Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Aguada Fort 1612

By the 17th century, Portuguese rule in Goa appeared to be fully consolidated. The previous Muslim rulers had not only been defeated, but their entire presence, eradicated. The Hindu Vijayanagara empire further south was easily subdued. Portuguese rule seemed secure until a new threat suddenly emerged on the horizon. On September 26, 1604, a Dutch fleet sailing from Africa arrived in the mouth of the Mandovi river and proceeded to sink several Portuguese ships in harbour. The two were rivals, in everything, from commerce to religion. The Dutch remained for a month, in effect blockading Goa, and preventing the arrival of desperately needed reinforcements and supplies from Portugal. To the relief of the Portuguese, the Dutch left as suddenly as they had appeared. They were left to reconsider their entire defensive system and soon resolved to fortify the Aguada peninsula. Before they could finish, however, another Dutch fleet appeared in 1606. This time it remained for two months. Fortunately for the Portuguese, Dutch patience soon wore out and the fleet moved on. Nevertheless, the Portuguese resolved not to risk a third incursion. During the next six years, they frantically built a massive square shaped stone fort with extensive barracks, magazine and powder rooms, secret underground passageways, a prison as well as a chapel and two hundred canons. The fort extended all the way from the top of the peninsula down to the rocky shore below. It even had its own harbour. Not surprisingly, the Dutch never returned. Nevertheless, Aguada did not remain idle. In 1683, it played a major role in repulsing an attempted invasion by a Mahratta fleet. During the Napoleonic wars, it was occupied by British troops, in anticipation of a French invasion.

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