…. Rajesh Deshpande © 2015. Based on my personal visit in January 2015.
Destination Type – Beach, Sea Fort. Trip Type – Leisure. CLICK HERE to view Photo Stream of Vijaydurg
Invincible, impregnable and imposing Vijaydurg stands testimony to the naval supremacy of the Marathas. This majestic sea fort was the maritime headquarters of the Maratha navy and a fine example of their extraordinary strategic vision. Vijaydurg is situated about 470 Kms. south of Mumbai in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra, India. It is strategically located at the confluence of Vaghotan – Kharepatan creek and the Arabian sea.
The fort was known as “Gheria” since it was surrounded on all sides by the sea. Later, the eastern side was reclaimed and attached to the mainland. It was renamed ‘Vijaydurg’ by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj after he conquered it from Adilshah. Vijaydurg literally means ‘Fort of Victory’ in Marathi. The shallow Vaghotan – Kharepatan creek provided natural defense to Vijaydurg by preventing big enemy ships from approaching the fort.
Vijaydurg is constructed using laterite rock. A ten meter high submerged wall, about hundred and fifty meters away from the fort in to the sea and about two hundred meter long served as a defense against attacking ships. The submerged wall was invisible even during low tide. Enemy ships collided with the wall and were sunk in to their aquatic grave. A two hundred meter long underground tunnel up to the Dhulap wada (palatial house) helped in escape and emergency evacuation. Though the tunnel is visible, it is partially blocked.
Many such architectural marvels made Vijaydurg a formidable fort. The fort was thus called “Eastern Gibraltar” by the British. During the total solar eclipse in the year 1898 CE, a British scientist Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer discovered Helium on the sun’s surface from Vijaydurg. The place where Lockyer had mounted his spectroscope for his research is called as ‘Sahebache Katte’ in Marathi, literally Englishman’s bench.
How to Reach?
By Rail – The nearest rail head for Vijaydurg is Kankavli (80 Kms.) on the Konkan Railway. All express and passenger trains halt at Kankavli. Another option is Rajapur station, however, not all trains stop here. The best train from Mumbai is the Dadar Madgaon Jan Shatabdi Express. Many other trains like Mandovi Express, Matsyagandha, Konkan Kanya and Netravati express halt at Kankavli. ST buses and Auto Rickshaws are available from Kankavli to Vijaydurg.
By Road – From Mumbai there are two ST Buses for Vijaydurg, one leaving from Mumbai Central depot and the other from Borivali Nancy Colony. Both buses leave at 6 PM daily and reach Vijaydurg at around 7 AM in the morning next day. Private operators like Mumbarkar Travels and Sai Ganaraj Travels operate luxury buses to Vijaydurg daily.
If travelling by own vehicle from Mumbai, take the Mumbai Goa road (NH-17) and drive on through Pen > Wadkhal > Kolad > Mangaon > Mahad > Chiplun > Sangameshwar > Hatkhamba Phata > Lanja > Rajapur > Talere phata. From Talere phata take right for Vijaydurg. This road is toll free at present but may not be a good option currently due to the ongoing Konkan expressway work. It may take anywhere between 12 – 14 hours through this route. A better and faster route is the Mumbai Pune expressway (toll road) connecting to NH-48, drive down to Kolhapur city and take the road to Gaganbawda, descend Karul ghat to reach Vaibhavwadi and a little ahead to Talere Phata. From Talere phata take the road to Vijaydurg which is about 50 Kms away.
By Air – Dabolim Airport, Goa is the nearest Airport about 200 Kms away.
Vijaydurg has a glorious history of 814 years, it has stood testimony to many regimes and ravages of time. The glorious past of this relic deserves a brief mention here.
Vijaydurg – glorious past of 814 years
Vijaydurg was originally built by Raja Bhoj of the Shilahar dynasty in 1205 CE over 5 Acres. It’s construction began in 1195 CE and was completed in ten years in 1205 CE.
