On the banks of the river Mandovi , in a village named Reis Magos , near Panjim in Goa , stands the Reis Magos Fort right next to the church with which it shares its name. I was expecting it to be crowded owing to its proximity to the bustling capital city , but we were the only ones inside the fort.
Reis Magos in Portuguese means ‘ Three wise men’ . This is the oldest fort in Goa . The once impregnable fort was used as a prison and a hospital before it began falling apart and was abandoned in 1993. The restoration that began in 2008 has restored parts of the fort and transformed it into a cultural center. It’s a short trek to the fort , but there is a free van pick up for senior citizens and parents with infants.
The first thing one sees as one enters the fortress is the death hole.
The death hole was used to shoot or pour hot oil on enemies who had breached the gates. A little ahead is the hole in the wall that was once a solitary confinement cell.
In the above picture you can see a banyan tree that began to grow as a parasite on a coconut tree that stood there once and eventually strangled it. The dead coconut tree caught fire in 2008 , the banyan tree was held in place with steel ropes and is now supported by a concrete pillar . What stories this place has to tell !
There are seven galleries , each dedicated to an artist or theme. I loved these by Mario de Miranda .
So this is Reis Magos , a lot of history , a fort with an awesome view , a quiet place to spend a few hours and some lovely pieces of art.
The old Latin Quarter in Panjim city , pretty heritage homes in happy colours , windows that are lined with shells , people speaking Portuguese as fluently as the local language (Konkani), serene lanes that invite you to explore , early morning walks through the winding lanes with church goers and school children eager to chat and help, remnants of Portuguese architecture and the little fountain from which this place derives its name – Fontainhas ! It has been a little over three months since my stay in Fontainhas and a post long over due .
I have always lived at home in an obscure village in Goa and this was the first time I was in Goa but staying away from our ancestral house. I decided it was going to be a beautiful heritage home converted into a warm inviting guest house – Afonso Guest house. This was our first trip with our nine month old baby and the place had to be sparkling clean with a touch of homeliness. That’s exactly what we found inside this bright yellow immaculate home away from home. To add it to it , the freshly baked bread by the owner for breakfast was the cherry on the cake .
As we rambled for the next few days , we saw colours everywhere .
Most homes are brightly painted , have red tiles on the roof , are surrounded by lots of plants and the names of streets and house owners are displayed on Azulejo tiles (Portuguese ceramic tiles).
My chats with the owner, Aunt Jeanette, revealed that back in the day it was mandatory for every home to be freshly painted after the monsoon season, however , the rules are not so stringent today .
The main street here is the St. Sebastian Road , named after the St Sebastian Chapel – the only white structure towering amidst a burst of colours.
Next to the Chapel is a page out of a fairy tale , a wishing well , with roosters perched on top , begging for some love ( a fresh coat of paint may be !) . Defunct and lots of weeds growing inside , how it got its name am not quite sure , but even though the it resembled an ageing woman with disheveled hair and in need of some grooming , it had a charm of its own.
The rooster which is an important part of Portuguese architecture can be spotted on roofs of homes and uniformed police figurines also adorn the exteriors of some homes . I read that the latter signifies the home belongs to a freedom fighter , but there was no way to verify it.
Shell lined windows made me sing ! They looked so pretty , so ingenious and let in the right amount of light . An owner of a pretty cafe told me how it is now illegal to be selling these shells and heritage homes that are renovating can only salvage a few that hey have or source it from other heritage homes that are being demolished to make way for modern ( not so pretty ) hotels .
The place is fab , the people are warm and the food is super too . Viva Panjim is a good option for some authentic Goan cuisine but the real super deal and steal for me was the little cart that dishes out beef delicacies – tongue , rolls , chops , curry , croquettes ! You cannot miss this one right next to the Library ( another bright yellow structure ).
On my last day here , I walked to the other side in search of what remains of the font after which this place is named . This is all I saw with no information or sign board in sight . I walked back , this time slower , wishing I had more time to spend here .
I couldn’t sign up for a heritage walk but have no regrets . Wake up early , talk to the locals and they will tell you stories of the past and how their beloved Fontainhas is a font of happiness , love and colours .
Today , after years , I remembered a famous Bollywood dialogue ‘ dosti mein no sorry, no thank you’.I didn’t quite get it right , but it brought back some fond memories of the VCR days .
The first Hindi movie I ever watched was ‘Maine Pyar kiya ‘ . I remember how upset my mum was with my grandma who had taken me along to a neighbour ‘s house where a video cassette had been hired .I must have been 6 years old at the time and my mum didn’t think it was an appropriate movie for me to watch then.
I liked most of the songs from the movie , but the title track was the easiest to sing . After all , it was inspired/ copied from a song that my uncles would play on loop at home ‘ I just called to say ….’
The song was a hit ,but I wonder if Stevie would approve …..