Sunday, May 1, 2016

Captain's log supplemental 30th April 2016, Goa - Portuguese Men o' war

Guarding the mouth of the Mandovi against Dutch and Maharatas: Reis Magos
Maybe we wargamers just have an knack of finding places with interesting military connections. For the past few days we have been staying in a fine location on the very mouth of the Mandovi River in Goa State. The river meets the Arabian Sea in a very turbulent area of water just outside our window.

Reis Magos: Sea facing upper bastion of the fortress

On the opposite bank of the bay right on the headland stands Aguada Fort built by the Portuguese in the early 17th century. It is a formidable and intact structure which was originally to combat incursions by the Dutch and the Marathas.

The enormous Fort Aguada on both lower and upper levels of the headland from the north

The lower level gun platform held 31 guns facing into the Mandovi channel

100 steps from the upper fortress to the lower gun deck (I know I counted them.. twice!)

Looking back up towards the fortress citadel from the lower gun deck

The upper rive bastion in the citadel

Inside one of the restored halls in the citadel

Typical Portuguese observation turret of which there are several

Directly over the main gate and in the floor of a guard room (my size 9s)

Landward approach the Reis Magos church is off shot to the right

It was matched by the now destroyed Miramar Fort a few hundred yards from where we are sleeping on the south shore of the Mandovi.

Commanding the Mandovi - two forts were on the near and far points (our hotel on the left across the river)

Directly opposite our hotel about 1000 metres across the Mandovi is the older and fully restored Reis Magos Fort (the Wise Men of the Nativity). This was built by the Portuguese in 1550 on the site of an old Indian fortification.

Guarding the river


Guarding the landward approach

Looking west to Aguada Fort on the point

It held out against repeated attacks by the Marathas in the 1700s and was never captured. A recent and full restoration has taken place.


The view from our hotel (obviously before it was built!)

And now... not much different

These fortifications and various others inland are signs of Portuguese colonisation and domination of Goa.  A pact with the British much later appears to have shared responsibility for the protection of the area. These forts guard the area around Panjim (state capital of Goa). Old Goa is about 10 km away.
Reis Magos fort was garrisoned by the British during the Napoleonic Wars.

Fort Aguada is visible at the left side of the headland facing into the Arabian Sea

Citadel atop the high ground looking toward Aguada
Gunners view toward Miramar Fort - Shoot the Dutch!

Lower gun deck just on the river's edge

Reis Magos from the shore level - under the mouths of over 50 guns

Reis Magos lower gun deck for 31 cannon facing into the Mandovi (top left of shot)

The legacy of the Iberian connection is a strong Christian feeling to the place, dozens of Catholic churches and lots of Portuguese first and family names amongst the inhabitants.

Colonial Catholic glory - Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception - Panjim

Impressive ruin of St Augustine's church inland from the river

Holy Jesus - built in 1594, Old Goa

About 10km south is the Indian Naval Aviation Museum. Pretty impressive and charting the history of India's naval air capability since independence from Britain.

Safa Masjid mosque - over 500 years old but missing some of the original grandeur of columns

15th century Safa Masjid mosque at Ponda with wonderful water reservoir built in

For wargamers into the period 1600-1800 who also favour colonial, jungle, ships, pirates, forts, native armies in their gaming the setting is somewhat similar to a Caribbean feel. All of the above elements can be woven into scenarios. It may be refreshing to have Portuguese soldiers instead of Spanish. Incursions by English/Scots/French/Dutch privateers, local alliances and the like are also credible wargaming extrapolations.

Looking down on the main run up to Reis Magos Fort

Restoration of Reis Magos

Inside the citadel - gun ramp to the bastion

A nice chap in the hotel told me a quaint but evocative tale. The Portuguese, once ensconced in the area began their 'dirty business' as he described it. Slavery, prostitution, abduction of local women, gambling... you get the idea. A statue of the crucified Christ on a hill overlooking Old Goa was so disturbed by the debauchery that the cross and Christ turned away by rotating in the ground in order to not have to look down upon the scene.  Shortly after, the plague hit the Portuguese colony causing mass death (pun intended).

Happy endings :)


The wrath of God, Goan flavour!

3 comments:

  1. Barry - these have been fascinating and inspiring posts. Great pictures! A new exotic country - yet full of history and the stuff we all like! You are creating the possibility of a whole new range of scenarios involving the sea, ships, rivers, privateers and pirates in the old world - or should that be the new world? The courage, energy and imagination of those men of the early Dutch East India company, the Portuguese, the British- when adventure really was adventure! It reminds me of this quote I like from Gerd Gigerenzer: 'markets and trading emerged from daring, worldly-wise men who voyaged across empires and made their fortunes, surpassing the ruling aristocracy in wealth and eventually initiating a revolution so that others without titles of nobility could lead a decent life...' self-made not inherited is what impresses...!

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  2. Thanks Peter. Just got back to Mumbai - flying to Blighty tomorrow. Have loved every minute here - assault on the senses (even the White Man's disease has been almost tolerable!)

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