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Reis Magos Fort

Reis Magos Fort

‘Under Dom Afonso de Noronha, the Portuguese raised a much larger fort at the Reis Magos promontory in 1545.’

Built as a small fortified outpost in 1493 by Yusuf Adil Shah, Reis Magos is Goa’s oldest fort. Set on the headland that abuts the Arabian Sea at the mouth of the River Mandovi, the outpost’s location provided the Bijapur dynasty the strategic advantage against Afonso de Albuquerque in February of 1510.

Despatched by King Manuel to secure the spice route to the East, Albuquerque’s 10 years in North Africa had already equipped him with military experience crusading against Muslims, when he arrived in Cochin in 1503 to protect the Zamorin and advance Portuguese commercial interests here. In Cochin, he built Portugal’s first fortress in Asia. He set up a garrison there and returned to Lisbon the following year after establishing a trading post at Quilon. In 1506, the Portuguese general set sail yet again to explore the east coast of Africa. With his sights set on severing Arab trade with India, he built a fortress on the island of Socotra to block the mouth of the Red Sea. By August of 1507 he had captured Hormuz to facilitate Persian trade with Europe.

Albuquerque’s next mission would forever change the course of Goa’s history. Following on his successes off Africa, King Manuel appointed him to succeed Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first viceroy of Portuguese India. Albuquerque reached India in December 1508. His “plan was to assume active control over all the main maritime trade routes of the East and to establish permanent fortresses with settled populations” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). But his attempt to take over Cochin in January 1510 was unsuccessful. So Albuquerque turned his attention to Goa, ruled at the time by the Bijapur Sultanate.

Determined to displace the Muslim rulers to extend Portugal’s hegemony over the region, Albuquerque moved to attack Goa in February of 1510. Aided by Timoja (who served the Vijayanagar kings) and a fleet of 23 ships, the Portuguese general took over the port town of Ela (Old Goa). But Adil Shah’s forces were to soon reclaim it. Albuquerque’s fleet anchored in the Mandovi suffered heavy damage from the outpost at Reis Magos. It was finally on November 25, 1510 after the arrival of reinforcements that the Portuguese attack prevailed, and Old Goa fell into their hands. Adil Shah’s little outpost at Reis Magos had been neutralised.

Under Dom Afonso de Noronha, the Portuguese raised a much larger fort at the Reis Magos promontory in 1545. Together with a fortification that they built in Gaspar Dias (Miramar today) some years later (no visible evidence of this remains), the Portuguese thought they had established an effective line of defence against Dutch intrusions into the Mandovi. But the attacks disproved this, and Goa’s colonisers would put up fortifications at Aguada, Cabo and Mormugao later, to secure their position.

The Reis Magos Fort which served as a sub-jail until 1993, is currently Goa’s best maintained fort. It underwent intensive restoration and reconstruction funded by the Hamlyn Trust, and was thrown open to the public by the state government in 2012. The restored heritage structure is now a cultural centre.

There are charges for daily visits to the fort or lending out spaces for events.

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