This is one of the most daunting historical trips in the region. Sindhudurg or the ocean fort is Shivaji’s cenotaph and in its chief shrine Shivaji’s image is worshiped. The image is of stone and the head is covered with silver or in high days with a gold mask. In the stone of the walls, prints of Shivaji’s hands and feet are held in reverence. Giving testimony to the Maratha maritime supremacy, the construction began on 25th November 1664 and completed 3 years later. The boat ride to the fort is quite playful, but it is easier if you are visiting during tourist season. It costs Rs.50 /- but will costs you the fare of 11 seats if no one but you are to go. The fort conservation trust runs 22 ferries for this purpose. Once you reach the fort and when the boatman who doubles as the guide begins to unravel the thinking and the strategies behind the architecture of the fort, it leaves you in wonderment about the capabilities of the lost minds of yesteryears. The fort itself is very extensive, a little less than 2 miles round the ramparts. The walls are low, ranging from 29 to 30 feet. They are on an average 12 feet thick and have about 32 towers from 40 to 130 yards apart. The towers are generally outstanding semi circles with fine embrasures for canons. Here and there, narrow staircases lead from the inside to the top of the walls.
The area of the fort spans 48 acres. Once full of buildings it is now a mere shell with nothing but a few temples dedicated to Mahadeo, Jarimai, Mahapursh, Bhavani and Shivaji, the only one of its kind in the country. If you visit the fort in the early evening it is most likely you will hear devotional music from the radio in the huts of a few gabits. These gabits are actually 8th generation of the servants of Shivaji. They continue to live within the confines of the walls at a salary of Rs.80 per annum, the same sum their ancestors received from Shivaji raje.
In 1765 after the rule of Shivaji an expedition under the joint command of Major Gordon and Captain John Watson of Bombay marine were sent to speedily reduce the fort and they gave it the name of Fort Augustus. As the fort was very hard to dismantle and unprofitable, it was returned back to the Marathas, then Kolhapur chief, in return for peace in the area. These Kolhapur pirates known as the Malwans were the most active and desperate of all coast corsairs.
The sunlight plays visual treats on the limestone walls of the fort and the sunset from its peak is breath taking, where every year politicians fly down their choppers to hoist the Indian flag on Independence Day. On your way back from the fort, there are many things that you begin to understand about the ocean you are treading on and the brave warriors who conquered lands in these spaces of water many centuries ago. It feels like a live trip into a history textbook chapter. It brings back words forgotten long ago in elementary school. A must do when in Malvan.