One of the oldest fort in Goa is all set to become a major tourist attraction with a UK-based trust sponsoring its restoration work.
"The UK-based Lady Helen Hamly Trust has sponsored to carry out its beautification works," said Gerald D'Cunha, nationally renowned architect, who designed its renovation plans, to be completed in the next one and half years.
The 15th century construction, Reis Magos fort, is tucked on a mountain overlooking capital city of Panaji and Mandovi river.
Constructed by then ruler Adil Shah, the fort was used by Portuguese after they conquered Goa and subsequently was used as a jail till recently.
The structure will be the first fort in the state to be renovated for cultural use, preserving its heritage quotient, he added.
"Goa has several such forts, which are in ruins and there is an urgent demand to restore them before they get destroyed," Prajal Sakhardande, a state-based historian, said.
The fort used to house Portuguese soldiers and was considered a strategic point as it is located just opposite the Panaji city and Cabo Palace, which was the official residence of then Portuguese Governor.
D'Cunha said that there are five canons atop the fort currently which will be an important part of restoration project. Other canons which were shifted from this place due to various reasons will be brought back and restored on the parent fort, the architect added.
The state government in association with nationally renowned heritage body, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), has worked out the restoration plans which aims to convert it into a tourist centre.
"There are two exhibition halls upstairs in the fort. It will have a stage for cultural performances with canteens on either side," D'Cunha said.
"The roofs of the fort have to be recreated as they were during the Portuguese era. I am studying the buildings of 16th century and interpreting them," said D'Cunha, who has visited Portugal to study architecture there.
The workers involved in the facelift stumbled upon three new chambers on the fort, which were hitherto unknown to anyone, even the Goa Jail authorities, who were using the fort till late 80s.
"Three secret chambers are identified at the fort but the exact use of these chambers during Portuguese era could not be established," D'Cunha said.