Mormugao is a sub-district and a municipal council in South Goa district in the Indian state of Goa. It is Goas main port. It was featured in the 1980 film The Sea Wolves and the Bollywood film Bhootnath. When the Portuguese colonised part of Goa in the sixteenth century, they based their operations in the central district of Tiswadi, notably in the international emporium 'City of Goa', now Old Goa. As threats to their maritime supremacy increased, they built forts on various hillocks, especially along the coast. In 1624, they began to build their fortified town on the headland overlooking Mormugão harbour. The sultans of Bijapur, who had colonised Goa before the Portuguese, did not give up easily. There were several invasions. From the sea came the Dutch, who eventually took over from the Portuguese most of the coastal settlements: the Moluccas, Batticaloa, Trincomali, Galle, Malacca, Manar, Jaffna, Quilon, Cochin and Cannanore. From 1640 to 1643, the Dutch tried their best to capture Mormugão but were finally driven away. In 1683, the Portuguese in Goa were in grave danger from the Marathas. Almost certain defeat was averted when Sambhaji suddenly lifted siege and rushed to defend his own kingdom from the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. The narrow escape, no less than the decline of the City of Goa, convinced the Portuguese viceroy, Dom Francisco de Távora, that he should shift the capital of the Portuguese holdings in India to Mormugão’s formidable fortress. In 1685, the new city’s principal edifices were under construction, with the Jesuit priest Father Teotónio Rebelo in charge. The Jesuit architects made a consistent effort to avoid the ornate style of the time. The austere viceregal palace still stands, having been used, after its short stint as a palace, in various capacities, including as the hotel which housed the British agents who in 1943 destroyed German ships anchored in Mormugão’s neutral waters. Viceroys after Távora found Mormugão too secluded for their liking. The administrative headquarters were moved to the new city of Panjim, which is till today Goa’s chief city. Ever since it was accorded the status of a Major Port in 1963, the Mormugão port has contributed immensely to growth of maritime trade in India. It is the leading iron ore exporting port of India with an annual throughput of around 27.33 million tonnes of iron ore traffic. Epidemics devastated Mormugão during the eighteenth century, but after that its fortunes turned. As the importance of one of India’s best natural harbours grew more apparent, Mormugão, which the British called Marmagoa, became a key trading point. It was chosen for the terminus of the new metre gauge railway linking the Portuguese colony to British India. For a fabulous price, the Western India Portuguese Guaranteed Railways Company, a British enterprise, modernised the port and built the railway. Both were opened to the public in July 1886. Mormugão’s city of Vasco da Gama was planned and built in the early years of the twentieth century. A colourful city of officials, traders and migrant labourers, it had its Portuguese academies and British club life for several decades. Now rather scarred, Mormugão district continues to be unique in Goa. With Goa’s airport at Dabolim, the railway terminus at Vasco da Gama, and the busy port, Mormugão is many visitors’ first experience of Goa.



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