Marvel in the midst of the sea: Janjira Fort, Maharashtra
Situated in Raigad district of Maharashtra and located about 175 km away from the commercial capital of Mumbai is the town of Janjira, which lies on the Konkan coast. This town attracts a lot of holiday makers and travelers who are looking for a quite place to unwind and de-stress.
The first, best and fastest way for people from Mumbai to reach Janjira is via the sea route. Regular ferry services are available between Gateway of India and Mandwa jetty. The ferry ticket comes inclusive of a bus ride from Mandwa jetty to Alibag which is a 7 km ride along the picturesque Konkan coast line.
The second way is by road and there are two options one is to drive to Janjira and the other is to board a state transport bus which runs till Alibag. From Alibag there are frequent buses plying to the town of Murud. This route is functional all year round.
The third option is the rail route. Janjira does not have a railway station of its own and the closest railway station to Janjira is Roha which is located about 38 km away from the town. This is generally a preferred option for travellers coming to Jinjira from Pune.
The town of Janjira is dominated by people of the Muslim community who have settled along the Konkan coast for over 400 years. They speak a dialect of Marathi. Most of the older people are still engaged in fishing which is their primary occupation. With the rise of tourism the younger generation have opted to work as tour guides in the Jinjari Fort and also in local restaurants and hotels near the beach.
Janjira town is famous for its sea fort which is located about 3kms away from the shore in the middle of the Arabian Sea. This fort of Janjira is considered one of the strongest sea forts in India. The main gate of the fort faces Rajapuri jetty on the shore and can be seen only when one is quite close to it. It has a small postern gate towards the open sea which was used for escape.
Janjira fort is the only fort which was not captured by the Marathas, the Portuguese or the British who captured many forts and places along the Konkan Coast. The many escape routes, several sophisticated canons and location in the middle of the sea made Janjira Fort impregnable.
Originally the fort was a small wooden structure built by a Koli chief Ram Patil to protect his people from pirates and thieves and was known as “Medhekot” in the late 15th century. The fort was captured by Pir Khan, a general of Nizamshah of Ahmednagar. Later, the fort was strengthened by Malik Ambar, the Abyssinian-origin Siddi regent of the Ahmednagar king. The Siddi’s were smugglers and ruled over this fort for the longest time and hence this fort till today is known as Siddi fort. The Siddi’s are a tribe of people who are believed to be of African descent.
The fort can be approached by sailboats from Rajapuri jetty. From the jetty one has to board a sail boat to reach the fort. Tickets for the sail boat have to be purchased from a shop near the jetty. The sail boat ride is about 10 – 15 minutes. The sail boat operators try to lure their passengers into hiring them as their tour guides for the fort by making claims that people lose their way in the fort and also that without their aid they might not reach back in time and the sail boat might leave them. It is advisable not to fall for their talks since all these claims are false. Tourists are allowed to board any sail boat back as long as they have a valid ticket.
Just as one enters the fort the first thing to notice is a tomb of an ex-Siddi ruler. The next thing one would notice is a massive flat land which has plenty of arches which are in ruins now. These old arches used to be the palace of the Siddi king. There are also two massive water pools which are now covered in green moss. These pools get a supply of fresh water from under water springs. They were used by the people in the fort for various purposes.
At the Janjira fort there are no provisions for accommodation or refreshments of any kind and tourists are advised to keep the place clean and not to litter or scribble on the walls of the fort.
The fort cannot be accessed during the monsoon because of the rough sea and hence the best season to visit the fort is from November to May.
It is advisable to avoid visiting the fort on weekends and on public holidays since the place is generally overcrowded and this causes a lot of mayhem which is mainly triggered by the sail boat operators who do not allow people to enter the boats since they want the same passengers who came on the boat to return back on their boat. As a result of which many people even fall into the water near the fort since many people are left stranded by their sail boats that have already left them and gone.
The Janjira fort with its unique location is really a marvelous place to visit and has something to offer for every kind of traveler from the historians to the holiday makers. The only drawback is the very badly managed sail boat system from and to the fort.
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