Kerala archive

A Tale Of Two FortsEmile Jose

St. Angelo Fort

St. Angelo's Fort was built in 1505 by Dom Francisco de Almeida, the first Portuguese Viceroy of India on the Arabian sea coast about 2 km from Kannur town. It was attacked in vain by the local Indian ruler Zamorin and kolathiri in the Siege of Cannanore (1507).

In August 1509 Almeida, refusing to recognize Alfonzo de Albuquerque's as the new Portuguese governor to supersede himself, arrested him in this fortress after having fought the naval Battle of Diu. Alfonzo de Albuquerque was released after six months confinement, and become governor on the arrival of the grand- marshal of Portugal with a large fleet, in October 1509.

The Dutch captured the fort from the Portuguese in 1663. They modernised the fort and built the bastions Hollandia, Zeelandia and Frieslandia that are the major features of the present structure. The original Portuguese fort was pulled down later.

A painting of this fort and the fishing ferry behind it can be seen in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. The Dutch sold the fort to King Ali Raja of Arakkal in 1772. In 1790 the British seized it and used it as their chief military station in Malabar until 1947.

( a brief one: A massive triangular laterite fort, replete with a moat and flanking bastions, the St. Angelo's Fort also called Kannur Fort was constructed by the first Portuguese Viceroy, Don Francesco de Almeida in 1505. In 1663, the Dutch captured the fort from the Portuguese and sold it to Ali Raja of Kannur. In 1790 the British who seized control over the fort, renovated and equipped it to be their most important military station in Malabar till 1947.)

A massive triangular laterite fort, replete with a moat and flanking bastions, blended with magnificence, historical, and monumental values, best place for history lovers, researchers, photographers and children off course. The fort offers fascinating view of a natural fishing bay and a sea wall projecting from the fort separating the rough sea and inland water.

Emile's Story

When we planned our school reunion the location remained ambiguous. Finally St.Angelos fort emerged as a common opinion. Proximity along with plenty of area to roam rather than its significance was the reason behind the choice. We all reached the fort by afternoon .With my first glance itself it felt like a sleeping beast, a war veteran; residing with its blood tainted history over 5 centuries. The nature was pleasant and exhilarating with a mild breeze as it stood beside the majestic Arabian Sea. In front of the fort lies a wide deep water-trench which once acted as the first line of defence for the fort. The fort has bastions and watch towers to snipe down the foe. Unique feature of the watch tower was though they looked dark from outside they offered an excellent wide view to the troops who have stood there. The fort walls had damage marks made by cannon balls as it stood as the lone surviving witness of many bloodshed battles once fought. The fort is an architectural marvel of Dutch engineering made of red stones and 'surkhi' mixture (brick dust, lime and water), though the scorching sun for years and heavy rain has turned them black. This black tint is the characteristic colour of forts of Kerala .

As we stepped in, special ambience prevailing inside this monument made  me think that each corner had its own tale to say. Tales of conquests, battles, commerce and treachery. The tales about the emergence of traders as rulers. The fort is well maintained by Archaeological survey of India (ASI).There is an ASI office at the entrance in case you have any enquiry. It has plenty of sign boards and inscriptions regarding the history of the fort. During the time of our visit Fort had frequently appeared in news since the Archaeological survey of India had excavated more than five thousand canon balls of various type and size form the fort.

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So we went there first. Since excavations were going on, the site was barricaded. In a nearby cellar we found the unearthed cannon balls. Some were solid, some hollow. Though it appeared as a lump of scrap iron, it indeed had a latent history. Then we took the stairs at the right side of entrance to the top .Pavement at the top was wide enough for a chariot. The elevated area gave me a mesmerising view of the triangular fort sprawling over 11 acre. Inside, the fort had well laid pathways which are as old as the fort.

Thanks to the effort from tourism department it has a well maintained admiring gardens and lawns. Maybe this blend of history with nature has made this fort a photographer’s heaven.

􏰊Selfie mania􏰋 is much prevalent here. We also took a lot of photographs as the fort provided a variety of mind pleasing backgrounds. As we walked through the pavement having casual talk with my friends I noticed those canons were veiled in a mystic silence, as they may be sad thinking about their old grandeur. As I walked through the jail corridor which was dark and cool, I felt the retro themed cells had a different story which had never been the part of any history. To the south east, the fort has a walk way which lies along a short land mass between the fort and sea .The area is covered with grass, plenty of trees to offer shade, benches and vendors .It was one of the beautiful places in the fort. Large boulders, which were laid along the shore to block the furious sea was visible from a large distance. Rough boulders were smoothened by the never ending waves.

