“Dance with the waves, move with the ocean. Let the rhythm of the water set your soul free- Christy Ann Martine,” Well, I am not a sea lover, but there is something mysterious about them; whenever you sit on the sandy beach and watch the waves dancing along the shores its sets me free. And I never knew each beach is different from the other, sands from golden to white or black too. The Konkan region of Maharashtra has the most number of beaches- in this stretch, you always throw a shell in your pocket and sand in your shoes. Today I regret that despite staying in Mumbai for five years, I could not explore these offbeat beach destinations. But I yet have one enthralling family vacation, to relive.
As my parents were visiting me, thus I planned a weekend road trip to Harihareshwar, a small beach town on the Konkon coast of Maharastra. Frankly, I never heard of this place, but my colleagues praised the tranquil and picturesque beach. Well, this place is likewise known as Dakshin Kashi by the virtue, exciting as I being a Shaivite was keen on visiting the ancient Kalbhairav temple and learn its importance in the spiritual arena. And then as the name suggests, Harihareshwar is an abode of Lord Shiva. Our time of travel was perfect since it was monsoon in Maharastra. I had a Nano when I was in Mumbai, which was our way of transportation to Harihareshwar. My parents were in utter shock than pleased looking at the Nano, and they were skeptical what if it ditched us midway. But believe me, it did not, and the entire trip was comfortable.
We set off early morning to avoid traffic, though I was anxious considering the monsoon clouds, the drive was pleasant with on and off drizzle. Harihareshwar is 210 Kms from Mumbai; and we took the Kashid (via Alibaug Road) to Murud for Harihareshwar, a longer route as wanted to relish the scenic ride along the coastal lines. You can opt for the Mumbai –>Pen –> Kolad –> Mangoan –> Morba –> Harihareshwar, this route is the best to reach Harihareshwar. However, the coastal stretch is poorly maintained, increasing our trip time by nearly 2 hours. Nevertheless, passing by the picturesque villages and beaches made it close to consolation. The drive during monsoon is impressive, as the beauty of Sahyadri is prominent- the bloom of greenery is personified, with small waterfalls coming down its steep walls. The journey was a mystic and beautiful as I was amazed to see the green hills, waterfalls & long stretch of coastal lines. Along the way, we took a halt at a roadside Dhaba for breakfast before proceeding further.
We reached Harihareshwar by past noon and checked into our hotel. As usual, I booked the MTDC beach resort, located half Km from the temple & 2min from the beach. Since it is a popular destination along with Shrivardhan and Diveagar Beach, so all types of accommodation are available from luxury to budget or lodges to a homestay. The tariff starts as cheap as Rs 500/night and moves up to Rs 3500/night. The MTDC A/c cottages were beautiful as it stood next to the ocean, they serve good seafood with a decent option for vegetarian as well. The beach near the resort is approx 2km L shape, rocky with black lava rocks dotting the landscape. Talking about Harihareshwar is a quaint and underrated tourist spot, surrounded by three hills named Harihareshwar, Harshinachal and Pushpadri. It is also called the Temple town as the temple of Lord Harihareshwar, said to have been blessed by Lord Shiva, along with river Savitri entering the Arabian Sea from this town. Harihareshwar itself has two beaches- one is in front of the MTDC resort where I am putting up, the other one is in front of the temple 2.4km long straight beach with black sand.
After a little siesta, we drove to Srivardhan town, which is the birthplace of first Peshwa Balaji Visvanath, 18 km from Harihareshwar. Srivardhan is one of the oldest towns in Maharashtra located on a peninsula known as the town of Peshwa. Its pristine beaches, lush green mango gardens, swaying coconut trees, and typical Konkani homes with thatched roofs and storefronts will leave you to be mesmerized. We got to the beach before the sunset, about 3 kilometres long coasts, very clean and calm as less crowded. We sat on the beach, listening to the silent waves, along with a few fishing boats, offering a panoramic view. The sky was speaking in a thousand colors as the sun dips in the ocean. Also Shri Laxminarayan Temple – is the first temple of Peshwas which is of the attractions of the place, where the idol in the temple is quite old and is said to be of Hoysala architecture style. However, we did not visit as it was getting dark. I also advise to visit Kondivali beach, located just 10 minutes from Shrivardhan, and the brownish-black sand makes the spot unique to experience. The beach also does offer quite a broad range of options for water sports activities. We had to skip as it was gloomy, so we decided to drive back to our hotel. The night ended with Bangada Rava fry and veg thali, and it was delicious.
