Standing tall and proud overseeing and protecting the taluka of Bardez, across the river from the capital city of Panaji, this fort was one of the first bastions of the Portuguese rulers against enemy invasion. The structure exudes majesty and grandeur and though it is not the biggest fort in Goa, it still commands respect and awe.
Pre-dating even the prestigious and much larger Fort Aguada, and situated at the narrowest point of the mouth of the Mandovi, it’s skilful construction and strategic placement made this fort nearly impregnable and it was an important asset to the Portuguese colonists.
The fort has also been skilfully repaired in recent years and partly restored to its former glory. It is clearly visible, with its distinctive reddish stone walls, all the way from Panaji which lies across the Mandovi River from it.
Tuesday to Sunday – 11.00am to 5.30pm
Verem, Bardez, Goa 403114, India
The fort which stands on the hill overlooking the Reis Magos Church today, is by no means the original structure, nor is it the first to have been constructed in this locale. The first incarnation of this fort was a military outpost, built in 1493 by the Adil Shahi Sultanate of Bijapur.
When the Sultanate was defeated by the Portuguese, a fort was constructed in 1551 to be the first line of defence for the then capital, Velha Goa. This fort was enlarged at various times, before being completely reconstructed in 1707.
The Reis Magos Fort was initially used to house Viceroys and other dignitaries who were arriving from or departing to Portugal. However, with the threat of invasion from neighbouring Indian states, the fort became a military stronghold and in 1739 it was used to repel the enemies that occupied much of the Bardez taluka.
Such was the construction and strategic placement of the fort that the invaders were unable to sack it. It is said that the British occupied the fort from 1798 for the duration of the Napoleonic wars. With the decreased threat of naval attack at the dawn of the 1900’s, and with the shifting of the capital of Goa from Velha Goa to Panjim, this fort fell into disuse as a military fortification.
Constructed of the readily available and extremely durable laterite rock, the walls are high and formidable due to their steep slopes. There are cylindrical turrets or watchtowers, typical of Portuguese fort architecture at strategic points along the walls. The fort also has within its walls a fresh water spring which kept the troops well-supplied with this essential resource.
Boasting an arsenal of 33 cannons of various sizes, the fort was well equipped to deal with invaders making their way up the Mandovi to the then capital of Goa. However, it was not sufficient to stop the insurgence of Dutch ships and was replaced by the Fort Aguada as the main safeguard of the Portuguese Colony.
The fort could accommodate a fully armed garrison and has a wealth of underground rooms and passages.
From the early 1900’s the fort lost its position as a strategic line of defence and was subsequently converted into a prison, in which capacity it continued to be used until 1993. Having weathered two and a half centuries of monsoon winds and rains, as well as the damage inflicted by invading parties, the fort was in need of restoration.
The restoration work was started in 2008, by INTACH (an NGO dealing with the restoration of historical landmarks) and the Government of Goa, with additional funds being provided by the UK based Helen Hamlyn Trust. The restoration work took place under the direction of Gerard DaCunha, a well-known architect.
The fort now serves as a cultural centre and is a prominent tourist attraction along with the nearby Reis Magos Church.
An enduring testament to the skill and strategic planning of man, this fort is well worth a visit. A visit here can be teamed up with one to the Reis Magos Church which lies only a short distance away, and is also a tourist hotspot. The fort commands glorious views of the surrounding countryside which make for great photographs by which to remember your Goa vacation.