History enriched Forts in the lap of nature are the most beautiful sights in Maharashtra and there are around 350 forts in the state. With magnificent architecture and brilliant sense and execution of topography, these ancient constructions only echo different chapters of the Indian history and walking through the paths of bygone days thrill me the most. Therefore, I had no second choice when my friends named Janjira Fort as our weekend destination last week. Being pumped up in excitement, I went through the pages of history and tried gathering as much information possible before the voyage.
Trust me, I couldn’t believe my own eyes — the fort not only has a scenic view being on an island on the Arabian Sea, but the first sight of the black stone piece of history intrigued each one of us. But, it was just a few more minutes when all my zest fell flat with disappointment.
Janjira Fort or the Janjira Jal-durg is located on the Arabian Sea coast in a small town named Murud in Maharashtra and the surrounding tranquil sea view and mesmerising sunset make the castle more stunning. It is said to be initially a small wooden structure on the island built by a Koli chief in the 15th century which was later captured by Pir Khan, a general of Nizamshah of Ahmednagar. The one of its kind structure was then built and strengthened by Malik Ambar (An Abyssinian minister in the court of the Sultan of Ahmednagar) by the end of 17th century for strategic purposes and the fort also referred as Island Fort, has secret locations to hide and escape. While we were approaching close to the castle by sailboats from Rajapuri jetty, the ancient engineering to camouflage the entrance gate made us awestruck as it can be seen only when the boat reaches quite close to it.
The Island fort is standing with an impressive height of 40 feet with broad pillars and high walls on all sides. Now almost in its ruins, the fort reflects a luxurious flashback of all necessity facilities like palaces, mosque, officers’ quarters, two big fresh sweet water tanks, etc. We will find a five-storied building in a dilapidated condition which was the palace of Nawab Siddi Surul Khan. A small 80-meters-high hill in the centre of this island fort will surely give the most wanted picture perfect landscape.
The Fort of Janjira has seen many attacks by various forces — be it by Shivaji, Sambhaji and the Peshwas — but it survived all of them and remained unconquered for over 350 years.
However, the State Tourism Department’s and the tourists’ failure has helped pollution to conquer the architectural masterpiece. With the first step into the fort and with your every step thereafter, you’ll find plastic bottles, plastic food wraps everywhere. The structures which were then used keep fire torches as the source of light have now become waste bin. Walking through the ruins of the once full-fledged living fort, I spotted a water-well and to my shock, the well was filled with plastic wastes. It was not an enjoyable view indeed. Looking at our disappointed faces with the mismanagement to keep such historical place in its best possible shape, the guard, who was helping us to find answers to our queries while we were exploring the island fort, grieved saying that in his lifetime he has not seen any government effort towards the renovation of this brilliant piece of architecture.
Carrying the stories of existing 19 rounded bastions, several towers, and turrets, which were used for keeping guns and cannons, we came to know that the Janjira Fort that is spread over 22 acres had a total of 500 canons previously but now only a few of them exist. Kalal Bangadi, Chavari, and Landa Kasam are the three well-known huge cannons. Towards the north of Janjira Fort, the Padmadurga or Pradurga, commonly called the Kansa Fort, built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, exists. Why the state, its people, and its government — who all take pride in the name of Shivaji Maharaj — are so insensitive towards preserving the history around their beloved warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj?
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)