Sanjeev V Sardesai
Many Goans are unaware about the existence of the fortification of Colvale and Tivim. This was ‘once’ a very extended and impressive fortification, stretching from one village ward into another along the border of Bardez and Bicholim. Significantly, it is near the very entry point of this fortified wall that the interaction of the Portuguese forces there and the forces of Chattrapati Shivaji led to the execution of Franciscan Priests, surmised, in retaliation of being challenged for the pagan religion followed by the King.
When we look at the geological topography of the Bardez and Bicholim Talukas, we find that there is a water body that disconnects these talukas between Chapora to Baga, passing along Mapusa as Taar River. The present factual scenario of the lands is widely different from the earlier countryside, which existed during the 1600’s and 1700’s. Possibly, this river tributary was much wider and deeper in the earlier days, facilitating riverine trade; but today this tributary is struggling to survive.
It was this tributary which acted as a natural defense between two warring rulers – the Portuguese and the Marathas. On the other side were villages of Bicholim Taluka, such as Sirsaim, Assanora, Pirna, Nanoda, and Revoda. They were known as ‘aldeias extramuros’ or villages outside the fortification wall. A fortification wall was built along the rivulet on Bardez lands that had defensive fortifications, and was called as ‘Muralha Forte’ or a ‘fortified wall’.
There were four major defensive fortifications on this wall which stretches for about three-four kilometers from Tivim to Colvale, of which one has disappeared and the remaining are in bad shape. The fort of Colvale known as ‘Forte de Sao Miguel de Tivim’ or ‘De Meio’ was constructed by Viceroy Conde de Linhares in 1635 A D, and has been in ruins since 1856. Today, this fort is being maintained by the Directorate of Archives, Government of Goa, and can be visited and experienced.
Towards Tivim, the fort built in 1636 was called as ‘Forte Novo’. In November 1667, Chattrapati Shivaji entered Bardez pursuing the Desai – Keshav Prabhu, who had cheated him and had supposedly taken refuge in this Portuguese held area. He put many Christians to sword including the Goa-born Franciscan Rector Frei Manoel de St Bernardin who had rushed out to help. In fear, the locals rushed for shelter to the forts of Reis Magos and Aguada. It is said that Shivaji’s forces laid siege to the Aguada Fort but gave up after some time.
A third fortification along this wall was constructed in 1681 and was called as ‘Nossa Senhora de Assumcao de Tivim’. The fourth fortification, ‘Nossa Senhora de Livramento de Tivim’, was built in 1713. We can see the huge crumbling ruins, hidden from sight about 100 metres towards the south of the main road towards St Anne Educational Institution, accessible over mountain trails, opposite a small chapel.
P P Shirodkar in his book ‘Fortresses & Forts of Goa’ informs that later during the reign of Chattrapati Sambhaji in 1739, the Bhosle’s of Sawantwadi under the command of Jairam Sawant and with the help of Ramchandra Sawant, attacked with over seven to eight thousand soldiers and horsemen and took over the Tivim fortifications. It was taken over by the Portuguese again on June 13, 1741.
On May 16, 1834, the Viceroy Manoel de Portugal e Castro ordered its abandonment as the threats for which these fortifications had been constructed were neutralised. Later even the residences of the fort captains were pulled down.
One can visit these fortifications and you will definitely be amazed at the massiveness of these edifices, even in ruins. At the south side ruins, you can see a tunnel and climb up to the first floor of this fortification. At the rear of these ruins is a semi-circular domed ceiling underground, possibly used to store ammunition. Huge banyan tree umbrellas over these ruins and its roots are holding the remains of this fort together, but are also damaging the walls.
As you walk across the road, behind the St Christopher Church of Tivim, (patron saint of travellers), you can follow a trail of the thick fortification wall, which passes over the rivulet waters that enter the Bardez lands. At one point, you can see a road that proceeds steeply descending to your right and at this point we can access a barrack or a fortification in ruins.
As you proceed towards the north along the ruined wall running parallel to the rivulet, towards the end, you come across the well maintained fort ruins, opposite the St Michael Chapel. It was possibly this small chapel which named this part of the fort as Forte de Sao Miguel. The rear entrance of this fort is still seen as a semi-circular gateway.
But what catches your eye, in front of the St Michael Chapel, is the ‘dovornne’ which has a unique architecture. ‘Dovornne’ was the chest-high masonry structured platform built during the Gaunkari system, to assist the traders and local farmers to rest their bamboo baskets and other head loads, when they were travelling on foot from village to village, to sell their wares. This particular dovornne has a beautiful and well thought of ‘sopo’ or a masonry seat incorporated into its architecture, not seen in other dovornnes in Goa. We must appreciate the local villagers for maintaining this rich heritage in an immaculate condition centuries after it may have been erected.
Tivim and Colvale Fortifications are just about six-seven kilometres from Mapusa on the way to Bicholim. Your interaction with these fading edifices and the rich aspects of Goan heritage is very important for its survival. Help to protect, preserve and promote them – with your family.