Besides its magnificent beaches, the picturesque Konkan coast from Mumbai to Goa is studded with forts which have survived in their solid majesty for more than three centuries. The forts and fortresses on the coast of western India built between the 14th and 17th century are testimony to the raging battles between the Sultans of Bijapur, Golkonda and Ahmednagar, the Nizam of Hyderabad and the powerful Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar.
Later, these forts were also the sites of wars with foreign powers that had reached Indian shores - first the Portuguese and later the British and the French. A name that stands out is that of the charismatic Maratha warrior-leader Shivaji, who effectively challenged the mighty Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb. Most of the forts that Shivaji built or reconstructed were in the interior or on top of hills. The only fortress he built on the coast was that of Sindhudurga near Goa.
The Fort of Janjira on the sea is the only one of its kind. Janjira Jal-durg (sea fort) was constructed by Malik Ambar, an Abssinian minister in the service of the Sultan of Ahmednagar, who belonged to the famous Nizamshahi dynasty. The fort, built at the end of the 17th Century, is almost entirely intact even today, despite the ravages of wind and tide, a testimony to the marvels of ancient engineering.
According to all accounts, the sea fort of Janjira could not be conquered by any of the kings ruling the neighbouring territories. Surprisingly, not even Shivaji could acquire it despite 13 expeditions to conquer the fort. His son, Sambhaji, tried a unique approach to capture the fort: digging an underwater tunnel to enter. But he too failed in his attempt. Not to be deterred, Sambhaji constructed another fort just across the bay, called Kansa. Most of the earth that was dug up to build the tunnel was used in the making of this second fort, which was to be the base for future attacks on the sea fort of Janjira. This fort took 22 years to build and is constructed on 22 acres of land.
In a journey back in history, visitors can gain access to the Janjira fort from Rajapuri, a small village on the coast. After a short ride in a small boat, one can enter the fort through the main entrance. The fort is oval shaped instead of the usual oblong or square shape. The fort wall is about 40 feet high and has 19 rounded porches or arches, some of which still have cannons mounted on them, including the famous cannon 'Katlal Bhankari'. These cannons were largely responsible for repelling oncoming enemies from the sea. Inside the fort walls, the ruins of a mosque, a palace and bath with water channeled from streams, tell of ancient times when royal ladies occupied the quarters. The deep well with cold and sweet water - a wonder of nature in the midst of the saline sea, still provides water to quench the thirst of the weary visitor.
Gazing into the horizon from the ramparts of this magnificent fort overlooking the sea, one cannot but acknowledge its great strength that withstood a number of invasions. This invincible fort remained unconquered until it became part of Indian territory after Independence from the
British in 1947.
Other attractions for history buffs include the Palace of the Nawab. This luxurious cliff-top mansion built by the former Nawab of Janjira commands a panoramic view of the Arabian sea and the Janjira sea fort.
Then there are the Janjira Caves, while nature lovers will enjoy Murud, the erstwhile capital of the state of Janjira. Murud is actually a tiny fishing village atop a small hillock with a heart-stopping view of the coast, with mile after mile of soft silvery sand. The beaches of Kashid and Nandgaon with their whispering casuarina, coconut and betel palms are a balm for the weary city dweller. In short, a perfect getaway.
How to Get There
Air: Nearest airport is Mumbai, 165 km away.
Rail: The nearest station is Roha on the Konkan railway.
Road: About five hours from Mumbai.
Where to stay: There are few private beach resorts and one Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation holiday resort.