BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Fort Assuncao, better known as Corjuem fort, which is being restored could well help draw interest in the people of the village and nearby Aldona, once the amphitheatre that is being built within the precincts is ready.
Corjuem is a ward of Aldona village in North Goa dressed by hills, fed by the best vegetable produce and with a river passing one side. Four kilometres away from Aldona is the Corjuem fort which is being restored by the government at a cost of rupees Rs 2.24 crore.
“The work started in December 2021 and restoration is supposed to be completed within eighteen months, excluding the monsoons. Work is on schedule and we expect the fort to be thrown open to the public by December of this year,” stated a source in the Department of Archaeology under whom the upkeep of the fort falls.
Corjuem is separated from Aldona by river Mhadei which flows through the two villages. History says, the fort was built in 1550 by the Bhonsles of Sawantwadi and annexed by the Portuguese during the reign of viceroy Caetano de Melo e Castro and rebuilt in 1705.
“The fort was here since I grew up. There are many stories relating to this fort but as I grew up as a kid, I remember people taking their cattle to graze, lovers sneaking in for romantic moments and even boys from Aldona coming with some foreigners and having parties at night,” discloses 70-year-old plus, Vithal, who walks past the river at the bottom of the fort.
History says that the fort was solidified in 1705 to protect Panjim – which by then was the capital city and in the early 18th century was used as a military school which defended the town of Corjuem with a battalion of four guns.
“People still come to pray at the chapel of St Anthony that is inside and many come to click pictures of the panoramic view one gets from the fort. There is a well inside but it is a fort famous for selfies,” smilingly says Usha as she tends to her shop close by.
“I do not make much business with the people coming to see the fort. My shop is patronized by the locals and hence the work on the fort is not affecting me in any way,” she adds.
Corjuem island is connected to Aldona by a cable suspension bridge and connects to Mayem lake on the other.
“There will be an amphitheatre built inside the fort, a parking lot, a pathway for the public to enter and a reception centre. Since restoration is specialized work, the contract has been bagged by the same company that had been working in Old Goa,” stated the official from the Archaeology Department.
“We order stones as per the requirements of the architect, cut them to the shapes of the old stones and fit them in place. We have specialized labour for the job,” stated Akshay Shilpa, the contractor.
“The decision whether the entry will be charged once the fort is thrown open will depend on the government. That is not our call but we will be monitoring the footfall once the project is ready,” stated the source in the department.
“Conservation architect Ketak Nachionolkar is overseeing the project and he takes a call on what can be added inside and what cannot. We execute what the architect says,“ admitted Shilpa.
Corjuem, which history called a town in the 18th century, was connected to Aldona with a ferry boat till the 90s.
“It is nice to know that an amphitheatre is being built in the fort. Aldona is a village with a lot of art and the amphitheatre will help artists from the village,” stated Frank D’Cruz from Aldona.
“I have heard there is a well at the centre of the fort. I don’t know because I never visited the fort,” says Tuenkar, who despite living in Corjuem has never been to see the fort.
Despite a big disconnect between the people living in Corjuem and nearby Aldona with the fort in Corjuem which was actually called Assuncao fort, the restoration could ignite interest in the present-day generation and tourists for sure.