The following day we first visited the ancient Kalbhairav temple. It is believed the temple was constructed in the medieval period, the chief deity of the temple was the ‘kuladaivat’ of the Peshwas. And the pradakshina Marg’ around the temple was built by Chandrarao More. Harihareshwar Temple complex has two adjacent temples- the smaller Kalbhairav temple and the main Harihareshwar temple housing an ancient Shiva Linga. It’s customary to pay tribute first to Kalbhairav then to Lord Shiva and the again to Kalbhairav. And the pradakshina route goes around the temple, along the seashore. We put up our prayers, worshipped the deity completed all ritual in 30mins as the rush was less.
Later we had to climb down 150 odd steps, between Hari & Har hills to hit the rocky coastal area which is exposed to strong sea waves and wind called the pradakshina- a unique and exciting route behind the temple. It was high tide; violent sea waves were dashing on to the mountains, and the entire path was covered with water making it slippery to walk. Another landmark aspect of this spot is the lava rock formations made up of wave-cut basalt in an inter-tidal zone, which takes in regular cycles of wet and dry period depending on the tides. These rock formations in the presence of Tafoni- they are clusters of small honeycombed caverns found in granular rocks due to centuries of weathering by the constituents. No information about this unique geological phenomenon is provided; most of the time, people merely pass by unaware. We stood and viewed the exotic events, before retrieving back to our hotel. Harihareshwar is a black sand beach which generally gets submerged during high tide, and it happened last night. but by 11am the water retrieved back.This beach is not recommended for swimmers as the currents of the sea is strong. Honestly, in all sense, Harihareshwar is a place of beauty with the pleasant ambiance, temples, beach and dense woods.
Afterwards, we checked out of our hotel and drove for Dighi 48Km from Harihareshwar. Dighi is famous for the undefeated Murud Janjira fort, established by the Siddi dynasty. Janjira originated from an Arabic word Jazeera- means Island. The epithet of the fort is a sequence of Konkani and Arabic expression for the Island. Like the fort, the drive to Dighi was beautiful with lush green plantations on my right and the blue sea on my left, and occasional fishing villages and the paddy fields. And we were lucky as the sun was shining bright, with few clouds fleeting across the sky.
This fort is oval in form & its wall 40 feet high with 19 round arches where cannons were mounted. Some of the arches still have cannon mounted, including the barrel Kalaal Baangadi. During the period of most exceptional vigor, this Island boasted of 572 cannons. The sea fortress is strategically located, 3km deep in the sea from the shore, and with the artillery on the arches responsible for repelling oncoming enemies from the sea, which led it to have remained unconquered in the fort’s history of 350 years. The Maratha Emperor, Shivaji, the Portuguese or even the British were unable to seize the fortress despite numerous attempt. Within the fort walls are ruins of a mosque, a palace, and a bath with water channelled from a stream. There is a deep well too, still functional that provides freshwater despite being surrounded by ocean.
Janjira is among the strongest marine forts in India. It can be approached by ferry from the Rajapuri jetty in Dighi. They run from Dighi to the Murud Janjira Fort & back. The boat holds a capacity of 100 seats, however, at least need 50 passengers to make the trip viable for them. Tickets need to be bought to enter the fortress at the Rajapuri jetty, which was approx Rs 60, & for jetty Rs30 per person. This boat ride to Janjira gave me a feeling of SRK from Swades; also the song sequence “Tu Hi Re” from movie Bombay was shot here another reason why the fort is renowned. A 30-45 min ferry ride and we arrive at the narrow entryway of the fort facing the Rajapuri village on the shore. I was shit scared looking at the waves lashing onto the steps, and you need to jump across to these steps from the boat. A gymnast in the middle of the sea, somehow I managed to jump across, screaming my lungs away. Due to the weekend, it was crowded; also, we get an hour to explore the fortress. How amazing! Anyway, we found many ISI guides at the fort., with a fixed price Rs 500 per hour. So we hired one & entered the fort.
The outer surface of the fort is still in good condition, except the walls battered with sea waves since the last six centuries. Upon entering the fort first thing that caught my eyes was the Persian inscription, and a carved sculpture depicting a tiger-like beast clasping elephants in its claws- representing strength. We had to climb approx 150 stairs to reach the second floor & the rampart of the fort. Here you can see the intact 26 rounded bastions, and there are many cannons of native and European make rusting on the bastions. Our guide showed us the main canon of the fortress known as ‘Kalaal Baangadi’ that weighed 22 tons and was brought to the Island in the shape of a ring and assembled at the fort. It is made of ‘Panch Dhaatu’ and was mobile in those days, but still required 30-40 able men to move it. The entire garrison had 145 cannons.
