While Maharashtra is famously known for Mumbai, the city of dreams, the cradle of Bollywood, or the city of Ratnagiri, the producer of the delicious Alphonso, or the majestic Ajanta and Ellora caves, little is it known as a repository of old castles and forts. Nestled along the picturesque coastline of Maharashtra lies the enchanting Murud Janjira Fort, an island fortress in the Raigad district. This architectural gem is a testament to the region's rich history, resilience, and cultural heritage. As one of the most formidable sea forts in India, Murud Janjira has captivated the imagination of travellers, historians, and architects alike for centuries. Explore the fascinating history, architectural splendour, evolution and other highlights that make Murud Janjira a must-visit destination.
The Murud Janjira Fort has a rich history dating back to the 15th century when the Siddis, an Abyssinian dynasty of African descent, constructed it. It is Malik Ambar, a military leader who served as the Peshwa of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate in the Deccan region, who is credited with the construction of the fort. Located on an island off the Arabian Sea coast, the fort was an essential stronghold for the Siddi rulers, protecting them from invaders and rival maritime powers.
The fort's impregnable defences and strategic positioning enabled it to withstand numerous attacks from the Portuguese, Marathas, British, and other adversaries over the centuries. Despite several attempts to conquer it, the fort remained unconquered, earning the moniker "Janjira," which means "invincible" in Arabic.
Hidden and unsung in the long and dense history of India is the story of the black rulers. Siddis were the first African rulers of India. Malik Ambar was born in the Oromo tribe of Ethiopia and sold off young to an Arab merchant. Passing down the hands of several rulers thereon, Ambar rose in the ranks and arrived in India. The headstrong boy from humble beginnings found his role as the military leader and prime minister of the Ahmadnagar Sultanate in India.
Ambar is also considered a pioneer of guerilla warfare in the region and is credited with settling much of the Deccan's revenue. His military prowess was such that no army mighty enough could find its way around his tactics. Emperor Jehangir found such an adversary in Ambar that, unable to win over the military mastermind, he commissioned an allegorical fantasy painting of him shooting an arrow through his enemy's severed head topped on a flagpole.
The Murud Janjira Fort showcases exceptional architectural brilliance through its robust structure and ingenious design. The fort is primarily built using locally quarried stone and is surrounded by high walls featuring bastions, cannons, and strategically placed watchtowers that offer panoramic views of the Arabian Sea.
The fort's layout is characterised by a series of gates, courtyards, and inner chambers designed to maximise defence capabilities while providing ample living quarters for soldiers and administrators. Its unique blend of Indian, Persian, and Arabian architectural styles reflects the multicultural influences prevalent in the region during its construction.
Over the centuries, the Murud Janjira Fort has undergone several expansions and renovations aimed at enhancing its defensive capabilities and accommodating the growing population within its walls. Despite facing numerous challenges, including natural disasters and changing political landscapes, the fort has remained a symbol of strength and resilience, preserving its historical significance for future generations.
Visitors can freely enter the fort's inner sanctum through the grand Main Entrance Gate (Mahadarwaza), adorned with intricate carvings and inscriptions. The Palace of the Nawabs, an ornate structure with vast courtyards, served as a residence for the ruling Siddi Nawabs and their families.
Within the fort complex is the Koli Temple, a spiritual sanctuary dedicated to the goddess Bhavani, dating back to ancient times. The fort boasts 26 well-preserved artillery towers, each bearing witness to its formidable defences. The fort's arsenal houses an impressive collection of cannons, including the famous Kalalbangdi, renowned for its size and firepower, in the Cannon Gallery.
These towers display rusting cannons of both native and European origin, standing as silent guardians of the fort's history. Despite its current dilapidated state, the fort was once a thriving living complex equipped with essential amenities, including barracks for soldiers, officer quarters, a mosque for religious worship, and two freshwater ponds with depths of up to 60 feet.
Adjacent to the main gate, a striking sculpture depicting a fearsome tiger-like creature grasping elephants in its powerful claws adds to the fort's mystique and grandeur. You can climb to the top of the fort's bastions and watchtowers to enjoy breathtaking views of the Arabian Sea and surrounding landscapes.
Explore the beautiful beaches and historical sites of the Murud region. Visit the serene Murud Beach, just a short distance from the fort, for a relaxing and peaceful time on the pristine shores. Head to Kashid Beach to indulge in thrilling water sports, enjoy beachside picnics, and witness stunning sunsets. Don't miss the chance to discover the ruins of the 16th-century Portuguese stronghold, the Korlai Fort, which offers panoramic coastline views. For nature lovers, Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary is a must-visit, with its diverse flora and fauna, including rare species of birds and mammals.
Timings: 7 am to 6 pm
Entry is free to the premises. However, as it is an island fort, you can only reach it by a boat which will cost you about INR 20 - 30 and INR 200 - 300 for bigger boats.
Air: The nearest Airport to Murud Janjira is Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai.
Rail: The nearest Railway Station to Murud Janjira is Roha Railway Station, which is approximately 50 km away.
Road: Murud Janjira Fort is approximately a 3-hour drive from Mumbai and a 4-hour drive from Pune.