History of the Fort
The Mandovi unlike the Ganges is a quiet flowing river . But when Afonso de Albuquerque( Portuguese general) made his entry into its waters in February 1510, he got a feel of the might of a small fortified outpost built in 1493 by the Sultan of Bijapur Yusuf Adil Shah,on the southern side of Bardez (north Goa). This little outpost reached out into the narrowest point of the river and had a strategic significance. On this occasion somehow, Albuquerque secured the port town of Ela (later known as city of Goa ) some ten kilometres where the Mandovi debouches into the Arabian Sea. This town ,however, was soon re-conquered by the Sultan of Bijapur. With the fast approach of monsoon, Albuquerque had no other recourse but to anchor his fleet in Mandovi waters where the outpost again caused heavy damage to his forces.
On 25th November of the same year (after securing re-enforcement) , Albuquerque reversed his defeat. He assaulted the outpost and again stormed the port town of Old Goa. Once the new territories of Bardez and Salcete were added in 1545, the defense of the Mandovi river was further strengthened by the building of the Reis Magos Fort , built during the viceroyalty of D. Afonso de Noronha (1551-1554).
Dramatically rising over the steep slope of headland , the fort,built little above the old Outpost, had a defensive system capable of curbing the crossing of enemy ships through the Mandovi waters. A walled corridor connected the main fortress with the river anchorage, while a passage connected the rooms which ran along the river. The high walls are topped at vantage points by cylindrical watch turrets, a distinctive feature of medieval fortifications. The fort had the advantage of a perennial source of water from the nearby spring.
The Fort of Reis Magos was of great strategic importance because it served as a first line of defense to the port town of Goa (present Old Goa). To make it more effective against the Dutch attacks , the Portuguese built in 1595, another fortification on the opposite bank of the mandovi river on the land that belonged to a nobleman named Gaspar Dias.
The two forts were capable of cross fire, Soon, however, it was realized that these two strongholds were not effective in obstructing the Dutch ships in their daring attempts in cruising the Mandovi waters. This prompted the Portuguese to realize the importance and necessity of raising stronger fortifications at the mouths of Mandovi and Zuari rivers at Aguada , Cabo and Mormugao, respectively. Notwithstanding this fact and due to strategic importance of the Ries Magos Fort, extensive changes to the structure were carried out in early eighteenth century, during the administration of the Viceroy Caetano de Melo e Castro. At this stage it was defended by guns of different calibres.
During the Maratha incursion in 1739, the fort of Reis Magos and its counterpart at Aguada could hold valiantly while the whole province of Bardez was occupied by the Bhonsles (Marathas) . It was only in 1741 with the arrival of the new Viceroy, Marquis de Lourical that the Bhonsles retreated back to Pernem. Towards the end of the of the eighteenth century, British troops occupied Goa (1798-1813) to protect Goa from a possible French attack during the Napoleonic wars. In 1808, as a result of an agreement signed between the Portuguese and the British Governments in India, the Fort was marked as lodge for the British soldiers who stayed at the Fort as late as 1812.
By the 19th century the threat of the naval attacks decreased, city of Goa was abandoned in favour of Pangim as the capital and from then the relevance of the Fort decreased.
The Reis Magos Fort was converted d to a sub-jail to lodge short term convicts ; it was also used to lodge freedom fighters working for the liberation of Goa , when the movement intensified in 1950's . The Fort functioned as jail till 1993 and during this period a number of modifications were carried out. Once abandoned the Fort fell into decay.
In 2007, a tripartite agreement was signed between the Govt of Goa, INTACH and the Hamlyn Trust to restore and re-sue the fort as a Cultural Centre. The restoration was sponsored by the HHT. The Fort was thrown open on 5th June 2012.
Reis Magos Fort before and after restoration
List of Freedom fighters lodged at Reis Magos Fort between 1947-1961
- Maria Joaquina Calista Araujo
- Gurunath Gangadhar Asnottikar
- Dattaram (Vashwant)Raghoba Bugde
- Gopinath Srinivas Prabhu Chandelkar
- Datta Shiva Naik Dessai
- Narayaan Atmaram Dessai
- Dattatraya Atmaram Deshpande
- Mark Agostinho Fernades
- Rosario Fernandes
- Jaiwant Krishna Fullari
- Sadanand Mahadev Gadekar
- Namdev Shankar Harmalkar
- Laxaman Damodar Joshi
- Naguesh Karmali
- Chandrakant Kerkar
- Damador Sripad Kelkar
- Uttam Vishram Khandeparkar
- Ramakant Ramchandra Naik
- Shamsunder Ramakhant Naik
- Banudas Polji
- Sadanand Sadekar
- Laxamanrao Sardessai
- Laxman Shirodkar
- Anthony (Tony) de Souza
- Dinakar Thali
- Abbasbhai Vohra