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Ruined Forts: Chandor

Sanjeev V Sardesai

The formation of Goa could have effectively taken place around 1788 AD, when the lands of the New Conquests were supplemented to the Old Conquests of Tiswadi, Bardez and Salcete.

Prior to that year, these lands were part of the Konkan strip from Maharashtra to Kerala, ruled – in parts, by some powerful dynasties while some regions were held by smaller chieftains with alliances to the powerful kings.

The presence of about 53 forts and fortifications, within the present borders of Goa, speaks volumes of the pains taken by those rulers, to protect their lands. Among these are the ruins of the Chandor Fort.

When we travel the Goan roads, and we see the state run transport bus pass by – a name crosses our mind – Kadamba Transport! But have we ever given a thought that this authoritative dynasty, which overthrew the powerful Shilahara Dynasty, and ruled over Goa for over four centuries (960 AD – 1345 AD), has embedded many of its cultural virtues, which are still tangibly observed in our lifestyle and folk arts today?

THE CHANDOR FORT RUINS:

The first capital of the Kadamb’s was at the erstwhile Chandrapur, or ‘Chandor’ of the Portuguese. They took over this fortified capital from the North Konkan Shilaharas, as they were the feudatories of the Western Chalukyas.

The dwindling power of the Shilahara dynasty, and an earnest wish to rule wisely, led these lands to be blanketed with the waxing power of the Kadamb kings.

It was the Kadamb king, Shashtadev I, who is considered as the one establishing the Kadamb rule in Chandrapur, the original capital of Kadamb’s and later the second capital at Gopakapattan (present day Goa Velha) where we find the name Jayakeshi I, as the predecessor.

This shift was felt necessary because the River Kushawati, which facilitated the trade through shipping, started to silt heavily.

It must have been with a heavy heart that the Kadamb kings decided that shifting to Gopakapattan was a favorable possibility. The huge fortifications around the capital at Chandrapur must have been a very dear asset, which they decided to evacuate. These fortified walls, mostly made of mud and stones, and having a very strong foundation can still be seen as minimal pathetic strips, of eroding parapets, hidden under thick under-growths of shrubs and bushes.

Take a detour and go to Chandor and head for the Kota Ward. As informed in the earlier article – “Kot” means ‘fortifications’.

When you proceed from Margao via Sao Jose de Areal, and pass by the Nossa Senhora de Belem Church, on the route to Curchorem, you arrive at the St Thiago Chapel. This chapel rests at the Western border of the Chandor Fort.

In front of this chapel is the infamous “stone of curse”, found and relocated by Fr Heras, the church historian in 1930, in the fields nearby.

Legend has it that this granite slab, so thumped by the dainty feet of the furious Kadamb Queen Vimonadevi has laid a curse that ‘every woman in this ward of Kottan shall become a widow and that no bride that enters here shall enjoy a married life for long’.

This curse is stemmed from the fact that her husband and her entire family was murdered through deceit, in her absence and she became a widow.

A beautiful clay model, of this once upon a time magnificent fort, is seen at the Archaeological Museum at Old Goa. This model, is a must see for every Goan, before attempting to visit and understand the first capital of the Kadamb kings. The reason for suggesting this is that, the entire topography of Chandor, especially the Kota Ward, has altered itself immensely to mystify any visitor, going there.

Another legend says that when the last of the Kadamb kings were attacked by the Muslim raiders, and in the face of imminent defeat, the ladies threw all their gold and precious ornaments in River Kushawati, over the eastern walls of the fort of Chandor.

The myth that follows is that ‘every full moon night, the gold ornaments make their presence felt, by washing ashore’.

However, just opposite the Chapel of St Thiago, when you walk down the narrow trail, just behind the small bus shelter, you can see the mud wall that was once the majestic fort of Chandor. It is said that the watery depression to the left was the earlier moat.

This area of Chandor called as Kottan, is also famous for its unique ‘Mussal dance’ or ‘wooden pestle dance’, which is performed on the 2nd day of Carnival at Kot area and on the next day at the Koudi area (“Koudi” meaning ‘gate’ – suggesting an earlier entry point), performed exclusively by the Kshatriya Christian community.

Whatever may have been the past, and the reason for the decline of powerful dynasties – the people of today have a huge lesson to learn! Success and glory may take you to the skies! But if one cannot control one’s ego, and heed the realistic surroundings, then huge fortified walls become ruined embankments’.

Every adventurous Goan must take time off to visit Chandor and not only check out these vanishing fortifications, but also visit the “Vhodlem Ghor” or the “Sarah Fernandes House” and ask them to show the fort wall excavated by the ASI!

Also visit the mutilated ‘Nandi’ and the excavated Mahadev Temple ruins.

 

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