Fortification Of Tiswadi (Or Tissuary) Island

Fortification Of Tiswadi (Or Tissuary) Island

Goa [Velha Goa/Old Goa], Goa, India

Military Architecture

When Goa was captured in 1510 there were other defence structures on Tiswadi Island besides the city’s walled perimeter and fortress. In both Panaji, strategically located at the Mandovi River mouth, and Goa Velha (the old capital and port when it was ruled by the rajas of Vijayanagara) the Portuguese found fortified points on the coast. On the other hand, on the east and southeast sides of the island there were at least four important passes, as the main river crossing points were known: The Daugim Pass (at the channel’s north entrance); Gondali or Dry Pass (farther south); Benasterim (continuing southward); and Agassaim Pass (south end of the channel). The Portuguese definitively occupied Tiswadi Island between 1510 and late 1512. They meanwhile learnt to appreciate the strategic value of Benasterim Pass, where the Indian forces had built a fort. Afonso de Albuquerque considered this site the key to Goa. The Portuguese thus built a new structure, integrating parts of the pre-Portuguese fortification. The work was overseen by the master Tomás Fernandes: an imposing tower was built with a barbican around it and a well inside. It was finished in late 1513; Afonso de Albuquerque described it as being a very large tower “with bartizans in each corner, well wrought of masonry and very handsome stone. The tower is four storeys high and can be seen from the walls of Goa; an attached tower was on the first level over the riverside, made of wood on pillars and covered like a terrace”. An artillery-equipped tower was likewise built at the Dry Pass in Gondali, while the Daugim and Agassaim passes were repaired and garrisoned. In Panaji a couraça shield was built from the old Muslim fortification to the sea, culminating in a bastion built in the water to guard the entrance to the Mandovi bar. To complement this defence system a tower was built at the Naroa Pass on Divar Island opposite the city of Goa. The island’s defence system was then based (as António Real indicates) on a set of five fortresses garrisoned with about 600 men backed by around a thousand foot soldiers and a hundred horsemen. Three decade later Goa’s urban growth had overflowed past the pre-Portuguese walled perimeter, due to the city’s new role as political capital of the Portuguese empire in the Orient, where the viceroy and a very large part of the different state bodies were now installed. By around 1550 the fortresses of Saint John’s of Rachol (c.1535) and the Three Kings (c.1551) remained to be finished in Salcette and Bardez, respectively. They formed a sort of first line of defence against attacks from the mainland, but large sections of the walls had been dismantled and most of the moat was filled with rubble. This caused concern not only among high-ranking Portuguese officials in Goa but also back in the home kingdom, given the serious political situation due to the Muslims’ imminent conquest of the Hindu Vijayanagara empire. Given the need to thoroughly strengthen the defence system on Tiswadi Island (which constituted the hinterland needed to supply the city), besides effectively protecting the capital, orders reached Goa in the early 1560s to begin a double defence project: a wall along the west shore of Tiswadi Island and a new and longer wall for the city of Goa. The royal orders explicitly indicated that the island wall should be finished first and only then should work on the new city wall begin. It was thus understood that the capital would most likely be unable to resist if the rest of the island was occupied by the enemy – Tiswadi would be the ultimate bulwark of the Estado da Índia. Both projects were very ambitious from the military standpoint and together marked an excessive burden for the Estado da Índia’s economic possibilities. Work nevertheless was soon under way, for reports of Vijayanagara’s destruction (1565) had reached Goa, disrupting the age-old political/military balance in the region. Construction work began during the government of Antão de Noronha (1564-68), probably beginning with the wall section from Benasterim Pass to the north, following the Cumbarjua canal. The aim of the alignment was most likely to join Benasterim to the Daugim Pass (to the north) and also to the Agassaim Pass (at the south end of the canal). When the attack by the anti-Portuguese coalition was launched in December 1570 work on the wall had barely begun. But Tiswadi Island resisted the landing of forces from the Sultanate of Bijapur, largely due to the solid resistance of the Benasterim Fort. During the second mandate of Luís de Ataíde (1578-81) the section between Benasterim and Daugim was finished, with a length of approximately five and a half kilometres. The stretch of wall between Benasterim and the area of Assozim village farther south was finished between that date and the early 1600s. As indicated above, the aim was to continue the wall up to the Agassaim Pass about 7 km to the south, thus defending all of Cumbarjua canal. Parallel to this task, the Goa Senate approved in 1596 the construction of a new wall section to link Our Lady of the Cape at the western end of the island to Agassaim. This section would pass through Goa Velha and was meant to fortify the whole south coast of Tiswadi Island and join up with the section from the north in Agassaim, thus closing “one work with the other to safeguard disembarkation from this river of Goa Velha, which is suitable and deep”, as put in the Goa Senate’s letter to the king. But the work was soon abandoned, possibly due to a lack of financial resources. With the dawn of the 17th century the unexpected threat from the Dutch determined new security priorities for the city of Goa and Tiswadi Island. In this context, it became vital to defend the entrances to the Mandovi and Zuari Rivers and strengthen the beaches to the west, more exposed to an amphibious attack. The mouth of the Mandovi saw its defence works strengthened and it became one of the most densely fortified places on the Indian coast. Besides enlarging the forts of Aguada and Three Kings (on the Bardez side on the river’s north bank), this effort also improved the Panaji Pass and built a fort on a beach southwest of that site, called Gaspar Dias, to assure crossfire with the Three Kings Fort. At the Zuari River’s bar a fortification was begun on the Mormugao Peninsula and beach areas were provided with walls near the Convent of Our Lady of the Cape, which was also improved. This work was apparently finished around 1620 and is shown in the images of Pedro Barreto Resende. The wall’s construction meanwhile stopped short near Assozim village and the city of Goa’s wall project continued to be postponed. Sometime between 1600 and 1615 a decision was nevertheless made, somewhat surprising from the military engineering standpoint: to ‘merge’ the two defence projects decided on in 1560, i.e. to join the island wall section already built to a new wall containing the city of Goa on its southwest and west flanks. The context in which this decision was made is still not clear, though we do know its practical results: a defence perimeter about 25 km long encompassing the city of Goa and a large rural area. To that end, about 15 km of wall was built from 1615 to 1660, between Assozim (where the alignment turns to the northwest) and the arch of Penelim, a riverside suburb west of Goa city. Almost all of this section ran through tropical jungle areas, making its construction a very arduous task. In lateritic areas in the so-called Kadamba high ground a ditch was dug in certain segments, endowed with various gates, specifically on the paths from Goa to Neura, Goa Velha, Moula and Talaulim. The perimeter was marked by a number of modestly sized bastions. To the west, the circuit also encompassed the Banguinim Spring before ending in a tower-arch on the Mandovi River bank – the Panelim Gate. It is not surprising to find that when work was being carried out on the western section of the wall, some of the earliest sections farther west were in a state of imminent ruin. The effective defence and manning of a wall of such size was a practically impossible task for the Estado da Índia, not only due to the low number of soldiers available at that time, but also due to the specific characteristics of the wall, which measured about three metres high and two-and-a-half metres thick. The city of Goa’s new wall can thus be deemed a fiasco from the military engineering standpoint, a construction of little strategic value for the city’s defence and a high financial burden for the Estado da Índia. Given the sharp decline in the city’s population and the general weakening of Portugal’s empire in the Orient, the wall became an increasingly thankless and ineffective project, despite retaining its emblematic value for the city. The need to finish or restore it is mentioned in correspondence between the home kingdom and the viceroys in the mid-18th century, whereby one may infer that it was never effectively finished or equipped. By around 1670 the threat of a Maratha invasion of Tiswadi Island became a constant concern for the Estado da Índia. As the ‘new’ wall was already partly ruined and the city of Goa’s population reduced to a fraction, in November 1683 Viceroy Francisco de Távora had to entrench in the city centre in expectation of an attack by Maratha forces camped on Sant Estevam Island within sight of the city. Although Goa avoided the Maratha assault, it was now effectively a moribund city largely abandoned and defenceless. The opportunity to move the capital to Mormugao dates from that time. The city of Goa began to be dismantled, with the material reused in other places. Only the various monasteries and churches then dominating the city resisted. In the early 18th century the Portuguese were able to improve their defensive positions in Bardez and Salcette with a view to expanding the boundaries of the territory around Tiswadi Island. But in 1739 a new Maratha invasion devastated Bardez and Salcette. On that occasion the territory under the Portuguese crown’s effective control was practically reduced to Tiswadi Island. From 1745 on, Goa’s territory expanded until running into natural barriers by the Ghats range. The city of Goa, onetime capital of a powerful empire, had faded and the inglorious wall was increasingly hidden under jungle overgrowth; in less wild areas its material was used for other constructions. Except for the Benasterim Fort and the Convent of Our Lady of the Cape, all the defence structures on Tiswadi Island fell into ruins. Large sections of Goa’s wall were converted into roads or dikes for the tilled land by the river. In other areas, they were used to mark agricultural property boundaries.

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