhonsles of Sawantwadi for many years, partly due to their alliance with Shivaji, the Maratha leader.
In 1746, Dom Pedro Miguel de Almeida, the Portuguese Viceroy of Goa sailed his ships up the river and waged a fierce maritime battle with the Maharaja’s forces and defeated them. This led to their taking control of the strategically placed fort.
Having taken control they proceeded to revamp the fort, making it more formidable than ever. In 1819, when the British defeated the Marathas and the Raja Bhonsle Khaima Sawant signed a treaty with them, the fort lost its military significance since the British and the Portuguese were allies.
In 1835, during the Portuguese Civil war, the fort was taken over by rebel forces led by Dr. Bernado Peres da Silva, the first Goan born Viceroy of Goa. It is said that when the conquering rebel army entered the fort Bernardo “tiger-killer” da Silva ordered that the entire defending force be executed and their heads mounted on spikes around the fort walls. However, fortunately or unfortunately, the rebellion failed and the Portuguese recaptured the fort.
Later in the 1950’s as the Portuguese influence in Goa waned after India was awarded its freedom the fort became a symbol of the Goa freedom struggle with many Satygraha marches taking place here. Several times the unarmed Satyagrahis were gunned down by the Portuguese colonists so giving their lives to secure Goa’s liberation.
While the fort was under the command of the Maharaja of Sawantwadi it was well equipped with defensive and offensive weaponry. When the Portuguese took it over, the earliest accounts say that the fort was equipped with 12 guns, a barrack and a chapel.
The conquering general, de Almeida also began the construction of a church within the fort premises, as was the Portuguese custom. This church was originally dedicated to the Holy Trinity but later became the church of St. Anthony. The church is still standing, and moreover celebrates mass within its walls till today.
The church is now within the walls of the hotel that has been constructed in the fort. Masses are said most Sundays and especially on the feast of St. Anthony, which is celebrated in the month of May.