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Sindhudurg Fort

SIndhudurg Fort
Sindhudurg (Marathi सिंधुदुर्ग) is a fortress which occupies an islet in the Arabian Sea, just off the coast of Maharashtra in western India. The fortress lies on the shore of Malwan town of Sindhudurg District in the Konkan region of Maharashtra, south of Mumbai.[1] It is a protected monument.[2]
History

Sindhudurg (sindhu = sea, durg = fort) was built by the Hiroji Indalkar (Deshmukh) – Shivaji's Master Architect & builder, built several forts in Maharashtra two notable are Sindhudurg fort and Raigad in 1664. Shivaji selected the strategic rocky island location, then known as 'Kurte' for the fort, himself - to counter foreign forces, and to keep the nearby Siddis of Murud-Janjira in check.

Entrance to the fort and main watch tower

Shivaji's temple on the fort
One of the best preserved forts of the Marathas, Sindhudurg fort has zigzag rampart with 42 bastions. Apart from the huge stones, the building material involved 2000 khandis (72,576 kg) of iron erecting the massive curtain wall and bastions. A notable feature is that the foundation stones were laid down firmly with 5 khandis (181.5 kg) of molten lead. [3]

The Watch Tower facing the sea
Over 4000 mounds of iron were used in the casting and foundation stones were firmly laid down. Construction started on 25 November 1664. Built over a period of three years (1664–67), the sea fort is spread over 48 acres (190,000 m2) with a two-mile (3 km) long rampart, and walls that are 30 feet (9.1 m) high and 12 feet (3.7 m) thick. The massive walls were designed to serve as a deterrent to approaching enemies and to the waves and tides of the Arabian Sea. The main entrance is concealed in such a way that no one can pinpoint it from outside.
At a time when Samudra Gaman (travelling by sea) was banned by scriptures, this construction on an island represents the revolutionary mindset of its engineer

The number of permanent residents staying in the fort has been in decline since the fort's abandonment. Most of the residents moved out because of inadequate employment opportunities, but over 15 families remain in the fort. The Sakpal Naik family (the original 'killedars') still resides in one of the 16 houses in the fort. However, Dr Sarang Kulkarni's underwater discoveries have led to the establishment of the Indian sub-continent's only well-established scuba-diving industry. This has provided the local residents with some employment. Sindhudurg fort is a popular summer destination for Indian and foreign tourists to explore the island and go scuba-diving and snorkelling to view the coral reef on the outskirts of the island.

Sindhudurg town lies in the Sindudurg district to the north of Goa, about 490 km south of Mumbai (Bombay). Sindhudurg can be reached either by train or by bus from Bombay, Goa and Mangalore. The Konkan railway has a railway station at Sindhudurg, but only few trains stop there. Kudal, Kanakvali and Sawantwadi are major railway stations in Sindhudurg district. There are Maharashtra state government (MSRTC) buses running from Mumbai, Pune, Ratnagiri, Sangli, Kolhapur and Goa state government buses (Kadamba Transport Corporation) running from Panaji, Madgaon, Vasco and Pernem to Sindhudurg. Nearest airport is Dabholim (Goa) airport, which is located at approx. 90 Km away from Sawantwadi City (major tourist attraction) of Sindhudurg.

Detail of Sindhudurg fort wall

West side of fort showing a small beach and a door in the wall for beach access

About the families staying in the fort

Soldiers during the reign of Shivaji were known as Mavlas, and the families in the fort are called Mavlas because they are the soldiers' descendants. Their main occupations are farming, fishing and guiding tourists around the fort. Of the 15 families, the two Muslim families have the responsibility of playing the drum (nagara) at the evening prayer time. Shivaji treated all religions equally, and did not allow anyone else to sound the drum, and this practice has been followed through the centuries. The houses are very much the same as when they were built: the occupants can renovate the interiors, but are not allowed to change the exteriors, and they cannot sell their houses. As there are no hospitals, no shops, no facilities, life is difficult on the fort. The only mode of transport is by water, which has its own risks.
Attractions at the fort

There are three sweet water reservoirs in the fort ramparts. Even if the water in the nearby villages dries up in summer, these wells always contain water.
There is a coconut tree which has a branch and also gives fruit. (No other coconut tree has a branch.) The tree was struck by lightning a couple of years ago.
There is a hidden passage (that starts in a temple that looks like a water reservoir) that 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.
The entrance gate is almost invisible, and only regular visitors are likely to find it.
A handprint and a footprint of Shivaji Maharaj is also embedded in one section of the fort. There is also Atmeshwar Mandir, a famous Shivling, and is beautiful place for adhyatmik sadhana (spiritual activities).
There is the only temple of Shivaji Maharaj in the world; the temple was built by Shivaji's son Rajaram. Festivities such as Shivaji Jayanti (birthday of Shivaji), Ram Navami, Janmashtami, Mahashivrathri, Ganesh Chaturthi, are celebrated.
Daily puja (worship)and maintenance is done by mainly two families that were assigned this job since the fort was built; one of them is Shriram Sakpal.
Along with the navy, Shivaji maharaj also realized the importance of a sea fort. One of the sea fort that he built was this Sindhudurga Fort at Malvan.


 

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