8 Maharashtra Sea Forts Proposed To Be Nominated For UNESCO Status

The stony-faced guardians of Maharashtra's coasts, its sea forts are now on the tentative nomination list for UNESCO's World Heritage Site label
The Murud Janjira fort. Credit www.shutterstock.com / Abhijeet_Patil
The Murud Janjira fort. Credit www.shutterstock.com / Abhijeet_Patil

The ancient, gigantic forts of Maharashtra, which dot its long coastline, and some even the deep waters of the Arabian Sea, may be all set for international recognition of the official kind. The fort conservation committee has proposed eight sea forts in the state to be sent as nominations for UNESCO World Heritage Sites status. You may have heard of or even paid a visit to some of these tall, dark and strong protectors of the ancient ocean boundaries of India.

Vasai Fort

It was the headquarters of the Portuguese in the north of Maharashtra, and for them, the Vasai fort was next in importance to Goa. It was here in 1802 AD that Peshwa Bajirao signed the infamous Treaty of Bassein, which dissolved the Maratha Confederacy. Finally, the fort and the city of Vasai were ceded to the British in 1817 AD.

Surrounded by sea on three sides, the Vasai fort had a moat filled with seawater, and its 4.5 kilometres-long strong stone wall had 11 bastions. There was also a small citadel in the fort, well-equipped with water tanks, storehouses, an armoury, etc. There were also fields for growing grains and vegetables.

Murud Janjira Fort

The fort is situated off the coast, about 165 kilometres south of Mumbai, in the Raigad district of Maharashtra. It was said to be occupied by the Siddis. They were the descendants of East Africans who had been brought in as enslaved people and were in the military of the Ahmednagar sultans. When the Siddis became powerful, they ruled over a fiefdom from Janjira. This fort is also reported to be well-known as being the only fort on the western coast to beat back the Dutch and English navies, as well as the Marathas. Very high praise indeed for a fort first built out of wood, in the 15th century, by the Maratha fisherman chieftain named Ram Patil.

Sindhudurg Fort

The fortress lies on the shore of Malvan town of the Sindhudurg district in the Konkan region of Maharashtra. It is about 450 kilometres south of Mumbai. It is a protected monument and extends a few kilometres into the sea.

Suvarnadurg Fort

It is one of the most important forts in the Konkan region and is situated on eight acres, at a distance of 250 metres from the coast of Harnai, in the Dapoli taluka. The main bastion of the fort is 25-30 feet high, and there are 24 of these bastions, built together to appear like a necklace of the sea.

Yashwantgad Fort

Built during the rule of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, this 17th-century fort is one of the lesser-known forts of Maharashtra. It is on the banks of the Arjuna River, in Nate village in Rajapur taluka of Ratnagiri district, and is at a distance of 135 kilometres from Kolhapur city.

Bankot Fort

The fort is located at the highest point of the junction where river Savitri meets the Arabian Sea. Believed to have been built by the Shilahara dynasty, it was under the rule of the Aangre family, which commanded the naval fleets of the time. The Greek philosopher Pliny, in his writings, has mentioned Bankot fort as 'Mangir'.

Arnala Fort

Located in Arnala village of Vasai taluka, this fort is also known as Jaldurg or Janjire Arnala. It was commissioned to be constructed by sultan Mahmud Begda in 1516. The fort has been much-coveted by various dynasties which have ruled the area, from Mughals, and Marathas, to the Portuguese, and the Peshwas.

Kolaba Fort

The citadel, clearly visible from the Alibaug beach, was fortified under the directions of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, and his naval commanders, from the famed Aangre family, used it as a base to attack naval fleets of the colonisers. The unique thing about the fort is that even though it is a few kilometres into the sea, it has a couple of freshwater wells. Tourists throng to this fort to visit the Siddhivinayak temple built by the Aangres and to see the two wheel-mounted English cannons with the inscription "Dawson Hardy Field, Low Moor Ironworks, Yorkshire, England".

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