Chapora’s old laterite fort, standing guard over the mouth of the Chapora River, was built by the Portuguese in 1617, to protect Bardez taluk (district), in Portuguese hands from 1543 onwards. Today it is a crumble of picturesque ruins with only the outer walls remaining, though you can still pick out the mouths of two escape tunnels. The main reason to make the climb up the hill is for the sensational views along the coast from atop the fort walls.
It was built over the remnants of an older Muslim structure, hence the name of the village itself – from ‘Shahpura', meaning ‘town of the Shah'. Though heavily fortified, Chapora Fort was nevertheless captured several times by invaders: first by several groups of Hindu raiders, and next, in 1684, when it was reportedly conquered without a shot being fired. On this occasion the Portuguese captain of the fort decided to surrender to the Maratha forces of the chieftain Sambhaji, his decision perhaps stemming, if legend is to be believed, from the manner in which Sambhaji’s forces managed to breach the fort’s defences: it’s said that they clung tight to tenacious 1.5m-long monitor lizards, who were able to scale the rocky walls with ease.
The Portuguese rebuilt the fort in 1717, adding features such as tunnels that led from the bastion down to the seashore and the river bank to enable resupply or escape in times of trouble, but Chapora fell again to the Marathas in 1739. Soon the northerly taluk of Pernem came into Portuguese hands, forming part of the Novas Conquistas (the ‘New Conquests', the second wave of Portuguese conquests in Goa), and the significance of Chapora faded. The fort was finally abandoned to the ravages of the elements in 1892.