After the Shilahar’s who ruled the Konkan region, the fort fell in to the hands of Yadav’s of Devgiri (today’s Aurangabad). Later Vijaydurg was conquered by Krishnadevaraya of the Vijaynagar Empire. The Bahmani sultans of the deccan defeated Krishnadevaraya in a bloody battle, plundered Vijaynagar and turned it into ruins. Later, due to internal feud, the Bahmanis disintegrated in to five independent states – Adilshahi (Bijapur), Nizamshahi (Ahmednagar), Qutbshahi (Golconda), Imadshahi (Berar) and Bidarshahi (Bidar). Vijaydurg fell in to the hands of Adilshah.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj conquered the fort from Adilshah in 1653 CE. He had personally visited, supervised and hoisted the Jaripatka (saffron flag) of Marathas on Vijaydurg. Realizing its strategic importance, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj extended Vijaydurg to 17 acres and strengthened the fort by constructing three layers of impregnable fortification of thick laterite rock (cemented with lime, jaggery and molten lead), twenty new bastions, watch towers, tunnels, ravines and underwater escape routes at a cost of 5000 hones. From the time of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj up to the time of Sarkhel (Admiral) Tulaji Angre, the Maratha Navy was a formidable force to reckon with maritime operations ranging from Surat in the north to Vengurla in the south covering the entire western coast of today’s Gujarat and Maharashtra states.
After the death of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj in 1689 CE, there was internal feud in the Maratha empire leading to creation of two thrones (centres of power). One under the reign of Chhatrapati Shahu at Satara and the other under the reign of Maharani Tararani at Kolhapur. In 1698 CE, Chhatrapati Shahu appointed Sarkhel (Admiral) Kanhoji Angre as the Garrison Commander of Vijaydurg who built a formidable fleet of warships in the Vaghotan – Kharepatan creek. The warships in the fleet called as Paal were as big as 500 tonnes with 350 sailors and 50 cannons – equivalent of today’s Destroyers. Other warships were called as Galbat, Ghurab and Machwa – equivalent to today’s Frigates and Corvettes. The Marathas had also constructed two dry docks few kilometres away from Vijaydurg in the Vaghotan – Kharepatan creek for constructing and repairing warships.
Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre was an able naval commander and Chief of the Maratha Navy who remained victorious throughout his lifetime and had successfully retaliated joint naval attacks of the British, Dutch and the Portuguese. This valiant seaman is honored by the Indian Navy – the office building of Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command at Mumbai is named ‘INS Angre’ in honour of Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre.
Kanhoji died in CE 1729 at Alibag leaving behind five sons – Shekhoji, Sambhaji, Yeshaji, Manaji and Tulaji. After Shekhoji’s death, internal feud sparked between the Angre brothers. Bajirao Peshwa intervened and a settlement was made dividing the holdings of Angre dynasty between Sambhaji and Manaji. The forts to the north of Colaba were given to Manaji whereas the forts to the south of Colaba including Vijaydurg were given to Sambhaji thus making Colaba and Vijaydurg as the two power centres of the Angre’s. Manaji owed allegiance to the Peshwa whereas Sambhaji preferred autonomy.
After Sambhaji Angre’s death in 1742 CE, his half brother Tulaji Angre succeeded him as Sarkhel (Admiral) and Garrison Commander of Vijaydurg. Nanasaheb Peshwa, successor of Bajirao Peshwa had a desire to command the Maratha navy himself. Tulaji didn’t agree and preferred autonomy. In order to fulfill his satanic desire, Nanasaheb signed a treaty with the British to attack Vijaydurg and to captivate Tulaji. In 1756 CE, the British set on fire the entire fleet of Tulaji Angre stationed at Vijaydurg. Tulaji Angre was captivated and Vijaydurg was taken over by the British and handed over to the Peshwa six months later. This conquest ended the Maratha Naval supremacy in the Arabian sea. Vijaydurg remained with the Peshwa under the command of Sardar Anandrao Dhulap. Tulaji Angre was kept under captivity by the Peshwa and moved to Solapur where he died in CE 1786. The gallant Tulaji was one of the most notable seamen of his time. After the fall of Maratha empire in 1818 CE on losing the Anglo Maratha war, the British colonized India completely and took over Vijaydurg.
Where to Stay?
Vijaydurg is a coastal village with a population of eighteen hundred people to this date. It has about five hundred houses. MTDC Green Valley Fort View Resort is the only decent option to stay put and is the height of luxury at Vijaydurg. It is not a star rated resort but has all basic amenities like a king size bed, satellite television, running hot and cold water and air-conditioning. MTDC also has a DG set for backup power to tackle power cuts. The resort has an in house restaurant serving delectable and authentic Malvani cuisine prepared under the supervision of chef-de-cuisine – Mr. Tulaskar. The fish comes fresh from a jetty bang opposite to the resort. The Fish Thali and a local fish called ‘Kokri’ must not be missed. MTDC charges Rs. 2,000/- plus taxes per room per night for an A/C room, meals not included.
