Goa, A place which has been ruled by various historic dynasties for centuries to come. One of the major reasons which attracted many dynasties to Goa was the beautiful coastline which was famous for sea trade. One such dynasty which captured Goa was the great Maratha Dynasty. In the 15th century, major parts of Goa were ruled by Adil Shah Empire. In 1525, Alfonso De Albuquerque, Portuguese Commander General waged a war and captured Tiswadi from Adil Shah. On the other side Shivaji Maharajah captured the Dicholim Mahal and took a total control over it. This was the first footstep charged by the Maratha Empire on Gomantak (name in which Goa was known as).

During this era, Portuguese inquisitions raised atrocities on local Hindus and destroyed hundreds of temples. One such temple was Saptakoteshwar Temple in Narve, Diwar. When Shivaji came to know of these atrocities he donated a huge piece of land and funds to reconstruct this temple in Dicholim Mahal. Shivaji Maharajah also built a Fort in Dicholim on the banks of the River Mandovi. Ponda in those days was ruled by Adil Shah Empire where they had built a huge Fort known as “Fonda Kott” (Kott means Fort). In 1664, Shivaji along with his forces attacked this Ponda Fort but was unable to capture it as the Portuguese came for Adil Shah’s rescue. In 1675, once again Shivaji Maharajah attacked Ponda Fort and captured it from all sides. There was rigorous bloodshed and deaths in this battle. Adil Shah Armies faced a strong defeat in this battle. Even today if we observe minutely people of Ponda get highly motivated when it comes to the name Shivaji Maharajah. Shivaji Maharajah was one of the greatest leader Marathas had who was intelligent and a great administrator who believed in the power of secularism and unity in society.

Hero Stone Worship

After Shivaji Maharajah’s death his son Sambhaji Maharajah took a strong control over the Maratha Empire. Sambhaji just like Shivaji maharajah was a great leader, philanthropist and a great administrator. In 1683, the Maratha killedar named Naik was bribed by the Portuguese to take a control over Ponda Fort. The Portuguese Governor General Conde De Alvor along with his army attacked the Ponda Fort and gained control over it. At this time Sambhaji Maharaj along with his Commanders Yesaji Kant & Krishnaji Kank were stationed at Rajapurs, Maharashtra. On getting this news he immediately rushed to Dicholim along with his army and requested 900 numbers of army from Mohammed Akbar, the son of Aurangzeb. In those days due to family feuds Aurangzeb’s son, Mohammed Akbar departed away from Mughal Empire and joined hands with Sambhaji Maharajah. This raised an alarm of death threat to Akbar from his father Aurangzeb. Due to a friendly relation Sambhaji built a palace and a Namaz Gha (worship place) in Dicholim for Mohammed Akbar. The Portuguese Governor General who led the attack Conde De Alvor who escaped from the battle by fearfully watching the Maratha slay the Portuguese men in blood bath. In this battle, the Ponda Fort was badly destroyed.. Due to this, on 6th December 1683, Sambhaji Maharaj ordered the Maratha Army to start construction of a Fort on the highest hillock of Ponda and named it “Mardangad”. This fort served as a watch tower for the Maratha’s. It is said that lot of laterite and other stones were carried from Ponda Fort to built Mardangad. Furthermore, on 24th November 1684 Sambhaji Maharajah along with his army attacked St. Estevam Fort and won it from the Portuguese. The Maratha Empire in Goa consisted of Dicholim, Ponda, Sattari, Sanguem, Quepem and Canacona furthermore stretching it towards North Karnataka and ahead.

After Sambhaji Maharaj’s death which was led by Aurangzeb in later years the Peshwa’s gained control over Maratha empire which also included Ponda Fort & Mardangad Fort.

On 17th June 1755, Portuguese started the attacks on Mardangad. At that time, Mardangad was headed by a commander named Yesaji Huprikar. The Portuguese installed Canon guns on Kapileshwari hill and the firing began. Portuguese Governor General, Conde De Alva himself had planned for this attack. They had planned this attack from the Rachol Fort. The Portuguese army along with the Governor General anchored their ships in Durbhat, Ponda and moved on for the attack.

Rampart of AdilShahi Mosque in Ponda Fort

During the Portuguese attack, there were only 200 men guarding Mardangad. Yesaji Huprikar along with 200 armies clashed with the Portuguese forces by Guerilla warfare in the Mardangad battle. Portuguese were badly defeated in this battle. Also, leading to the death of Conda De Alva, the Portuguese Governor General. In this pursuit, Marathas also won the Ponda Fort again. In the Portuguese history, Conde De Alva is the only Portuguese General to be killed in a battle. The battle of Mardangad was the saddest day in the Portuguese history. At the same time, Mardangad Fort was badly destroyed due to the Portuguese Canon firings. Maratha legacies still live on in every young and old Goans through Dramas and historic movies.

We happened to visit Mardangad Fort along with a dynamic group named Amaranth Asmitha from Ponda consisting of group members Abhit Shirodkar, Pradyumn Naik, Kapil Dhaimodkar, Deepak Naik, Pranav Naik and much more. Apranth Asmitha hosts Mardangad abhiyan wherein they educate about Mardangad and Ponda Fort history to many people of Goa through their heritage walks and treks. They have also hosted bike rallies on Shiv Jayanti to create a mass awareness. On our visit to Mardangad Fort, Abhit Shirodkar showed us the Fort Bastion, the killedar house rampart, the fort well which is in ruins, the flag bastion where the Maratha installed their Bhagwa Flag, underground escape tunnel, Virgall (Hero stone), Holy Pond etc. Moreover, today the rich precious historical Mardangad and Ponda Fort have been lying in ruins. The archives and Archaeology should take time to visit these historical masterpieces and give an urgent attention to notify and restore them.

I on behalf of History Lovers Group would like to thank Sachin Madge and Abhit Shirodkar for providing the valuable historical information.