BY ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ
The oldest fort of Goa, the Regis Magos Fort, which has been newly restored, is ready for public viewing.
NT BUZZ visits the fort to gain an understanding of the restoration and why there is a need to revive such hidden treasures of Goa
Recreating or restoring things from the past is not an easy task, especially something like a fort. But, when you visit the recently renovated Reis Magos Fort, which is just across the Mandovi River, you realise that such a thing is possible.
This 16th century fort, which is Goa’s oldest fort, has received a new lease of life after this restoration. Used as a jail till the year 1993 it was totally abandoned till a tripartite MoU between the Government of Goa, INTACH and Helen Hemlyn Trust (HHT) was signed. “This is a 4-crore-odd project which is totally funded by the Lady Hemlyn Trust,” says architect Gerard da Cunha, the brain behind the restoration work.
The fort will now become a cultural centre and will have amenities to nurture art and heritage of Goa.
Interestingly, the fort, which was ready six months ago, is still not open to public. The fort will be run by a society with the Chief Secretary of Goa as its chairman. “It is not yet made open as the Society is not functional. Staff to manage the fort is not yet appointed. The fort is for the public, where people can come and not only enjoy its beauty but also understand the whole restoration project that went into it in the last five years,” adds Gerard.
When you enter the fort you will see a plaque over the doorway. “This plaque was vandalised in the year 1961. I managed to find the upper portion in the rubble during the restoration,” informs Gerard.
On entering you are welcomed by a death hole that was used to douse enemy that had breached gates in hot oil.
Beyond this you reach the main courtyard of the fort which is also most scenic with white washed building on all sides. One could actually witness the laborious task that went into the restoration.
“I have used all old materials as monuments like forts should look and feel old. That’s the reason I used around 1 lakh old tiles which we collected from the whole of the Bardez area,” says Gerard.
In the centre is a space that was a women’s cell where women prisoners were kept. “This place once used as a women’s cell is now being used as a place where people will find all the information about the fort. The history starts from 1490 onwards,” confirms Gerard.
He further mentions the history of the place. “It is believed that in the year 1497 Adil Shah built the Armed Outpost here at the fort site. In the year 1543, Portuguese built the fort and also a college beyond the church. The first restoration of this fort started in 1707. In the year 1739 Marathas seized this fort for two years. In 1900 this fort became a jail and in the year 1993 this fort was abandoned,” elaborates Gerard.
The fort now has a reception centre, a space for a café, two halls, newly built toilets, etc.
He maintained that he has restored it to the way it was in the 16th century. “When it was used as a jail there were many constructions by way of small rooms or toilets. During restoration we had to do away with these and remove all those congested places,” adds Gerard. He has taken lot of inspiration from the Bishop’s Palace situated at Old Goa.
The various charts on the walls of the rooms give an insight into the world of restoration. He has also made a film on the restoration process, which will be screened for public.
From the top most part of the fort one gets an aerial view of the place. It also explains that this fort was strategically located to keep a guard on enemies that approached by sea. Here you will find four out of the seven cannons that are also well preserved.
During restoration Gerard and his team found some chambers. “Not many were aware about these chambers as this place was fully covered with mud,” adds Gerard.
Further down is an open space where there is a provision for a cafeteria. “It used to be soldiers barracks,” informs Gerard.
Gerard suggests that this open space could be used to have recreational activities like traditional dance performance in the evening.
It will also have a nominal ticket fee. “This place should become a cultural hub and also it is very important that it sustain itself. Furthermore, this restoration can become a source of inspiration for other dying forts of Goa,” concludes Gerard.