Fort Anjediva, built on the Anjadip Island, off the coast of the Indian state of Karnataka but under the administrative jurisdiction of the Indian state of Goa, was once under Portuguese rule. It has also in its vicinity an ancient church on the island called the Church of Our Lady of Springs built in 1505. The Chapel of St Francis D’Assissi is also located here but it is in ruins. Though the fort has a rich history linked to Portuguese rule, it is also presently in ruins. Both the fort and the church are located in the island of Anjadip, which covers an area of 1.5 square kilometres (0.58 sq mi). Anjediv—the name means “fifth island” is the largest of an archipelago of five islands (known as the Panchdiva chain of five islands); the other four islands are the Kurnagal, the Mudlingud, the Devgad and the Devragad. Because of its strategic importance in the seafaring route to India and also as a watering destination for ships, a fort was built on this island by the Portuguese to enhance their military presence and control of trade route.The fort island was also known as Agiadvipa (clear butter), Angedvpa (some isles), Agadvipa (derivative from goddess Aja) and Adiadvipa (Ancient Island). It was called Aigidias by the Greek geographer Ptolemy. Etymology of Anjediv is also attributed to the name of the local Goddess Ajadurga Devi.

In March 1505, Dom Francisco de Almeida came to India as Portuguese monarch Emanuel’s Viceroy and was the first permanent representative in the East. He had a “Regimento” or mandatory orders to establish four forts in India, which included the fort at Anjadip island, off the West Coast of India (the other three forts were proposed at Cannanore, Cochin and Quilon) where seafaring merchant vessels from Greece, Arabia, Egypt, and Portugal would stop for water on their way to and from the East carrying valuable goods, such as spices from India.The decision to build the fort was dictated by the fact that Vasco da Gama had stopped on this island in 1498, on his return from Calicut to Portugal, (after exploring the sea route to India) not only to repair his ships but also to collect water from the springs on the island (considered of good water quality). He had again stopped here in 1502.

Anjediva Fort 1

It is stated that Vasco Da Gama had appreciated, from his earlier visits to this island, that Angediva would be a good place not only to collect fresh and safe water but would also be a perfect safe site for docking ships during the south west monsoon season in India. In fact, Vasco Da Gama and Gaspar da Gama (a Jewish trader who was converted to Christianity in Cochin) recommended to the King of Portugal to establish a naval fort at Angediva, which eventually could help Portuguese to get control of the neighbouring island of Goa.Almeida took up the task of building the fort so seriously that he even declined an invitation from King of Bisnaga (Vijayanagara), a staunchally of the Portuguese. As soon as he landed in Angedipa on 13 September 1505, he started building the fort with enthusiasm.

The Vijayanagara emperor or his local vassal, the chieftain of Gerosopa, did not object to the fort building activity. Construction materials such as timber, cane, palm leaves and lime were readily supplied by the local people. An ancient temple on the island is said to have been demolished to extract stones for use on the fort. Its completion time has been recorded variously; as 21 days and also as three months. It was also claimed that during excavations of the foundations for the fort a stone bearing a Cross was found, which was interpreted to mean that the island was once a habitat of Christians.

Anjediva fort, when it was a Portuguese territory, was used by the Christians and Hindus of the mainland as a refuge during the invasion by the coastal kingdom of Bednore, and by Tipu Sultan.


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