Although this is one of the smaller forts in Goa, it has gained a name for itself, not only for being one of only two inland forts which have survived into the 21 st century, but also for the panoramic vistas that can be seen from its ramparts. This fort is surrounded on all sides by exceptionally beautiful swathes of Goan countryside, and as such is a great place for a scenic walk or a little photography.
Quite apart from its visual appeal, the fort also possesses a rich historical backstory and is steeped in legend.
The fort is open to the public every day of the week from 6.00 am to 7.00 pm. It is best visited in the cooler hours of the morning and evening rather than during the afternoon heat.
Located in Corjuem, it lies across the Mapusa river from the village of Aldona. The river is spanned by a picturesque cable suspension bridge which is quite the tourist attraction in itself. Corjuem lies about 12 km northeast of Panaji.
Corjuem fort was built in 1550 and was originally the property of the Bhonsle rulers of Sawantwadi. However, in the time of Viceroy Caetano de Mello e Castro, the fort was annexed to the Portuguese administration of Goa. The colonists rebuilt the fort in 1705 to boost their defences of Panaji, which had by then become the capital city.
Although small, the fort had great strategic importance. During the 18th century, it held off Maratha invasions by Rane Rajput and the Bhonsles. In the early 1800’s the fort was used as a military school. It was armed with a small battalion of four guns and it defended the town of Corjuem.
Like most of the other forts in Goa, Corjuem fort is constructed of laterite stone. Built in a square shape, it has bastions at each of the four corners with embrasures for cannons. The walls are wide and have multiple gun ports and/or murder holes.
At each corner of the fort is a ramp-like stair which can be mounted so that one can walk around the ramparts. There is also a well, living quarters for the defenders and a chapel dedicated to St. Anthony.
The story is told of a brave woman, a woman out of her time who was unhappy with the restrictions that were laid upon women of that era. This remarkable lady, Ursula e Lancastre, disguised herself as a man and took off to see the world. In this guise, she ended up as a soldier and was posted as one of the defenders of this fort.
Her masquerade went undetected until she was caught as a prisoner of war and stripped. Fortunately, the Captain of the Guard was impressed by her daring and valour and rather than taking harsh punitive action, courted and wed her (which was probably not as great a punishment as death would have been).
The Fort Today
When the fort lost its strategic importance, it fell into disuse. Although weathered and ruined by the elements, it is still in pretty good condition today. Thanks to its vantage point atop a hill, it provides stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Its history and picturesque setting, combined with its archaeological and architectural significance, make this fort a popular spot with tourists, trekkers, history and architectural buffs alike.
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