Sanjeev V Sardesai
Goa offers such a plethora of rich and unique, tangible and intangible features, in our history, but they are anonymous to its own populace. This has led to the corruption of its value, and many of these features are constantly being victims to the ravages of time, nature and carelessness of the people and the concerned authorities.
Such was the case of the once prominent stronghold of the Fort of Nanuz, which was forcibly eradicated of its glory and ripped apart, without leaving any vestiges of its existence.
Many of the Goans of today, may not even be aware that there once existed a fort in the North East area of Goa identified as the Fort of Nanuz or Nanus. Today this spot is marked with flattened ruins and a lonely pillar with a marble plaque which reads ‘Locale do Forte de Nanuz’. It is said that this pillar was constructed on January 16, 1933 to commemorate the spot where once stood the majestic Nanuz Fort.
The village of Nanus in Sattari is about 48-50 kilometres from Panaji via Sanquelim to Valpoi Town and about 5-6 kilometres from the road intersection just before the town. Presently, the fort lies in absolute ruins, on a raised hillock, just above the banks of River Mhadei, and has to be accessed through a private agricultural plantation owned by one Patil. Prior permission is a definite necessity.
There seems to be no record about the construction of this fort and its construction may be surmised as have taken place in the seventeenth century and credited to either the Adilshahi regime or the Bhosles’ of Sawantwadi. This fortification is located to the furthest Northeast point of Goan territories, in Sattari Taluka, which came into the Portuguese fold during the New Conquests around 1788.
Visitors may have difficulty seeking the exact location of the area of the village where the Nanus Fort is located. It is highly advisable to seek directions from local resident households or you may over shoot your destination.
Though today we cannot find confirmation as to who established this fort, we are very much aware that a local chieftain Dipaji Rane, a descendent of Satroji Rane of Rajasthani origin (Rana), possibly from the Rajputana Kshatriya clan, and whose forefathers’ had settled here in Konkan, raised a banner of armed revolt against the Portuguese regime. Vexed with moral issues such as arbitrary and undue taxation, interference in their ethnic lifestyles, and agitated by the fact that under the pretext of dress codes, many a local women were molested by Portuguese soldiers he decided to pick the weapon, to stave of these marauders. It was possibly the last act of these unrestrained soldiers that infuriated him to inspire people, who were basically from the farming occupation, as well as the Desais’, Gaunkars’ and some local chieftains to bond together and pick up weapons and rebuff the repeated cause of nuisance.
When things went to head, on January 26, 1852 he led a motivated group of locals, who formed his army, and took over this fort of Nanus from the Portuguese, who had made the existing fort their base. Dipaji Rane held on to this fort for about three to three and a half years, and used it to plan his repeated and sudden guerrilla attacks at various locations in Portuguese Goa. The Portuguese were at a loss to retaliate, because sending their troops into these densely wooded areas, would only assist Dipaji Rane to have the upper hand. In this period, Dipaji Rane attacked Tiswadi and looted valuables from the residents and religious houses.
Once when the Portuguese soldiers chased Dipaji’s army, it is said that he crossed the river at Sonal and entered a rocky pass having lots of honeycombs. When the chasing Portuguese army crossed over, he ordered his men to throw stones at the honey combs and the infuriated honey bees did the job of stopping the Portuguese soldiers by attacking them. The Portuguese army had to flee for their lives.
Desperate for a solution, they finally extended a hand of peace and struck a peace treaty with Dipaji. The great great grandson of Dipaji Rane, also named as Dipaji Rane lives at a home, very close to the original home of Satroji Rane.
During the Portuguese era, keeping the importance of the strategic location of this fort, in 1859, it was declared as a ‘Fort of Second Category’ and a minimal complement of canons were kept here. Keeping the borders of the curtain walls in mind, it is observed that there is no well of potable water, inside the fort, like all other forts in Goa.
Goa has a beautiful intangible heritage in the form of a Konkani song ‘Farar far zatai ranatu, Rane marta Paklyaku, Pakle marta Ranyaku,’ which conveys the ‘shots ringing out (farar far) in the forest (ranatu), during the battles ensuing between the Portuguese (Pakle’s) and the Ranes’.
One wishing to visit this historic site, should not have a perception to visualise an edifice of grandeur, as this fort has been totally razed to the ground. But we can find a lot of tiles covering the floor, which once roofed the edifices within the fort.
And if visiting this fort, set time aside to view many a rich heritage sites, in and around this destination.