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Monday, May 07, 2007 2:56:14 PM (IST)  

News headlines

from daijiworld's special correspondent
with exclusive pics from Rajtilak Naik in Panaji
for Daijiworld Media Network - Goa (MB)

Panaji, May 7: Goan heritage activists are fighting a battle to save 16th century old Asia's first gun powder factory at Ribander, a sleepy town, dotting capital city of Panaji in this erstwhile portuguese colony.

"A huge commercial complex is taking shape on the site where this gun powder factory existed. What's paining is that the site is neglected by state archives and archeology department and nothing is being done to stop it," historian Prajal Sakhardande, a member of Goa Heritage Action Group, stated.

The gunpowder millstones

Gunpowder millstones lie in a state of neglect with construction work in progress in the background

The official plaque - 'Casa de Polvora' - 'Storehouse of Powder'

Details of residential complex coming up on the site

GI sheets blocking the view of construction work

A pond of the Portugues era, lying in neglect, but now in focus at Ribander

Construction work

Gunpowder mill site as seen from the national highway 4A

A few like-minded heritage activists have brought this massacre of rare vestiges of our past to the attention of the state administration. "Chief secretary J P Singh has assured to look into the matter and we believe in his sincerity," Sakhardande said.

Much like many firsts associated with Goa, the gun powder factory too is the first one which according to the historians used to supply gun powder to Malacca (now part of Malaysia), Muscat, Mozambique, the East African Coast besides various forts in Goa and Diu during Portuguese rule.

"The factory, just three kilometres away, from heritage monuments of Old Goa had negro slaves and buffaloes being used to work as its machinery," Sakhardande stated.

Called Casa de Polvora, the factory was brought to Goa during early 16th century in Adil Shah regime, Sakhardande said. After shifting to few places, finally it was placed at Ribander in 1630 by Portuguese government, he adds.

"The last director of the factory was Lt Col Joaquim Manuel de Melo e Mendonca and the factory was shut down on November 25, 1869 by then government," Sakhardande said.

Tucked on the national highway 17 leading to Ponda town from Panaji, the only remains of this factory are huge thirteen millstones, which were used to make the gun powder and a water tank.

"The archeological survey of India has shown interest to transport these stones to their museaum. If they fail to do so, we can keep them at the state museaum," Manohar Dicholkar, director, Goa Archives and Archeology, stated.

He said that the site is not a protected monument and hence the department has no role to play into it. "At the most we can shift the stones, which has historical value," Dicholkar said.

But the heritage activists, feel that it is sheer negligence by the state authorities that has left this site in a lurch. "They could have very well notified the site. So they share the responsibility. We can't let such vestiges be eaten by real estate sharks," Sakhardande stated. 

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