India is full of interesting historical forts. A beautiful and well preserved example is the spectacular Sindhudurg Fort in Maharashtra, looking out over the Arabian Sea.
Sindhudurg Fort was built in 1664 by King Shivaji. The strategic rocky island location was carefully chosen to counter foreign forces, and to keep the nearby villages in check.
Located 510kms south of Mumbai and 130kms north of Goa the construction was done under the supervision of Hiroji Indulkar, an able architect. It is said that Shivaji invited 100 Portuguese experts from Goa for the construction of the fort and that 3000 workers were employed round the clock for three years to build Sindhudurg.
After Shivaji, Sindhudurg passed through the hands of Rajaram-Tarabai, Angres, Peshwa and the Bhosales of Kolhapur. It was briefly captured by the British in 1765 Ad And was renamed by them as ‘Fort Augustus’. Later in 1818 AD, the British dismantled the fort’s defence structures.
The 48 acre Sindhudurg fort has a four km long zigzag line of a 9 metres high and 3 metres wide rampart with 42 bastions.
The fort is approachable from the Malavan pier by a boat through a narrow navigable channel between two smaller islands of Dhontara and Padmagad. The main gate, flanked by massive bastions, faces the city.
One of the most interesting features of this port is that the design of main door is an enigma, a hallmark of Maratha Architecture of fort building so that the entry can’t be located by attacking forces. The technique was so deceptive that the entrance was concealed due to blind curves. The zigzag pattern of outer wall was so built that the enemy would be visible from any point inside the fort and the troops inside could fire their guns and cannons effectively.
INTERESTING FACTS AND ATTRACTIONS INSIDE THE FORT
- Shivaji’s palm and footprints are preserved here on dried lime slabs in a tower. Inside the Fort, temples of Bhavanimata, Shambhu Mahadev, Jirimiri, Mahapurush and Shivajeshwar are worth seeing, all of which are in good condition.
- Chatrapati Shivaji’s younger son Rajaram in his remembrance built this temple. Shivaji’s idol stands in a boatman’s attire inside the temple and probably only one of its’ kind in the country – where the image of Shivaji is without a beard.
- Outside the southern wall there is a small beach, called Ranichi Vela (Queen’s private beach), where Queen Tarabai, daughter-in law of Shivaji, used to enjoy her sea-bath.
- Inside the fort there are three wells of drinkable water, which is a nature’s marvel as sea surrounds the fort on all four sides.
- On a rocky island between Sindhudurg and the coast stood the small fort of Padmagad, now in ruins. It acted as a shield for Sindhudurg and was also used for shipbuilding
- The fort also houses a coconut tree which has a branch and also gives fruit. (No other coconut tree has a branch.)
- There is a hidden passage that starts in a temple that looks like a water reservoir and goes under the island for 3 km, under the sea for 12 km, and from there 12 km to a nearby village. The tunnel was used as an escape route for the women if the enemy entered the fort. However, the British partially closed this passage after the fort was abandoned.
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