4 Colonial Forts In Mumbai
The modern metropolis of Mumbai has deep roots in history. It has been around, in one form or another, from before the Portuguese, Dutch, and English colonisers arrived, fought, and made a peace, of sorts, eventually turning seven islands into one concrete city. Here are four forts of Mumbai that the colonisers left standing as reminders of a few hundred years of intense occupation. Many of these are in the midst of restoration work or are slated for it some forts, unfortunately, will have a longer wait than others, such as the Dharavi or Riwa Fort, locally known as the Kala Qilla, and in a state of severe disrepair. Most of the forts are in populated areas, so there is no shortage of nearby shopping or eating destinations, nor is there a lack of other sightseeing options around. Public transport is easily available in Mumbai. Just remember, auto-rickshaws do not ply beyond Bandra towards south Mumbai, onwards from Mahim.
A Grade I Heritage Structure, the Sewri Fort was constructed as a watchtower by the British East India Company between 1669 and 1677. It was the boundary between Parel Island and the Portuguese-controlled Salsette Island (current Bandra and surrounding areas) in the north across the River Mithi. The forts had a garrison of 50 soldiers, and eight to ten cannons were mounted on its bastions.
Sewri Fort, though not well maintained, offers a panoramic view of the eastern coast. From another part of the fort, you will be able to see the salt pans of Thane Creek in the distance. If you are there during the winter months, you may catch the migration of the flamingos into Mumbai. Sewri creek is a significant spot for flamingo breeding. Ensure that you take a registered guide along for a tour of the fortifications.
Entry timings Open 24 hours. Ensure that you take along a local or a registered guide.
Distance from Sewri station on the Harbour Line 850 metres
Castella de Aguada, or Bandra Fort, set at Land&rsquos End, a corner of the posh suburb of Bandra, is by no means deserted or awaiting attention. For some time now, it has been the venue of high-profile events, as well as December fairs and festivals. The pride of the Portuguese colonisers, hung on to it with all their might as they fought and bargained with the British East India Company.
The fort was once guarded by seven cannons and had a freshwater estuary that kept the soldiers&rsquo morale bolstered. When the Marathas took it over in 1739, the British had their hackles up, and even though they had lost to the Marathas, they found a way into the fort and wrested it from the Marathas in 1774.
Entry timings 600 a.m. to 630 p.m.
Distance from Bandra west station on the Western Line 1.4 km
A highly strategic fort, considering it is located to overlook the natural bay of Mahim. Frequently contested for, like the rest of the forts in Mumbai, the Mahim Fort, was witness to many a skirmish between the Portuguese and Ali Shah, a ruler from Gujarat. All this happened before the fort was snatched from them in 1534, for the Portuguese, by Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. And not long after, in 1661, the Portuguese tired of the fighting, ceded the island of Mahim as dowry to Charles II of England. The English, in 1684, strengthened the fort under the guidance of Sir Thomas Grantham. During the 1772 Portuguese attack on this fort, it had 100 soldiers and 30 cannons, and the battle damaged the hallowed Mount Mary&rsquos Basilica.
Entry timings Open 24 hours. Ensure that you take along a local or a registered guide.
Distance from Mahim station on the Western Line 1.9 km
Few are aware that there is a fort in Worli. Built on Worli hill by the British around 1675, the fort overlooks Mahim Bay. The bell tower of the fort is still visible from the Arabian Sea, and the fort has three platforms for cannons used to keep the other colonisers and pirates at bay. Parts of the fort are in disrepair however, you can reach it via the congested lanes of the Koli fishing village that surrounds it.
Entry timings Open 24 hours. Ensure that you take along a local or a registered guide.
Distance from Mahim and Lower Parel stations on the Western Line 8.9 km, and 4.5 km, respectively.