Sanjeev V Sardesai
Old Goa was originally referred to as ‘Ellapuri’ or ‘Ela’. It was here that the Kadamb Dynasty shifted their capital, due to silting of the basin of their second capital – Gopakapattan or today’s Goa Velha.
Before the Kadamb Dynasty moved to Ellapuri, the site was graced with many religious institutions and the establishing of the deity Gomanteshwar. This temple has undergone many changes and today has lost its old charm; even so it is an amazing site to visit, on the way to the Karmali Railway Station.
One of the chroniclers’, who visited this island of Tiswadi during the Portuguese administration, records that ‘this city comprised of an area of about three quarters of a mile in width and about a mile and half in length, surrounded by a fortification wall’. Ellapuri was later renamed, by the invading Portuguese forces, as ‘Velha Goa’ or ‘Old Goa’.
At the invitation extended by one Thimayya or Timoja, identified in a varied manner by historians and writers, as a “high ranking officer of the Vijayanagar kingdom” and also as a “pirate”, to the Portuguese settled in Kerala, the wheels of the history of Goan lands began to turn. The Portuguese who had wended their sea route to India via the Cape of Good Hope or the “Horn of Africa” jumped at this proposal to take over this very strategic land.
Initially, Afonso de Albuquerque sailed into the mouth of River Mandovi at the end of March 1510, and took over the summer holiday palace of the Adil Shah at Panaji (present Old Secretariat) and went inland to take over Old Goa. However, he could not hold on to these lands and was forced to flee to his ships, as Adilshahi forces retaliated with a huge attack and re-took Ellapuri.
Albuquerque re-entered the mouth of River Mandovi, on November 24, 1510, strengthened by fresh forces from Portugal, and on November 25, 1510, the Portuguese laid an anchor on these lands, to stay here for the next 451 years.
The Adilshahi forces again, regrouped after about 4-5 months and launched an attack on the Portuguese forces. However, the very protective strategy that they themselves had put in place – by constructing a huge protective wall, became their own nemesis. The Portuguese made good use of this ‘fortification wall’ to protect the city.
The Adilshahi forces were forced to make use of a nearby hillock, outside this high wall, and overlooking Old Goa. However, after about three-four months of laying siege, coupled with their diminishing food grains and ammunition, they were forced to leave the place, never to return. Today, on this hillock, we find one of the best ecclesiastical edifices in Goa – The Chapel of Our Lady of Monte.
The aforementioned fortification wall encompassed entire Old Goa, and had a moat on its east side, which can be viewed in bits and pieces today, sorrowfully, in the process of being illegally filled and acquired by people to construct houses.
Once the Portuguese realised that such a wall could be of high military importance, they decided to defend entire Tiswadi by constructing a similar wall along its banks. The route of this new wall went along the banks of Dhauji village, Gaundali or Gandahauli, and Banastari, just below the present bridge. It ran for over 21 kilometres.
By that time, the financial standing of their regime in Goa started to decline. The funds to carry out these works had to be diverted for other priorities. So this wall was sharply diverted at Mangueiral at Carambolim, through Curca Village over the Kadamb Plateau where it then descended to the River Mandovi at Bainguinnim, at Panelim Village, just as you reach the ‘Y’ intersection that leads to the ruins of St Augustine’s Convent.
This wall can still be seen in bits and pieces and in short lengths all along the route that it was built, but is falling prey to unscrupulous developers.
Heritage enthusiasts can still see three of the supposed seven gates that opened into this fortified city. The most important one is the Arch of the Viceroy’s, facing River Mandovi and Diwar Island, constructed by the grandson of Vasco da Gama, D Francisco da Gama in 1598, when he was nominated as the Viceroy of Portuguese Goa in 1597, to commemorate finding the sea route. The arch that we see today has undergone at least three-four changes, the latest being in 1952-53 when it collapsed due to incessant rains and was rebuilt in 1954, as per a marble plaque fixed at the rear.
The other doorway is the Arch of Conception, facing the West, when you traverse the small lane opposite the Se Cathedral road. The most beautiful of the doorways is seen at Mangueiral after the Carambolim or Karmali Lake and bird sanctuary. It was the persistent efforts of INTACH, especially Percival Noronha, who put up a strong case not to demolish this fortification, when a road was proposed to be constructed here. Later the road was taken along the side. All along we can see the ruins of this fortification wall.
Travellers going on the Kadamb Plateau, along the new highway and its southern service road, can see three spots where the wall ruins, still exists. One is when we take a left turn, just before the road that takes you to St Anna Church, Talaulim and drive to the dead end; the second is as you drive about 100 metres along the road to St Anna Church, and the third is behind a small shrub on the National Highway, after Navelkar Hillside, as it goes down to Bainguinnim.
Goans need to rise to the occasion and save this remaining bits and pieces of a priceless heritage.