Next time when you visit Mumbai and have a spare day in hand, plan a day tour on the south of the city that has several ancient historical forts and some scenic beaches. If you are planning to drive to the place, you will enjoy driving along a long stretch of road beside the Arabian Sea.
Your first stop is the sea town of Alibaug, 100km west of Mumbai. Alibaug beach has blackish sand. Kulaba Fort, partially recalimed by the sea, can be accessed by horse-driven carriages during low tides. Locals even venture to the fort on foot wading through the sea during low tide. During high tides, boats are available to reach the fort.
Two Yorkshire cannons inside Kulaba fort, AlibaugAmitabha Gupta
Kulaba Fort is built on a rocky outcrop having six-seven metre high ramparts featuring as many as 17 bastions. Built in the period 1680-1681, the fort was modelled as a naval base by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The fort has two entrances. In 1713, under the treaty with Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath, Kulaba, with several other forts, was handed over to Kanhoji Angre. The fort was attacked several times and caught fire on numerous occasions. Ultimately, it went into the hands of the British. Presently, it is under the jurisdiction of the Archaeological Survey of India as a ticketed monument, open from 10am to 5pm.
One can approach Kulaba fort on horse carriages during low tideAmitabha Gupta
The interiors feature two Yorkshire built canons, several temples including that of Goddess Gulbai, whose deity resembles Goddess Durga in Mahishasurmardini posture, Goddess Bhavani temple and Ganesh Panchayatan temple, which houses five deities and Dargah of Haji Kamaluddin Shah.
The Murud Janjira fort as seen in the morning light from Murud beachSagar Jadhav, Wikimedia Commons
From Alibaug, driving on a straight road beside the Arabian Sea over 50km, one reaches the famed Murud Janjira Fort. Revdanda Fort and Korlai Fort fall on the way. Both are protected monuments under ASI, Mumbai Circle.
The sea-facing outer wall of Revdanda Fort, which was built by the PortuguesePradeep, Wikimedia Commons
The dilapidated Revdanda Fort was built in 1558 by The Portuguese. In 1740, Revdanda Fort came under the Maratha kingdom. By the year 1818, the fort came under the British Raj. Ruins of Dominican, Augustinian and Jesuit missions, a cathedral, a chapel, two gates and a watch tower are prime attractions of the fort.
The entrance gate of Korlai FortNikhil Avinash Sawant, Wikimedia Commons
Located atop a 300-feet high hillock, Korlai Fort was also a Portuguese fortification essentially built to guard the Revdanda creek along with its twin Revdanda fort. The fort has eight bastions and four entrances. When the Marathas gained control of the fort in 1700, nothing much of the original structure was left. The view from the top of the fort is breathtaking though. Close to the fort is the Korlai lighthouse.
Tourists wading in the sea at Kashid beachAmitabha Gupta
Just 13km south from Korlai is the Kashid beach with white sand, which is perhaps the most scenic beach on this stretch. Recently, Kashid has become a popular weekend spot for the Mumbaikars with several accommodation facilities developed in the area. If you have an extra day in hand, stay there overnight and visit Murud Janjira early in the morning the next day for a better view.
The entrance gate to Murud Janjira fort is well hiddenAmitabha Gupta
Located 24km from Kashid, Murud-Janjira is also a fort in the midst of the sea. Originally the fort was occupied by local Koli fishermen from Rajpuri village who had built a wooden fort here. Much later, the island was occupied by Siddis (locally known as Habshis) – a branch of descendants of East African slaves who were originally employed by Sultans of Ahmednagar. They built a stone fort in 1569 which they developed in the next 150 years. Murud Janjira is considered to be unconquerable because from the Maratha to British, nobody could topple it. The fort was inhabited till 1984.
Cannons inside Murud Janjira fortAmitabha Gupta
The sailboat ride from the Agardanda jetty at Murud to the Murud-Janjira fort is one of a kind. The cannon attack marks are still visible on the fort’s wall. The entrance to the fort is somewhat hidden from outside and is difficult to spot.
Getting down to the fort’s landing spot could be a bit difficult for many. The interior is pretty spread out with an area of around 22 acres but despite being protected by ASI, the fort is poorly maintained. The remains of the royal palace of Siddi ruler Surul Khan, two huge water bodies, which were sources of fresh waters, several bastions, three huge cannons, escape tunnels – all these make a visit to the fort memorable. The view of the sea from the fort is truly mesmerising.
On the way back, take a look at the Siddi Palace before Murud beach and Khokari Tombs near Agardanda Jetty, housing the grave of Siddi rulers.
A sailboat approaching Murud Janjira fortAmitabha Gupta
Either drive the whole stretch from Mumbai or opt for Mumbai-Alibaug Ro-Ro ferry, where you can board a ferry with your car and reach Mandwa Jetty. Alibaug is only 18km from there. Also you can take a normal ferry, and do the rest of the tour by local transport. You can opt for visiting Janjira fort in the morning to avoid crowded sailboats (Rs 25 per head) or hire a full boat if budget permits.