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Janjira Fort

It is to the credit of those who ruled across Maharashtra that they were able to build forts in the most unlikely places, at times on terrains that would have been virtually impossible to reach or navigate. And so while there are many forts atop almost insurmountable hills, one of the most unique is the one at Janjira. This island fort stands on a rocky outcrop near the mouth of the Rajpuri Creek and never once was it conquered by the enemies of those who ruled here because of its location.

The Janjira island fort is a marvel of architectural achievement, situated deep in the sea about 3 km from the coastal town of Murud. Though the Arabian Sea crashes relentlessly all around the fort, its impregnable walls continue to stand strong and tall at 40 feet high, even at full tide. It is spread over 22 acres and has 19 towers and a huge number of turrets, each of which had a cannon installed on it, some of which have remained intact. Originally the fort was a small wooden structure built by a Koli chief in the late 15th century. It was captured by Pir Khan, a general of Nizamshah of Ahmednagar. Later, the fort was strengthened by Malik Ambar, the Abyssinian-origin Siddi regent of Ahmednagar kings. From then onward, the Siddis became independent and the fort continued to be occupied by them, undefeated despite many attacks.

All the rounded bastions of the fort are still intact. There are many cannons of native and European make rusting on the bastions. Now in ruins, the fort in its heyday was a full-fledged living fort with all the necessary facilities, as for example palaces, quarters for officers, mosque, two big fresh water tanks, etc. On the outer wall flanking the main gate, there is a sculpture depicting a tiger-like beast holding four elephants in four legs, one elephant held tightly by his tail and the sixth elephant in the jaws.

To visit Janjira, one has to go to the village of Murud, a taluka of the Raigad district. It is about 50 km south of Alibag and about 150 km from Mumbai via Alibag. From Murud, one has to reach the small village of Rajpuri, located at a distance of about 2 km. Except for the rainy season, regular ferry boats ply from Rajpuri to Janjira and back. Another route is from Dive agar-Srivardhan-Harihareshwar that leads to the Dighi port, which is the access point for the to and fro journey of the island fort.

As you enter the fort, the first thing to see is the Nagarkhana which is right at the top of the gate. There is an Arabic inscription on a marble plaque which provides a clue to the time period i.e. Hijri year 1111 or 1694 CE. After entering the gate, you will see the Pir Panchayatan, a holy shrine. From here one can climb steps that lead to the top of the fortification. There are three huge cannons - Kalal Bangdi, Chavari and Landa Kasam. There are other cannons too, spread over the nine bastions and it is estimated that there are about 80 in all. From here one can see a five-storied building in a dilapidated condition. This was the palace of Nawab Siddi Surul Khan. If one continues towards the north fortification wall, there is a second entrance gate after the ninth bastion, locally called the Chor Darwaza. In the centre of this island fort is a small hill of about 80 meters high. A flight of steps leads to the top from where one can see the ruins of the buildings in the fort. These include two big water tanks and the entire fortification with its bastions and two mosques. Towards the east one can get a picturesque view of the sea coast. Towards the north is another island fort – the Padmadurga or Pradurga, commonly called the Kansa Fort, which was built by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj's.

Distance from Mumbai: 162 kms.