Reis Magos Fort

If walls could speak, the Reis Magos Fort would tell you tales of battle, intrigue, revenge and betrayal, and the secrets of Portuguese noblemen who once stayed here en route to Lisbon. And, guess what? They do. For hanging on the walls of the exhibition halls inside this recently renovated fort are lithographs, photographs, paintings and diagrams chronicling a delicious slice of the state’s glorious past. The exhibits also tell of life as it was five centuries ago and include sketches of the late cartoonist Mario Mirando, one of Goa’s most beloved sons. This chapter of history can be savoured thanks to a five-year restoration project that was completed in 2012.

Reis Magos (the Biblical Three Kings of Magi) is Goa’s oldest fort and unlike any other in the state, both in design and the experience it offers. In contrast to its big brothers at Aguada, Mormugaon and Cabo in South Goa, this one is also smaller. It was built on a rocky headland at the narrowest point on the Mandovi River, bang opposite the city of Panjim. Thus, the fort was of considerable strategic importance to every power that fought a battle on Goan soil – the Sultan of Bijapur Adil Shah, the Marathas, the Portuguese and the Dutch.

Almost conical in shape and built on three levels by the Portuguese in 1545, its ramp and stone staircases rise from the river bank, a tad higher than the original military outpost built by Adil Shah in the late 15th century. The extensive renovation, done to international standards, has re-paved its pathways in stone, restored every inch of its interiors and exteriors, and set up exhibition halls that comprise a walking museum, and a crafts centre.

On the lowest level, coconut palms emerge from paved pathways, complete with low, stone enclosures. They are one of the few original features of the fort as it stood before it fell to ruin. Suddenly, you’re transported five centuries back in time and you’re standing behind battle-scarred ramparts, canons spewing iron and brimstone. With the stench of gunpowder assailing your nostrils, you gaze across the Mandovi, where cruise boats and barges transform into the Dutch armada, waiting to attack. The restoration work may have taken away some of the fort’s atmosphere but you have a sneaky suspicion that those who fought to retain this Portuguese stronghold still roam its courtyards, corridors and ramparts.

The restoration has obviously been done with great attention to detail as is evident from the preserved and polished wooden doors, small wooden balconies and stone benches that dot this monument. There have been some changes, though, like converting the original barracks into a restaurant. The piece-de-resistance is definitely the exhibition halls and, in a matter of hours, you emerge wiser and begin to realise why Goa is so much more than a land of just frolic and fun.

The Reis Magos Fort is a must-visit, come rain or shine.

Need To Know

  • The restored fort is a pleasure to visit and boasts wonderful exhibits
  • There are facilities for tourists like toilets and a soft-drinks counter