Crabs were frequently walking over them, while a black winged stilt (a migratory bird) was hovering over it preparing for a delicious dinner. I forget to tell you that December will be the best time to visit as you will find a lot of migratory birds in Kerala. We saw a variety of migratory birds sitting here. We found this area as the perfect one to enjoy a beautiful sunset. We spent more than half an hour there. Rhythmic waves, gentle breeze, red clad horizon, birds, oh! It was indeed a marvellous evening. Again we had a beautiful photo session. The time getting late, we decided to leave, after making a firm decision. We fixed this as the permanent spot for our reunion; though this time the decision was evolved from the special feeling the grand monument had offered.

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This is a place you must visit if you ever come to Kannur.Recently the District Tourism Promotion Council has started a light and sound show inside the fort which puts lights to iyts glorious history.

Kannur also known as the land of 􏰊theyyam􏰋 can offer you lot, But this is a spot that you should never miss. There lays this grand old fort, sharing its old memories with the sea waiting for his next visitor.

Thalassery Fort

The British East India Company built the fort in 1708 to establish a stronghold on the Malabar Coast. It was a testimonial of their colonial imperialism. In 1781 Hyder Ali, ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, was unsuccessful in capturing the Fort in his campaign to control Malabar. His successor, Tipu Sultan, was forced to cede Malabar District to the British in 1792, at the conclusion of the Third Anglo-Maratha War. The fort was once the nucleus of Thalassery's development.

Emile's story

My trip to the fort was accidental. On my way back to college I boarded the wrong train, so I had to step down on the next station, Thalassery. I had to wait 3.30 hours for my next train, and wandering inside the station was not a good idea. So I kept my luggage at the cloak room and thought of roaming the city. It was noon and the sun was at its peak. Thalassery is an important city in Kerala’s culture as it’s the birth place of cricket, circus and cakes in Kerala. I thought of visiting the fort first as I heard fort and its premises will offer an excellent picnic spot.

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Again it was just 900 meters from the railway station. As I walked those streets i discovered that they offered a wide variety of things- local cuisines to craftworks – both cheap and of quality. As I reached the fort, it stood head high with its imposing walls. Though its grandeur and significance was at oblivion, it seems as it was never willing to give up. Big old trees with their sprawling arms and full of chirping birds will provide an excellent shade and special feeling in front of the fort. If it were night those trees along with the fort would have provided for an excellent  theme for a horror movie. The fort is a testimonial to British colonial imperialism .The entry to the fort is little elevated from ground. Above the gate, there is a dome with inscribed figure of two British soldiers. Technologically advanced British troops were always a night mare to local warriors. This may be the reason for that. Like other forts in Kerala it is well maintained by Archaeological survey of India (ASI). As I entered the fort I was stunned.

Inside views were quite different from what one expects. Inside the fort lies an old beautiful bungalow with well- maintained garden and lawns. Landscape was mind blowing beautiful. The place was so tranquilizing and admirable that I couldn't even believe that the world immediately surrounding the fort, through where I arrived there, had been so loud and crowded. Protection of business was one of the matters of concern when they built forts. The buildings that I saw inside the forts were a part of the commercial establishments. The junction at the centre of the fort had an interesting object.

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Old, very old dilapidated 􏰊THACKRAY – BARFORD􏰋 patent scarifier .An unexpected thing inside any forts. May be British had left it to make us think about their technological advancement at that time. There were a few sign boards beside it .The fort has many secret places for hiding and a secret tunnel to sea, but its entry is locked by ASI. I climbed the stairs to the top to get a better view. One side the fort offered a view to the busy streets and crowded roads while the other part offered a striking view of calm beautiful sea and trees nearby. As I sat there for a while the cool sea breeze tuned with the chirping of birds and picturesque land scape created an ambiance which is beyond words.

As I walked through this  monument different thoughts were flashing in my mind. The thoughts about the battles for the fort (which I read from a board inside), Struggle of our forefathers for freedom and so on. The fort acted as the nucleus for the growth of this town. It was an administrative centre during British rule in Malabar. This fort has given rise to a specific culture that dwellers can boast of. From the top of the fort I saw an old Anglican church built in 1869.As the fort stands beside the sea, a light house is seen inside the fort. I spent my entire three hour inside the fort enjoying and admiring the beauty and thinking about the thoughts it had offered. The fort offers candid locations for photography. I took a lot of photographs. I found the fort as a best place to spend your beautiful day.

A calm beautiful majestic monument near to a busy crowded town. When I checked the train status I initially I felt frustrated though suddenly I felt relieved. Train is late by 2 hours .I was happy as I got 2 more hours to spent in this beautiful town .Fort premises too offered me a lot .There was an old Anglican church named St Johns ,as I described earlier. Near to fort is Jawahar Ghat, which had its significance during freedom struggle. Then I spent my time at the beach near the fort.

When I entered the train I was happy as a little carelessness during morning had offered me a wonderful day .Thalassery fort is a place that you should never miss if you ever are in Thalassery. A visit to this calm beautiful majestic monument near to a busy crowded town and taking some characteristic Thalassery cuisines would definitely be a day you will always love to remember.