Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Unconquered Wonder - Murud Janjira

The mighty citadel
Creepy silence, cacophony of sea gulls, constant hum of cracking waves against aged walls and a barren reminder of the strong hold of an ancient kingdom. Welcome to Murud Janjira Jal Durg (Sea Fort).

Some in ruins, some remain
I have found myself gaping at old architectural wonders almost everywhere I go but eventually I do get over the awe because I feel it is all possible with some mere civil and structural knowledge. But some places are way ahead of their and our time. Murud Janjira is one such place I still fail to decipher.

Imagine this has happened in 50 years or so!
As a kid I used to watch a show called “Son Pari” (okay, you can laugh a bit but I was a kid!). Anyways, there was a stretch of some 5-6 episodes in that show where they showed this freakish looking dying fort in raging sea, in the middle of nowhere – kids stuck, a kid dying of viper bite, others starving and scared of darkness , ghosts etc. Basically my friends who saw the show said they were scared of that place, and the silly ghost loving me wanted to know if there was actually a place like it. No one could have made a humongous, old-ish set, even I knew that as a kid! Little did I know, how close I stayed from that place! In my 11th grade I visited Janjira for the first time and unfortunately, I didn’t carry my camera around much back then, but the stories the guides told us there were kind of stuck with me. Many years later, I made another visit to this Sea Fort, this time with a lot of information to wander and wonder about the place and of course my dear camera. 

All waiting for their trip
 About 50km from Alibaug, in a village called Murud you would find arrays of boats and ferries lined up at the Rajapuri jetty, all waiting to make their hourly trip to the gigantic sea fortress locally called as Murud Janjira. As you approach the fort, all you would think about is “where exactly is the entrance of this mighty island wonder?”, and that is just the first of the many questions you would ask yourself on your visit to Janjira. Be ready to be stunned when you see the high gate strategically hidden behind 2 bastions. There is a reason it is called one of the architectural marvels of India and the only undefeated fort of India. (History buffs - Nope Tughlaqabad fort was lost once, this not even one time!)

The door is close, but where is it?

Notice the tiger?
The current structure was complete during the 17th century after planning and structuring the place for 22 years. Malik Ambar had initially set the wooden foundation of the fort but it was Siddi Sirul Khan who broke away of the Adil Shahi rule of Ahmednagar and fortified this island the way it is today, ultimately laying the foundation of Siddi Dynasty. The entrance itself tells you the might the Siddis depicted with this unconquered citadel of the sea. 

Let's enter

The might!

Along with numerous tiger looking emblems in the fort, there is one at the gate which shows a tiger overpowering a herd of elephants. Though it is unsure which kingdom is depicted by the elephants the Siddis won every battle that was fought for the fort, defeating Shivaji and Sambhaji numerous times, along with Shahs, Portuguese and Bristishers, and standing true to their sign.

Still standing in the ruins

Look at that hidden way
Along with the hidden gate the fort had just one more postern gate that could be used during low tides and lead to a tunnel that led to the main land. This 22 acre large island is fortified with 40 feet high walls that have stood for almost 400 years now and are still strong but unfortunately the village inside is almost lost to the encroaching wilderness that has claimed more than half the island in less than 50 years. 

There was a palace here someday
After you go inside, it is difficult to imagine the place did have a full-fledged village with houses, a temple, a mosque and also a part of the original palace, till the late 1940s. But what will leave you in wander is the sweet water ponds inside a fort that stands amidst saline Arabian Sea. You can still see the village passages and the royal passages around the ponds with some perfectly intact servant quarters.

One of the ponds and its vicinity
But everything else is in shambles. You can see the ruined mosque, the almost nonexistent temple, just a towering wall of the palace and broken houses. No one really knows how all of that was destroyed when no one could ever harm the fort. What still is intact is the bastions and the cellars, and three cannons (from the original 500 in the fort) of which one is the largest one in India – called Kalalbangdi (named after the sound and intensity of its attack). These cannons are believed to be of British design made in India – of 5 metals – and transported to the fort from the mainland which was not Siddi Area. Smart people right? Also you would be surprised to know that these cannons haven’t rusted away even after being exposed to sea breeze all the time and do not heat up at all in the sun.

Waiting to whither away
Anyways people flock around the cannons to click pictures with them (hence I have no pictures from there) but I loved the fort that was silently speaking of its fate over the period. Sambhaji built another sea fort facing Janjira but it was lost but Janjira has a different story to tell. Janjira is that wonder of India that stood against all odds to stay unconquered for more than 400 years but was defeated by time.  

Making a journey back


  1. Wonderful narration and beautiful pictures brought the visit alive!

  2. Great to read, Awesome clicks.

  3. I feel there used to be strength in the structures they built then, so they are still standing fighting many odds (and without any restoration help).

    Anyway, good reading about the ruins.

    1. That is there - the work that went into making these places was so strong and so skilled that they still stand - fighting yes but still there!

      Glad you liked the post :)

  4. Madhushree and I had been to Murud while we were in Pune. We stayed in Golden Swan Hotel. I have also clicked pictures with the glorifying cannons. Lots of memories rushed back reading your post . Wish we could visit this place once again. Will do someday for sure

    1. The cannons are the favourite aren't they! I got my pic clicked with the cannons but couldn't get a separate shot. Anyways glad the post brought back so many memories :D Next time you come to Mumbai plan a weekend to Murud :)

  5. What a place !!!! its very nice to go through the pics with your beautiful writing, got interested to visit.

    1. Thank you so much Jyotirmoy. Glad you liked the post and the place :)

  6. Hello Vaisakhi,

    Very informative and well narrated. Images are unseen before. Loved It. :) Incredible Murud Janjira.

  7. I have never been there... but loved going thru this post.. excellent narration and beautiful clicks...

    1. Glad you liked the post Neha :)
      Hope you get to visit the place soon! :D

  8. Well written post Vaisakhi and nice clicks.. I have heard about this place but never been there.. Have been to Alibaug but was not aware that this fort is so near from there.. may be next time i will also plan to go there :)

    1. Thanks Sneh. Glad you liked the post :) And surely visit this place next time you plan to go to Alibaug.

  9. Well popular tourist attractive centre points - Thanks for blog comments

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