History of Fort Naroa
The peaceful ferry jetty connecting the Tiswadi or Ilhas de Goa (Islands of Goa) taluka (administrative division) to the Bicholim city, in North Goa district, was once a hostile border between the Portuguese and the kingdom of Bijapur. Hence a fortress was erected to guard this entry point in the 17th century. The place in which the fort was built was once considered a ‘tirtha’ (holy) site for the Hindus up till the time it was taken over by the Portuguese conquest in the early 18th century. After the end of the Portuguese rule, it served as a residence for many noble families of Goa.
Architecture of Fort Naroa
Fort Naroa was constructed incorporating the Hindu architectural style but was later modified with the Portuguese style under the Portuguese rule. Though most of the fort has ruined, its remaining section does reflect its architecture and history. Most of the fort is made of bricks and hard stones along with mud further providing a sense of contemporary construction approach. The outer walls of the fort are around 15 feet high and hold a black texture, while the monument inside is tinted in pure white providing a scenic view of the fort from far to the tourists.
Religious and Tourism Relevance of Fort Naroa
Fort Naroa and the island Divar is still seen as a ‘tirtha’ site to the Hindu devotees who annually visit the place to bathe and worship. The religious temples and churches in and around the fort attract pilgrims. The ‘Gokul Ashtami’ festival observed in devotion to Lord Krishna every year is attended by a large number of people from across the country. There are also churches near the fort, one of which is the chapel of Our Lady of Candelaria, which was built under the Portuguese rule on the foundations of the Saptakoteshwar Temple that was destroyed. The sanctum of this chapel is round and topped by a dome, which is a unique feature found only in two other chapels in Goa. After the destruction of the temple, its ‘Shivalinga’ was placed on the wall of a village well where it remained for many years. The ‘tirtha’ too was shifted to the other side and that is where the Hindus converge in large numbers to bathe and relieve themselves of all sins on the day of Ashtami. It is called ‘Porne Tirtha’ and a small Hindu shrine is built there.
There is a church inside the fortress too, which was built by captain of the fort Diogo da Silveira, upon noticing in inspection that the fort was practically empty and the entire garrison of the fort were only attracted to a neighbouring church on Sundays. Though this church is dedicated to the Holy Spirit, a statue of St. Thomas the Apostle adorns the main altar. The adjacent old garrison church still serves the locals and houses many graves, perhaps of its gallant Captains who now sleep peacefully, as all hostilities have been put to rest!
Apart from the standing temples and churches, the place surrounding the fort is relevant for scenic and sightseeing purposes. Being near the banks of Mandovi River, the fort and places nearby make a picturesque locale.