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Ruined Forts: Fort of Sanquelim

Sanjeev V Sardesai

As we have been virtually travelling all over Goa, through these articles, since the last many years, we have come across many destinations in this  land of just 3,702 square kilometres area. Dynasties have bled their armies to take over and get a hold over this nature- gifted land, since many centuries. However, there seems to be a reversal of pride leading to a visible weakening of respect and bond towards this land, in present times.

We call ourselves a family because the handful of near and dear ones are bonded to one another closely; and they understand the needs of one another, without asking. Sadly we cannot say the same about our own motherland – Goa. We are disconnected from its life!

To prove this above claim, let us now visit the north eastern part of Goa – Sanquelim or Sankhali in Sattari Taluka, and understand how the residents and rulers of the past considered it important to protect that part of the land. Many of us may not be even aware that there was a very important fort at Sanquelim, which controlled the shipping trade through the River Valvanti, and that tradesmen arrived from across the ghats to sell their wares.

This town of Sanquelim is very important as it hosts the ancestral houses of the Rane family, as well as two very important temples of Goa – The Sri Datta Maharaj Temple, and the Sri Vithal Rakhumaie Temple, both the traditional residents on either banks of River Valvanti. The festivals held here are attended by thousands of devotees. The Sri Vithal Rakhumaie Temple, located on the western bank of the river is a very famous venue for the annually held festival of boats of Tripurari Purnima.

The fort of Sanquelim lies on the eastern bank of Sanquelim, right in the middle of a bustling market and is today in a very dilapidated state, with just a few parts of the original skirting wall, existing. The entire area is clustered with many small shops which have encroached upon this heritage, with tacit support of the politicians, who are totally uneducated about the importance of this heritage. The existing remnants of this fort can be seen in the form of a collapsing turret or a bastion, towards the market side.

This fort of Sanquelim played a major role in the defense of the passage from the ghats to the coastal territories, of Goa. It had cannons positioned on it, to guard this passage. In 1746, Marques de Alorna, the Portuguese Viscount in Goa, took over this fort from the Bhonsle’s. Until 1817, the fort possessed eight cannons.

Towards the end of the 19th century, this fort was apparently abandoned, as it was in a bad shape. We can see the grandeur of the fort in an 1860 sketch by Antonio Lopes Mendes.

While the inner precinct, of the old remaining part of the fort, is enclosed by PWD offices and the Progress High School towards the eastern side, we can only see a few rows of stairs that reach the bastion from inside. A rectangular well exists inside which provided potable water to the inhabitants, until it was abandoned. If proper, corrective and immediate measures are not put into effect by the concerned offices and administrators, another unique and rich heritage of Goa shall go behind the curtain of time – and the present generation shall be wholly responsible to be blamed, for their traditional lethargy and no foreboding.

Sanquelim village is at the base of the Western Ghats and has been a victim of flooding due to the torrential waters, which run down the hillsides, at the peak of monsoons. However, remedial measures have been put in place and this problem has been addressed to some extent. It is unimaginable that this village was at one time a very important trading point for tradesmen from foreign countries, connecting villages and sustaining occupations from across the Western Ghats or the Sahayadri Ranges.

The distance from Panaji to Sanquelim has been cut down hugely, about 28 kilometres, after the bypass route from Marcel, over the Khandola – Amona Bridge has been opened up for traffic. Earlier the only option to reach here from Panaji was via Mapusa and Bicholim, a distance of about 40-45 kilometres.

On the way to see the scintillating town of Sanquelim, one can detour just about half a kilometer to see the fascinating Arvalem Waterfall, the ancient caves complex, and the Sri Maharudra Temple.

Though the remnants of the Sanquelim Fort may not fascinate a visitor, the peripheral edifices and natural resources are fascinating tourist destinations.

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