We wanted to visit the sea fortress Murud Janjira fort. Hence, 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 vigour, 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.
Murud 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. However, the boat holds a capacity of 100 seats, 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 Murud Janjira gave me a feeling of SRK from Swades; the song sequence “Tu Hi Re” from movie Bombay has 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. The weekend 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 fort’s outer surface 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. 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 fortress’s architecture 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 fort’s centre, they got larger and larger. Our guide explained the logic behind such construction from outside you could not 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 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.
Exterior view of the fort was applied as an outpost for the rulers of Murud Janjira. The island fortress was also under the Adil Shahi dynasty’s command 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, 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 defence 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.
Darya DarwazaThe 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 marvelling 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. Mumbai can take a taxi till Harihareshwar, or even a bus till Mangaon then cabs from there onwards. In case of Pune route via Chandni Chowk through Tamahini ghats, 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 59km. Major cities are connected with Mangaon, and from Mangaon both buses and taxis are available to reach Harihareshwar easily.
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 and luxury till Mangaon, then hail taxi till Harihareshwar.