Lying along a road less travelled, the ruins of Forte Novo de Tivim are an indication of the impenetrable barricade that once protected this beautiful village in the past centuries.
Barely 5 kms from Mapusa, a majestic avenue lined with mango trees takes one to the interiors of Tivim, which is a nice mix of modernity and heritage remains in the form of ruins of forts.
The sight of a board 'protected site' placed in front of a decaying structure of stones, overgrown with weeds and bushes, induced us to venture deeper into the isolated patch of forest area.
The locals were quite forthcoming and, a villager, Vishal Palyekar explained the significance of the board. "It's a fort falling apart due to neglect," he said. "There are two more forts if you keep walking further on," said Devika Parab.
The Forte Novo de Tivim was built by the count of Linhares in 1635. Subsequently, count of Alvor decided to raise two more auxiliary forts to reinforce the protective barrier to the village which forms the northernmost tip of Bardez taluka, and completed them in 1681.These were named Forte de Assumcao de Tivim and Forte de Meio do Tivim.
Wedged between the villages of Revora and Colvale, the forts of Tivim were a daunting sight for invaders. Of the two minor forts, the one at Dhanwa had an underground tunnel, which connected to an area near the Tivim ground.
All the three forts were linked to each other by a strong wall protected by a deep ditch, which was originally dug to link the river Chapora to river Mandovi at Moira. The project was stopped due to lack of funds, but for quite some time, before it silted over the centuries, the ditch reinforced the protective barrier to Bardez against attacks from the enemies of the Portuguese.
Forts and other monuments in Goa are considered glorious examples of the state's rich and historic past as well as military, political and economic importance. It may have been difficult to conquer new territories, but defending against invaders was equally a mammoth task.
As Old Goa was the capital then, the protective ring of forts and the walls linking some of the forts from Colvale towards the capital served as an impregnable defence.
History is replete with accounts of series of attacks by the Bhonsles, Ranes and the Marathas from across the river Chapora.
But the rot and decay of the once solid barriers, which withstood a series of attacks from invaders, is saddening even for the villagers. "This fort was falling apart since many years and no conservation has been carried out for years despite several pleas by the villagers," Palyekar said.
Foliage itself has become a barrier to the forts. About a decade ago, a few villagers from Colvale, Tivim and Revora, concerned about the precarious condition of the forts, came together to discuss the issue. They held a few meetings and decided to approach the state archives and archaeology department to seek protection for the age-old heritage assets.
The government had also formed a task force to study the status of forts in Goa. "Around ten members held meetings and visited the forts in Goa and placed its recommendations before state archives and archaeology department," a member said.
One of the members, who also attended the villagers meeting at Tivim fort to save the fort, was also part of the task force. "It was our duty to bring the condition of these forts to the government's notice," he said.
"Finally, the authorities placed a board near the fort to indicate that it's a protected site," says Shantaram Halankar, a teacher and Tivim resident.
But the degradation of the old citadels continues. Every monsoon, the fort walls become weaker, newer stones are dislodged from it and come crumbling down due to total neglect.
"The conservation will be taken up shortly," a state archives and archaeology department official said. But the department is handicapped by a shortage of manpower, including technical staff, sources said. Several conservation projects have been taken up, but lack of staff puts limitation on the effort.
The forts which stood high for several centuries are gradually disappearing from view. Nature and man contributes to the ruin. "People rob stones despite the notice being put up near the monument," Rishikesh Halankar, a local youth said.
The village elders recall nostalgic moments of the glorious structures. "We had seen the forts and tunnels in better condition," a villager said. They are unhappy that their children are witness only to the decadent sights of the once-formidable edifices.
"If timely action is not taken, we might lose something of great historical value, and we may only regret it later," a village elder said. [TOI]