…. Rajesh Deshpande. Based upon my personal visit in November 2014.
Murud Janjira and Korlai are two coastal forts in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. Janjira is a sea fort which was built in the 16th century by the Siddis whereas Korlai is a land fort which was built by the Portuguese also in the 16th century. Both forts can be visited from Mumbai or Pune in a day, however overnight stay at Murud is highly recommended for seeing many interesting places nearby. The forts are in fairly good condition to this date despite lack of attention from the government for restoration, renovation and maintenance. A visit to these forts is an enriching experience both for history buffs as well as the general traveler.
A scenic drive south of Alibag through the narrow by-lanes of Akshi, Nagaon and Chaul villages leads to the vestiges of the almost extinct Revdanda fort in the coastal village of Revdanda. The entire route is hemmed with coconut palms and beetle nut plantations. Little ahead at a sharp left turn is a signage which mentions the beach to be 300 meters away. A dirt road on the right leads to the beach through the remnants of the Revdanda fort with only a seven storey dilapidated watch tower intact to this day and a section of the outer wall facing the sea. The Revdanda beach offers a spectacular view of the Korlai fort across the Revdanda creek.
From Revdanda, a right turn after the bridge over the Revdanda creek leads to Murud Janjira. 4 Kms. ahead is a diversion to the village of Korlai. Narrow by-lanes of the village leads to the fort another 2 Kms. ahead. The Portuguese had built this fort on a hill called Morro de Chaul. The hill is at the confluence of the Kundalika river and the Arabian sea forming the Revdanda creek. The Portuguese had named the fort as Morro Curlew. The fort at Revdanda was built as a companion fort bang opposite to the Korlai fort, across the Revdanda creek to monitor movement of ships. Today, the Korlai hill has a Light House and a navigational radar installed on the western side. The approach to the fort is through the Lighthouse. It takes about thirty minutes to reach the fort from the Lighthouse by climbing narrow and steep steps. Vestiges of the Portuguese occupation are deep rooted in the inhabitants of Korlai in the form of a distinct dialect of Portuguese Creole called Kristi.
About 40 Kms down south of Korlai is the town of Murud, known for the Murud Janjira sea fort. Midway on the road to Murud Janjira is the spectacular Kashid beach with golden sand. City dwellers of Mumbai and Pune flock to experience their share of the sea on weekends and public holidays. The weekend rush often cause traffic jams on this narrow road. From Kashid about 10 Kms. down south is Nandgaon, a tiny village with a narrow but long beach. Nandgaon is popular for the Ganesh temple. From Nandgaon it’s another 15 Kms drive to Murud Janjira. The Janjira fort is further 3 Kms to the south from Murud town. The approach is through Rajpuri, a fishing village from where sailboats are available to reach the fort. The fort is about a kilometer inside the sea. It takes about 15 mins. in a sailboat to reach the fort.
The majestic Janjira fort is one of the most formidable sea fort on the Konkan coastline of Maharashtra. It has a 500 year old legacy of remaining invincible despite efforts by the Marathas, Portuguese and the British to conquer it. Janjira was the capital of Siddis who ruled the princely state of Murud-Janjira. Situated on an oval rock near the coastal town of Murud, it is about 165 km south of Mumbai. Along with Janjira fort, the town of Murud is famous for its long and wide beach hemmed with coconut palms and attracts large crowds especially on weekends.
Spread over 22 acres, Janjira has 22 bastions which despite the ravages of time, still stand intact. The fort’s main gate faces Rajpuri and can be seen only from a close distance. It has a small gate which opens to the sea and was used for escape and evacuation.
Water Cistern on Janjira
There are two fresh water cisterns inside the fort and a deep well. The fort was defended by several cannons, the most celebrated canon was called Kalal Bangdi which had a range of ten kilometres according as per local guides. In its days of yore, the fort had palaces, mosque, markets and quarters for officers. The most decorated palace was the seven storeyed Sheesh Mahal palace which lie in ruins today.
According to legend, Janjira is derived from the Arabic word Jazeera which means island. The Siddis are believed to have originally migrated from Abyssinia and were called Habshis by the local population. The first fortified structure was built in 15th century by a Koli chief as defence against pirates. The fort was captured by a general of Nizam Shah of Ahmednagar. The Siddis captured it back from the Nizam Shah and later declared independence. Later, they owed allegiance to the Adilshah and the Mughals.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj tried to capture Janjira fort several times but could not succeed. Later, his son Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj also tried to capture Janjira but he too was not successful. Later, he decided to subdue the Siddis by constructing another sea fort called Kasa Padmadurg, nine kms. northwest of Janjira. However, Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj could not complete Padmadurg due to his several tactical engagements on various war fronts.
The Murud Janjira state came to an end and was acceded to India after independence in 1947.
How to reach?
