Driving through the narrow lanes of Bardez town,along the Mandovi river, a sharp left turn brought us in front of a palatial Reis Magos fort and church. I glanced up the towering structure in front, as it did not fit my field of view, and out came from my mouth fortuitously Wow!! I moved further ahead to find the pristine Mandovi lake in front, with the sun setting at the horizon. I realized that I had finally reached the fort I was looking for – The Reis Magos Fort.
About Reis Magos Fort
A Maruti Omni at the entrance took us up the zig-zag route and dropped us at the fort entrance. At first glance, it did not appear like a jail to me, but a placard at the entrance read so, which kind of surprised me. The Reis Magos fort was constructed in 1497 under the Adilshahi reign, and acted as an armed outpost in its initial years. Between 1510 and 1570, the power struggle to claim the strategic position, continued among several rulers that included the Mughals, Hindu,Portuguese, Spanish. It resulted into an expansion over the subsequent years into a fortified position as it gave complete domination over the Northern waters.
The years ahead tested its mettle with several battles and conquests the new reign of Peshwas established in 1749, the battle of Plassey in 1757, the Anglo Maratha war in 1777, the famous Indian rebellion in 1857, until in 1900, it was turned into a prison. Today, walking through its silent corridors, the walls of Reis Magos fort are barely able to hold back its transient past.
Right above the entrance is a death trap which the soldiers used to pour hot oil and fire guns, to deter the enemy entering inside. Again, a narrow entrance would make free movement extremely difficult, let alone the steep gradient that we surpassed while coming to the entrance gate.
Down the Memory Lane..
The Reis Magos fort today is an art gallery that showcases the work of the eminent artist, Mario Miranda, whose artistry was a touch of excellence of the classic era. His portraits have a deep connection with ‘people’, the most important element of his work; and he had intriguing ways to sketch it down on the canvas. How intricately he observed the moods, styles, behaviours, cultures, tastes, lifestyles across various ethnicity clearly exhibited his understanding about people. Even the minutest detail of the subtleties between human connections didn’t seem to escape this man’s powerful pen. His portraits simply came from the routine lives of common man, his daily life struggles, happiness, anxieties, hopes, despairs and simple moments. In fact, the gallery is organized into sections – Paris, Venice, New York, Mumbai and of course Goa. His portraits spoke volumes about his perspective of life.
I also came across this book Mario’s Travels that was a pictograph of his journey across the globe- France, Italy, Germany, India, United States to name a few. His journeys had brought him unique experiences and he told them best through his paintings. Travel broadens human perspective and Mario Miranda seemed no different, as he passionately etched his travel experiences on paper.
Curry in a hurry
As I flipped the pages of the book, this portrait typically drew my attention-Why? While the entire elements inside the portrait may seem Indian at first, in fact it is not. The portrait is an Indian setup on the New York streets, where the characters reflect the observed lifestyle of our fellow Indians outside.
Feeling the Grandeur
The glass panels of the gallery gave a phenomenal view of the horizon outside. The waves stood calm today, and it felt as if the time stood still here in salutation, waiting for us to adore what stayed behind. I came out of the gallery with my wife while our girl was happy running around the vast gallery inside. At one of those moments, when she stood behind the glass panel, giving us that usual gleaming looks from the other side, I clicked this remarkable shot.
We stepped out of the galleria and moved ahead to witness the exterior of the fort. Far ahead, the picturesque view of the horizon over the Mandovi river, with the sun preparing for the dusk was a soul soothing moment. The cannons at the periphery of the fort still overlook the sea, guarding the fort from its aggressors. They still look determined and resolute, and the winds of change do not seem to have affect them much.
We continued along the ridges of the fort. It was evening now and the surrounding was silent and calm. Only the whispers of wind brushed past us, whistling its tunes into our ears. We sat along the ridges, to enjoy the moment. It was a magnificent view from here- I wondered how somebody thought of making it a jail, for a gleam of sunshine so hopeful and vibrant on the horizon would rarely hold up a prisoner for long. It was time for remembrances and we captured some moments together here.
A fellow visitor passed by whom we requested for a family click. She humbly did us the favour with a smile. At one of the closed entrances, we could see the steps moving downwards to the watch-towers down below, which overlooked the serene Mandovi river in front. The sun had set beyond the horizon calling off the day, and it was time for us, to enjoy the nightlife and evening music over dinner.We walked down the Reis Magos fort to drive back to South Goa. It had been a long day for us, and we had a lot of memories with us, which will take us weeks to share with our friends and family.