If I could swim and cross the Mandovi river, just off my home in Goa, Reis Magos Fort lies on the other bank of it. But it took me good 6 months to drive to this quiet fort on the edge of North Goa overlooking Panjim and the commerce on Mandovi.
Bow Tie Shaped Fort
A bow tie shaped fort has had quite a journey since it was first erected towards the end of 15th CE. Standing on a steep hillock it overlooks the vast expanse of Arabian Sea. A perfect location to keep an eye on the incoming vessels. And that was the purpose that this hill was fortified. Today though it provides a beautiful vantage point to get a top view of the sea. That lets you feel its vastness while the roaring sound of waves hitting the walls below remind you of the power it holds within itself. From the tiny bastions that are now aesthetically protected by thick glass sheets, you can feel the sea like nature’s light and sound show. Height is such that even the birds fly below your eye level – a treat for bird watchers I guess.
View of Arabian Sea from Reis Magos Fort, Goa
The journey of this fort began in 1493 as a small outpost that gradually grew into a fort to protect the trade in old Goa. In fact on the other bank of Mandovi stood another fort. Between the two they could stop anyone from entering the waters of the river. The Fort changed hands as the region moved from one ruler to another. Adil Shah to Sultan of Bijapur to Portuguese to Maratha Bhonsle’s to British. Finally, it worked as a jail during the Goan liberation movement and remained a jail till 1993. Although looking at the breathtaking views from the fort makes it look like a very welcome jail. A craft center in the middle building of the fort displays the journey of the fort along with the story of its restoration. A wooden model of the fort stands on a table in the center of the hall.
Mario Miranda Art Works display
Narrow paths made of laterite stones join the various parts of the fort to each other. 2 top story halls have been restored and display the works of Mario Miranda. A huge table flanked by wooden benches has his books in a hall with large glass windows that overlook the sea. Walls have some of the best works of Miranda displayed. A running panel of small images shows the Goa in 12 months with diary-like entries from Miranda’s life. I think this is a beautiful tribute to the artist and his muse – the Goan’s and their lifestyle. Though there are works that depict Mumbai, Paris and other locations I assume Miranda worked from. The dark wooden doors with narrow strips of shell screens are beautiful.
At the base of the fort are gun loops or small cells with small openings into the sea. I believe would have been made to attack the enemy from here. Now, these cells hold paintings, old maps and of course work of Mario Miranda. This is the best re-use I have seen of a heritage building in India. I think instead of creating new art galleries, we need to use these beautiful buildings that we do not want to let go of. And may not have resources to maintain. I wish Goa Tourism would do something to promote this fort and cultural center a little more.
From outside and from various narrow steep staircases of the fort, it looks like a geometrical puzzle that you are being invited to solve. It has circular walls, small domes on the corner, triangular walls and many layers of walls one behind the other. Sitting on top of one of the staircases I enjoyed the sea for more than an hour – it was sheer music – loud but rhythmic. It should not have taken more than an hour to go around the whole place. But I spent good 3-4 hours, there was a certain calm that held me there. I enjoyed reading a book in that hall while the waves kept creating patterns on the surface of the sea.
Reis Magos Church stands next to the fort with a simple but imposing façade. You have to take a flight of stairs to reach the church. It was under renovation and the interiors were full of scaffolding. But it was a Sunday though, so there were families visiting the church. All dressed up and cheerful, adding to my experience of the fort.
Highly recommend a visit to this fort if you are visiting Goa.
Recommend you to read the following places to visit in Goa on my Travel Blog.