Other stay options at Vijaydurg are lodges like Hotel Suruchi and Hotel Vijaydurg Palace both near MTDC resort and the jetty. Hotel Mayuri near the port office also makes stay arrangements for guests. Price vary between Rs. 1,000/- to Rs. 1,500/- for an A/C room and costs less for a non-A/C room. A village homestay could also be a good option.
Things to see
Excursion to Vijaydurg Fort – It takes about three hours to explore every nook and corner of Vijaydurg. Availing the services of a guide is highly recommended to see all important monuments in the fort. The guide fee is Rs. 200/- Guides are available at the Geebee Darwaja.
Vijaydurg Beach – is a serene beach about a kilometre long with the fort on the right hand side and a hillock on the left. The beach is absolutely safe for swimming. However, there are no life guards. The beach remains desolate except for weekends when few tourists visit.
Rameshwar Temple – is a temple of Lord Shiva built during Chhatrapati Shivaji’s regime. It is situated about 3 Kms from Vijaydurg at Rameshwar wadi, an extension of Girye village. The temple has wooden pillars and an wood deco interio which is intact to this day.
Vimleshwar Temple – is an ancient temple in a grotto near Wada village about 15 Kms from Vijaydurg. The temple has an enchanting setup amidst dense forest with a serene stream flowing in front of it. There are two giant elephants carved at the entrance of the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.
Kunkeshwar – is an important pilgrimage. The temple of Lord Shiva is situated bang on the shore. According to legend, it was constructed by an Arab trader who could reach the shore due to an oil lamp lit inside the temple. The temple is built in the Indo-Saracenic architecture. Every year during Mahashivratri, a three day fair is held at Kunkeshwar when thousands of devotees visit the temple to seek blessings of Lord Shiva.
Devgad Beach – is a town situated 29 Kms. south of Vijaydurg. It is known for the famous Devgad Hapoos (Alphonso) Mango. Devgad is a taluka in the Sindhudurg district having important government offices. Devgad is a major fishing hub with hundreds of fishing boats offloading their catch daily. Devgad has a beautiful beach, few years back windmills were erected on a hillock to the left of the beach. Vestiges of the old Devgad fort could be seen on another hillock to the right side of Devgad beach.
Tara Mumbri – is a scenic fishing village 4 Kms south of Devgad at the confluence of Devgad creek and Arabian ocean. The village had a beautiful beach which is now ruined due to the construction work of a new bridge over the creek connecting Mith Mumbri village on the opposite bank. A visit to the village is worth for photography enthusiasts.
P.S. – some websites and blogs have incorrectly mentioned Tara Mumbri to be 4 Kms north of Kunkeshwar. Tara Mumbri is actually an extension of Devgad fishing village on the outskirts of Devgad town. Kunkeshwar is about 12 Kms from here by road.
What to eat?
Being a coastal village, Vijaydurg is a paradise for seafood lovers. Fresh catch from the sea can be bought at the jetty opposite to MTDC resort. The restaurant of MTDC resort serves the best and authentic Malvani cuisine. Tuck in their fish thali or try the a-la-carte Tikhla (Fish in thick gravy) or Fish Tawa Fry – Kolambi (Prawns), Surmai (King Fish), Pomfret, Halwa or Saranga, Bangda (Mackerel), Kokri (a local fish), Tamboshi (Red Snapper) and Rawas (Salmon). A glass of Solkadi after a hearty meal is an essential cooler. Suruchi Hotel and Mayuri Hotel also serve good seafood and vegeterian dishes.
At Kunkeshwar, Kshudha Shanti Uphar Gruh outside the temple serves good Brahmin style Konkani food. Abhiruchi restaurant also situated outside the temple serves good vegetarian fare. Hotel Annapurna is a good option for non-veg. and seafood.
At Devgad, Hotel Vasant Vijay in Tulsi Nagar (closer to Jamsande) is a popular place for scrumptious seafood. Prapanch is a good pure veg. restaurant on the main road.
—- Rajesh Deshpande © 2015 —-