Tiracol Fort sits right on the northern tip of Goa. It is almost like the cherry that sits on top of a multi-layer cake. Layers here being created by multiple rivers that are running to meet the sea. The Tiracol river that one needs to cross to reach it makes it closer to Maharashtra than Goa. Going strictly by the state boundaries, Tiracol fort proudly features in Goa tourism brochures. Well, it has some Portuguese history and that is what connects it to Goa.
Crossing the Tiracol River
One fine Sunday morning in September, when the rains were beginning to lose interest in Goa, I drove to Tiracol. The long 50+ km drive passed through many famous Goan villages. I kept marking in my head, the ones I know I have to come back to explore. As soon as we reached the banks of Tiracol river, I know the somewhere a switch happened. Waiting for the ferry boat to come, I looked at the river as it merged with the Arabian sea. Except for some of us waiting for the ferry, there were no other humans or even animals.
TIRACOL IS ALSO WRITTEN AS TIRAKHOL AND LOCALS CALLED IT TEREKHOL MEANING STEEP / DEEP BANK OF THE RIVER.
The green dominated every bit that was not water or earth, barring a small patch of sand on the river bank. The river is not wide unlike Mandovi near Divar Island. It took less than 5 minutes for us to cross the river and land in the village. I had stepped into another world that was absolutely foreign to me. This was followed by 5 minutes drive before landing at the unassuming gate of the fort – that was to be my abode for the next 24 hours.
The Tiracol fort is probably the smallest fort I have seen till date. Everyone I spoke to in the village, I kept asking – was it a fort or an outpost? My opinion is – it must have been a small outpost to keep an eye on the sea. I must add, no one agreed with my opinion! Everyone from the historian who made a booklet for the Tiracol Fort Hotel website to the villagers said – it is a fort.
History of Tiracol Fort
Tiracol fort was built by the Khem Sawant of Sawantwadi. If you read its history, it looks like a ball that was passed between its various lords. It probably began its journey under Adil Shah of Bijapur, moved on to Shivaji Maharaj and then to the Portuguese. Even the British tried their hands to get hold of it. Some people believe that this fort is a part of the series of forts that dot the Konkan coast. All these forts were under Shivaji at some point in time.
IT IS BELIEVED THAT ALL THE FORTS ON KONKAN COAST ARE LINKED THROUGH AN UNDERGROUND TUNNEL THOUGH NO ONE HAS EVER SEEN IT.
Goan Freedom movement at Tiracol Fort
In the recent past, though, the fort was under the Portuguese before Goa merged with India in 1961. It played its part in the Goan freedom movement. On 15th August 1955, freedom fighters Hirve Guruji and his two other Satyagrahis or freedom fighters were killed in this fort for hoisting the Indian Tri-color. A memorial to them stands just outside the fort gate below a huge banyan tree. Bang opposite the memorial in the shape of a spiral stands an old laterite stone cross built in the memory of I believe someone big ????
Post Goa’s integration with India, the fort stood by itself till 1976 or so, when Goa tourism took it over and converted it into a tourist hotel. Many managements have changed hands, but the fort continues to be a hotel. Today it is a luxury heritage hotel with some of the most pristine views of Goa on offer.
Walking around the fort
It is a small fort, with a mid-sized church in its courtyard. The church is not too big but it occupies most of the courtyard. This is the church of the parish of Tiracol and every Sunday the whole village of Tiracol comes here for the service. Inside the church, you go back a couple of centuries because of the wooden interiors it has. The fact is that the church is less than 100 years old.
ORAL SOURCES SAY THAT FORT TIRACOL WAS USED MORE AS A RETREAT FOR PORTUGUESE OFFICIALS THAN AS A DEFENDING FORT.
As I walked around the first floor – I discovered a ramp just like the one you see at Curjuem fort. In this case, there are only two corners instead of four that Curjuem fort has.
Behind the fort, there are 80+ steps that lead to a circular platform overlooking the laterite rocks. When you stand that the edge and look back on the fort – you can see the bigger rocks that are now a part of the fort. I was told, this platform was a well and that too a sweet water well. Now, logic says it is impossible to have sweet water well so close to the sea. I wonder if there was a rainwater harvesting system that fed the well. Two different people at the village informed me that when the fort was converted into a hotel in the 1970s, human skulls and skeletons were recovered from this well.
Looks like every fort has its share of gory stories.
Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel, Goa
Fort Tiracol Heritage Hotel is a vintage heritage hotel. It is a small hotel with only 7 rooms – named after the seven days of the week. I stayed in ‘Saturday’ – a room on the first floor with breathtaking views both from the room and the bathroom. Yes, you can have your shower with a full view of Arabian sea. A small balcony was the perfect place to enjoy your solitude. The top view of the ocean waves as they moved swiftly towards the shore is beautiful. So is the view of small ferry doing rounds between the two shores of the river, just as the point, where it merges with the Arabian sea.
Tavern – the restaurant in the heritage hotel is tastefully done in vibrant lavender. The outside shack never lets you forget that you are in Goa.
The menu is simple – you get some Goan food, some continental food, and some general Indian food. As a vegetarian, I enjoyed their pasta a lot – I can go back just for that. Breakfast is made as per the order, they appreciate if you can let them know the night before. What I enjoyed most was eating my food dividing my visuals between my kindle and the sea view. As there are not many people around, the place is quite quiet.
TIRACOT FORT RESORT IS ONE OF THE FEW PLACES IN GOA WHERE YOU CAN ENJOY BOTH A SUNSET AND A SUNRISE.
At night the place looks very different as the darkness engulfs the vast view and you suddenly see the walls of the fort. The church facade stands out with white color and ample lighting.
It is a perfect place for relaxing with a book in hand. Top it up with morning and evening walks in and around the fort.
It is a small village of about 100 families and maybe about 260 or so people. In 1865 records, the village had a population of 486 people. Most of the village is Catholic.
I walked around the village with Agnelo, who not only took me around the village but also shared his thoughts and concerns with me. He showed me the chapel, the Padre’s house, the small platform next to the river where all village festivals are celebrated. Agnelo pointed out how green the village is and how peacocks can be seen on roads. He was worried about losing all this when the proposed gold course comes up at Tiracol. I remember the first thing I noticed as soon as I landed off the ferry at Tiracol was the boards pronouncing the villager’s protest against the proposed gold course by a leading hotel chain.
Agnelo pointed out the abandoned school which no longer works, implying that children have to take the ferry and go across the river to attend the school. I gathered that most of the villagers are engaged in farming and fishing – two primary professions. Technically in Goa, Tiracol is closer to Maharashtra physically. They even get their electricity from Maharashtra – making it easy for them to blame when frequent power cuts happen.
In fact during my evening walk on the vast plateau behind the fort – every rock had a fisherman sitting with his fishing gear. They were fishing for their dinner. In another part of the plateau, young men played football while the older ones walked around.
I had a very peaceful, relaxed yet active 24 hours in Terekhol, as they call it.
Explore it on your next visit to Goa.