By Yogesh and Sampada Nagvenkar
‘Cabo De Rama’ is a beautiful and historical fort on the cape of Canacona taluka. This fort is witness to the ruthless battles fought between the Soonda kings and the Portuguese.
The fort gets its name Cabo De Rama from a popular folklore that the locals of Cabo De Rama relate. They say that Lord Rama along with his wife Sita had resided at this fort, while on exile. This information comes from the days of the Soonda rulers, who built and ruled from the fort.
The Portuguese named it Cabo De Rama after the name the Soonda rulers had given it. Cabo means cape in Portuguese. From this we can say that before the Portuguese took it over, the name of the fort might have been ‘Rama Killa’.
One of the major reasons why the Portuguese had their eye on this fort was because was it was gifted with a beautiful cape from which the Portuguese had a clear view of the whole Arabian Sea and the Goan coast, thus providing defence from attackers coming from the sea. The Soonda rulers had come to Goa from Karnataka. The Portuguese took over the fort in 1763 after a gruesome battle with the Soonda rulers. What we see today is the ramparts of the fort. This 18000 square meter fort was defended by twenty-one canon guns.
Though the entrance to the fort is in bad condition today, the bridge at the entrance still stands rock solid. The engineering that went into this fort is so strong that the bridge still stands after 300 years. At the entrance to the fort is a deep valley, proof that sea water once flowed from this valley, which is why the bridge was built. While entering the fort you will see a heart-shaped wooden altar. Laterite stones have been used to build this fort. There are many canons lying unattended and in a very bad condition. The canons were made of solid iron, which is why they are still strong. If you look closely, the year of manufacture is carved on the canons, which shows that the canons date back to the 17th century. These canons are proof that this fort was very strongly guarded in its time.
At the entrance, on the left side of the fort, is the beautiful St Antonio Chapel, where the local Catholics still carry out service and once a year a feast is celebrated. Behind the chapel is the unused Portuguese jail. The jail was made of concrete in 1955, and lies unattended today. The roof of the jail has collapsed and is in a very bad condition.
To the right of the fort is the watch tower, which had a strong gun stand protecting the coastline. Just beneath the watch tower is an ancient holy lake, which is a much visited site though it is also in a bad condition. Looking at the waters of this pond it is clear that this place had very strong underground streams. The water tank is a clear indicator that the fort is of Hindu architecture. The tank has a two-sided step staircase, which lies partially buried by mud and leaves. Similar architecture can be seen at all Goan temples. There is strong evidence that this was a holy pond used for religious ceremonies and bathing by the Soonda rulers. From the fort name Cabo De Rama, it is also clear that there must have been a Rama temple. The urgent need of the hour is to take a strong initiative to maintain and clear the pond.
This is one of the biggest forts of Goa and requires urgent attention of the ASI. Today it is a hideout for animals. The historic canons are lying rusted and unattended.
To the left of the fort is a path leading to the mouth of the sea. Tourists and visitors have made a garbage pile here. One can also see a small natural spring in great need of attention. The sides of the fort are overgrown with undergrowth.
The History Lovers Group suggests that entrance fee be charged as the revenue so raised would help in maintaining the fort. It is also suggested that all undergrowth be cleared as they afford shelter to reptiles, which pose a risk to visitors. More importantly, the Cabo De Rama fort needs immediate attention from the maintenance point of view. The canons, ancient altar, historical jail and holy pond are in urgent need of attention. These are not just monuments, they are a part of our history and it is our responsibility to maintain the same. On behalf of the ‘History Lovers Group’, we request the ASI and the ruling government to beautify the fort which can provide revenue for the government.
(The writers belong to the History Lovers Group)