By Rail – Roha on the Konkan railway route is the nearest railhead about 35 Kms away. All mail and express trains on Konkan railway halt at Roha. From Roha, regular ST buses and auto rickshaws are available for Murud.
By Road – Direct ST buses are available for Murud Janjira from Mumbai and Pune. By car, if travelling from Mumbai, take NH-17 from Panvel and drive till Vadkhal naka, from here take the road to Alibag and the by-pass to Nagaon. From Nagaon drive towards Revdanda, cross the creek and take right to reach Korlai. The same road straight without turning right for Korlai would lead to Murud Janjira via Kashid and Nandgaon. Mumbai to Murud Janjira is about 160 Kms.
From Pune – Chandni Chowk, take the road to Tamhini ghat and drive downhill to Vile and onward to Indapur. Cross the NH-17 and drive down to Tala to reach Murud Janjira. Also from Indapur, an alternate route from Kolad and Roha could be taken to reach Murud. Pune to Murud Janjira is a distance of about 160 Kms.
By Air – Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport is the nearest airport, about 170 Kms. away.
Where to stay?
Murud has good choice of hotels, the swankier Golden Swan Beach Resort is a 3-star property that is bang on beach. Sand Piper resort and Sea Shell resort are some other good options for a relaxing stay with family. Hotel Murud Plaza near the promenade is also a good stay option at budget prices. Hotel Aman palace is also good for a short stay. There are many bungalows and homestays available on per day rent in and around Murud at nominal cost.
What to see?
Janjira Fort – The reason to visit Murud is to see the majestic Janjira fort. Start early from your hotel around 7 am to reach Rajpuri jetty. Take a sailboat to Janjira fort. Explore the fort at leisure and return to Murud for a scrumptious lunch at one of the many eateries at the promenade.
Murud Beach – Spend a wonderful evening at Murud beach which is flat, wide and long. There’s no dearth of options for having fun at the beach – have a refreshing dip in to the sea which is safe for swimming despite no lifeguards around. Other options are a horse ride, camel ride, horse buggy ride, ATV ride and Parasailing.
Garambi Dam – 8 Kms. from Murud this dam was built by the last Siddi ruler, the dam was dedicated to Queen Victoria’s memory. Hence, it was also called as Victoria Jubilee Water Works.
Datta Mandir – is a temple of Shri Dattatreya on a hillock which can be reached by climbing about 200 steps. It is 1.5 Kms. on the outskirts of Murud town.
Eidgah – is the highest point in Murud which can be reached by road. Eidgah is a beautiful open air Mosque atop a hill overlooking the Murud town and the Arabian sea. It is 1.5 Kms on the outskirts of Murud on the same hill as that of the Datta Mandir at an higher elevation.
Khokari Tombs – are a cluster of three tombs of the erstwhile Siddi rulers of Murud Janjira – Surul Khan, Yakub Khan and Khairiyat Khan. These tombs are 5 Kms. to the south of Murud Janjira, they are built in Indo Saracenic style.
Nawab Palace – is about 3 Kms. before Murud was the palatial house of Siddi Ahmed Khan. It is a private property closed for general public and can be viewed from the outside.
Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary – is a protected forest reserve about 15 Kms north of Murud and is home to diverse flora and fauna – birds, snakes, foxes, leopards, porcupine, hyena, wild boar, giant squirrel and barking deer.
Kasa Padmadurg – is an incomplete sea fort in ruins about 9 Kms into the sea visible from Murud beach. It takes a 1.5 hrs. boat ride to reach one way to reach Padmadurg. It was built by Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj to subdue the Siddis of Janjira.
Korlai – is a fort built by the Portuguese 40 Kms north of Murud in the 16th century under permission of the Ahmednagar sultanate.
Where to eat?
Murud has several restaurants which offer both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. The local eateries called Khanavals serve fresh catch from the sea. The most sought after place of seafood lovers is Patil Khanaval which serves delectable fish thali with a choice of Pomfret, Surmai or Halwa. Other fish preparations not to be missed here are Prawns Fry and Surmai Fry. Also popular are crabs which must be pre-ordered. Hotel Vinayak and Hotel Anand-Vatika are also good options for sea food.
All three hotels are near the beach. Murud is also known for the popular coconut barfi. Hotel Hanuman in the busy market area is popular for the coconut barfi and chikki but more than that try the onion pakodas which are crisp and spicy due to green chillies used in the chick pea batter. Also don’t miss their Balushahi and Jalebi.
Fresh catch from the sea is the only thing to shop at Murud or Rajpuri village other than chikki and coconut barfi. Look for Surmai (King Fish), Pomfret and King Prawns to take home in thermacol ice boxes. Sun-dried fish such as Khara Surmai,Khara Bangda, Sode, Ambadi Sukat and Jawla are good to stock for monsoons.
…. Rajesh Deshpande © 2014