Fort Aguada: The chronicle of an insurmountable fortress

Built in the span of three years from 1609 to 1612, Fort Aguada remained an untamed citadel that stationed over 79 cannons during colonial times. The structure of the sturdy fortress is split into two portions -- the upper section was predominantly a water storage chamber guarded by a moat, while the lower section acted as a dockyard for the Portuguese ships.
Fort Aguada: The chronicle of an insurmountable fortress
File photo of Fort Aguada.

Gomantak Times

While India’s party capital has an expanse of beautiful beaches, it is also the land of remarkable architecture, with an influence of Portuguese designs. Fort Aguada, located in Candolim, a small town in North Goa, was built by Portuguese rulers to defend the city from intruders belonging to the Dutch community and the Marathas.

“If you appreciate art and vintage work, you will love the place, it offers you with divine serenity of the sea,” says Priyanshi Bosamia, Dancer and Art Lover. She also suggests, the best way to reach Fort Aguada is a bike ride, especially post monsoons, the weather is pleasant for a ride and gives you the best views.

Fort Aguada is around 17 km from Panaji, the capital city of Goa and situated near the Sinquerim beach. Built in the span of three years from 1609 to 1612, Fort Aguada remained an untamed citadel that stationed over 79 cannons during the colonial time. The structure of the sturdy fortress is split into two portions, predominantly the upper section was a water storage chamber guarded by a moat, and the lower section acted as a dockyard for the Portuguese ships.

The upper segment also provided fresh water to the ships harboured at the fort, and water was drawn from the freshwater springs around the structure. That’s where the fort gets its name from, 'Agua' a Spanish word, which means water.

Interestingly, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar under his leadership, transformed the lower part of the fort into a prison. Later on, it became Goa’s Central Jail and a huge tourist attraction. Due to the unique establishment of the jail, and high popularity, Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) decided to shift the inmates to Colvale, the new prison, and renovate the prison into a National Museum, primarily dedicated to freedom fighters who fought for Goa’s independence.

Strategically, the massive fort is constructed on the Mandovi River, exposing tourists to a picturesque beauty of the Arabian Sea with heroic roars and breath-taking sunsets.  Within its establishment, there also stands a 13m-tall iconic lighthouse, built in the year 1864 known to be the oldest in the Asian continent.

Fort Aguada is one of those monuments in Goa that holds the richest history and architecture in its heart. With a storage capacity of 2,367,000 gallons of water, the enormous fort is 5m high and 1.3m wide. This prized possession of Goa is the only fort that remained undefeated for over 400 years under the Portuguese rule. In its glory, Aguada Fort has an architectural influence of Portuguese military architecture, and the material used to construct the fort is laterite stone. Fun fact: Laterite stone is often found in generous amounts in Goa.

The square-shaped fort was built by the Portuguese rulers to guard the shore against interlopers; consequently, bastions were built on the three sides of the walls, ready to fire cannons at the enemies. Therefore, the fourth side features a gate that overlooks the Mandovi River. Aguada Fort’s upper segment wasn’t just a water station, but it also had a gunpowder room and an escape passage. The escape passage was created for the occupants to save themselves in times of emergency.

The lighthouse within the premise of Aguada Fort is a highly significant building; it acted as a point of reference for ships coming from different directions. There were oil lamps that had to be lit every seven minutes, to alert the ships coming in from Europe. Later on, the lighting of the lamp was upgraded to thirty seconds.

The massive bell which now resides within the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in Panaji, previously, was a part of the lighthouse. Eventually, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1976, and a new lighthouse was constructed. The magnificent watchtower is now open to the public, with an entry fee. One can climb up the curvy stairs, and look at the serene panoramic view of the sea.

Under the administration of Antonio Salazar, several protestors demanding Goa's independence were sent to the prison in Aguada jail. Thereafter, the jail became Goa's biggest central jail which mostly kept inmates from the narcotics offenses and trafficking background.

There’s also a statue constructed right outside the jail, which represents the freedom struggle in Goa. The sculpture is of a lady holding her son in her lap, trying to break the chain.

Every year on June 18, a ceremony is held to respect the struggle of freedom fighters and unsung heroes, outside the jail. St Lawrence Church, built on the Sinquerim beach is just 1.4 km from Fort Aguada. Built in 1630, it was believed that the Portuguese built churches around the forts to keep enemies at bay.

The Church of St Lawrence is one among the oldest Portuguese churches, and is particularly famous for its feast. The feast at St Lawrence is a symbol of celebration of new beginnings, usually solemnised by the end of the monsoon season. Apart from the rich heritage of Fort Aguada, its location extends several leisure pursuits to entertain tourists from around the world, some of which include:

1. AGUADA ROCKY BEACH: While the fort is mostly crowded with tourists from around the world, trying to capture the perfect frame, you can avoid the masses and venture to Aguada Rocky Beach, situated between the fort and lighthouse. The rocky beach is the best place to witness beautiful sunsets and spend a peaceful evening with your friends and family.

2. SINQUERIM BEACH: Covered with golden sand, the alluring beach offers exciting water sports like scuba diving, jet-skiing, windsurfing, and parasailing. This beach happens to be the venue of the world-famous Sunburn Festival that takes place in December every year. The fishing excursion is believed to be one of the most famous and in-demand activities at Sinquerim beach.

3. DOLPHIN SPOTTING: Sousa plumbea are Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins that can be spotted in the shallow waters of the Arabian Sea. If you are visiting Aguada Fort, don’t miss the Dolphin Point; grab the chance to meet these harmless and friendly mammals. The best season to visit Dolphin Point is from October to May.

4. TAJ FORT AGUADA RESORT AND SPA: Spread across 73 acres with 5-star amenities, the Taj Fort Aguada Resort and Spa is a luxurious hotel facing the Arabian Sea. The architecture reflects Portuguese designs and features an opulent spa. It is most popular amongst newlywed couples.

5. NEIGHBOURING BEACHES: Candolim Beach, situated 2 km away from Fort Aguada, offers exhilarating boat rides and several other water adventure activities. For a peaceful and quiet time, this beach is the perfect escape. Baga Beach, located at a 7 km stretch from the fort between Calangute and Anjuna beaches, extends a striking view of the Baga River merging into the Arabian Sea. It also provides banana boat rides, river cruises and an ayurvedic spa to relax after an exhausting day.

File photo of Fort Aguada.
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