Friends, I talked about Tarkarli and Malvan in one of my earlier posts. Well, if I am in Malvan and I don’t talk about the fortress at Sindhudurg, then it will be so unjustified. So here it is – a small feature on Sindhudurg Fort.
I was not visiting the area as a tourist or to rest and relax. I was here as a traveler on assignments; so I took the opportunity to explore the surrounding areas including the coastal forts of Vijaydurg and Devgarh and the island fortress of Sindhudurg. I had to take a boat ride to get to Sindhudurg, and the 12-minute boat ride was lovely as the fort loomed in front of me, I could not help but be impressed by this feat of engineering. However, upon entering the fort, the commercialisation of the place left me somewhat disappointed. There were stalls selling eatables and bottled water and one could never actually grasp that feeling of reliving history as too many of the trappings of modern-day life permeated this historic fort. It took me 45 minutes to just walk all around the fort and on a positive note; the view of the coastline from the fort was spectacular.
Sindhudurg Fort, off Malvan, is undoubtedly the most formidable of Shivaji’s sea coast constructions. After much research, Shivaji selected the larger of the two outer islands in the bay almost blocked by rocky reefs, actually about half a mile from the Dandi point of the Malvan shore. The approach distance of the fortified island, from the harbour, across the narrow channel safe for navigation, between the two smaller islands, measures about a mile. The construction started in 1664 and after three years, the massive miraculous fort of Sindhudurg came into being.
Also known as the ‘Ocean Fort’ – Sindhudurg, (from which the district derives its name) off the Malvan coast, stands firmly as a silent sentinel to the lingering memories associated with the maritime history of the glorious Maratha empire.
Sindhudurg covers an extensive area of 48 acres by almost 2 miles long rampart walls, 30 feet high, and on an average 12 feet thick. Apart from the observation towers, the curtain wall is guarded by 52 enormous imposing semicircular bastions with fine embrasures for cannons. The entrance to the fort is by Dilli Darwaja to the northeast. Water was provided by three wells and two tanks for storing rainwater. The fort today is permanently inhabited by a small population.
Apart from the customary shrines of Bhawani, Mahadeo, Jarimari, and the peculiar South Konkan deity Mahapurush, Sindhudurga enjoys the distinction and also the privilege of having the temple wherein Shivaji’s image is worshipped. The Shri Shivchhatrapati temple, the only of its kind was constructed in 1695 during the reign of Shivaji’s son Rajaram. Further on the tower to the north of Dilli gate, are two little domes under which Shivaji’s palm and footprints in dried lime slabs are preserved and of course, held in reverence.
The fort is in bad shape and at one place the sea has eaten into the fort walls. “If this continues, the water in the wells will turn salty and the few families, like ours, living here will face problems,” fears Shajid, the guide. In a few years, the mystery of the fort could find itself at the bottom of the Arabian Sea.
Though in ruins, the remains of this artistic structure are like the most beautiful and haunting lines of an unforgettable song. In the leisurely walk on the fort walls, the colorful past of the Marathas becomes my shadow companion. The present attraction of inhaling the antiquity while walking amid the ancient walls, or looking through the openings in the walls, the vast body of blue waters surrounding the fort, the beautiful Queen’s beach – which was one of the most protected areas of the fort a few centuries ago, shall always remain unsurpassed.
So captivating was the entire ambiance, that I totally forgot about the time and the ferry left without me. The ferry gives you an hour to explore the fort, but one hour is just not enough to do justice with this architectural wonder. And hence I decided to stay on and took another ferry for getting back to Malvan later in the evening.
How right was Charles Lamb in saying – “Antiquity! Thou wondrous charms, what art thou? …
The bay between Malwan jetty and Sindhudurg is very shallow and rocky and navigable only by small canoes. The submerged rocks near the fort may have caused shipwrecks. A platform at the fort entrance serves as a jetty. The small Padamgad Fort built on an island opposite Sindhudurg Fort served as Shivaji’s shipyard. It is possible to walk to Padamgad Fort at low tide. Watching the vast open sea from the ramparts lashed by the pounding waves, the spray rising nearly 20 feet is an amazing experience.
Finally, I took the last ferry from the fort to Malvan. Malvan beach is a typical beach that one associates with a fishing village – there were many fishing vessels of different shapes and sizes that dotted the beach and the families of fishermen could be seen along the beach. A nice leisurely walk on the beach and one can very easily spot the difference between Tarkarli beach and Malvan beach.