The architecture of the fortress is awe-inspiring, despite standing in the inner courtyards can view miles over the sea from any side. However, the arches towards the outer walls were reasonably small, but as I walked towards the center of the fort, they got larger and larger. Our guide explained us the logic behind such construction that from outside you cannot see inside the fort, which made the fortress almost invincible.
As per our guide, Raja Ram Rao Patil was Patil of Janjira Island and chief of Kolis who built the fortress in the 16th century, so the Kolis lived peacefully away from the pirates. Yet, another record states the Abyssinian Siddi established the Janjira and Jafarbad state in early 1100. Also’ as per the accounts written by the Portuguese Admiral Fernao Mendes Pinto, the Ottman fleet aided to the region of Batak and Maritime Southeast Asia in 1539 included 200 Malabar sailor from Janjira.
Afterwards, in 1621, the Siddis of Janjira became exceptionally powerful as an autonomous state, and Siddi Ambar the little was considered as the first Nawab of Janjira state. He constructed a luxurious cliff-top mansion, the Palace of the Nawab; which holds a panoramic view of Janjira sea fort and the Arabian sea. Another fort, named Ghosalgad which is located on top of the hill, was built by Nawab. It was applied as an outpost for the rulers of Janjira. The island fortress was also under the command of the Adil Shahi dynasty until the reign of Ibrahim II. The Marathas under Shivaji, then Sambhaji tried to capture it but were unsuccessful. Sambhaji even attempted to build a tunnel towards it and started building a fort on another rocky island jointly but eventually had to leave it incomplete. He made another sea fort in 1676, known as Padmadurg or Kasa fort, to challenge Janjira.
The fortress has three floors, where the military utilized the topmost for defense purpose. The first floor had the houses, mosque, servants rooms, officer quarters, well, lakes and palace. And the lowermost part was used to store arms & ammunition. Holding only one entry with a sheer drop of 40ft into the sea on all sides the fort was impenetrable. The fort has a beautifully camouflaged escape that opens to sea to escape called Darya Darwaza. It has a tunnel in the fort that ran under the ocean to the Rajapuri fort, for administrative purpose. The tunnel was 60ft underwater and was usable up to 1991 until the last of the Koli tribe stopped visiting the fort and settled in Rajapuri village.
While transferring to the mainland, they took the wooden frames, doors and windows with them from the fort. The principal attraction of the fortress is the two small 60-foot-deep natural sweet water lakes. I was surprised and kept wondering, surrounded by saltwater, how they must have procured their drinking water. And that was another reason why the fort held out so long and remained unconquered. I was in utter disbelief with the marveling architecture and blueprint of the fortress.
It was time to head back home, but before that, I needed a good lunch as I was dying of hunger. Touching back to the jetty, we had a cup of tea and headed towards Mumbai. On our way, we stopped at a roadside Dabba for a late lunch. While driving back, I realized Forts are not just history, but the witness of wars, celebrations and bloodshed. It speaks volumes even in its ruins.
How to Reach
Mumbai or Pune Airport is the nearest airport at a distance of 210 km and 172 Km respectively. From Mumbai can take a taxi till Harihareshwar, or even a bus till Mangaon then cab from there onwards. In case of Pune route via Chandni Chowk through Tamahini ghats or they can also travel through Bhor ghat and Mahad to reach Harihareshwar. Buses Ply on regular Mangaon.
Mangaon on the Konkan Railway is the nearest railway station from Harihareshwar and located at a distance of 59km, Major cities are connected with Mangaon, and from Mangaon both buses and taxis are available to easily reach Harihareshwar.
Harihareshwar is 210 Km from Mumbai, so you can either opt anyone.
1.Mumbai-Panvel -Mangaon-Goregaon Phat on Bombay-Goa highway.
2.The Mumbai – Pen – Kolad – Mangaon – Morba – Harihareshwar
If travelling from Pune, then below route can be taken.
Pune- Mulshi – Tamhini Ghats – Mangaon – Morba – Harihareshwar.
So you can opt for cab or buses state as well as luxury till Mangaon, then hail taxi till Harihareshwar.