The coastal region saw hectic activities around 1600 AD. The British as well as Portuguese persist in their intimidator tactics. To reign in their forces and to keep Khem Sawant under control , Shivaji came to Malvan via Nerur par. He realized that the best way to keep the trouble & make in check to enemy, they had to fortify the defense of the coastal region. During the visit to Malvan, he came across a small Island called ‘Kurte’. Shivaji was highly impressed by the sight as thought of constructing a fort there. The work on the project start on 25th Nov 1664.
Janbhatt Abhyankar & his nephew Janbhatt Bin Pilambhatt Upadhye were commissioned to do the job. As the story goes, two priests, first they decline to carry out the work due to fear of Adilshahi rulers. But finally yielded , when the king Shivaji promised that they had nothing to fear from any quart as that he had decided to station himself in the area. A sculptures of Sun, Moon, Shri Ganesh, Shiv lingam, Nandi (Bullock) were drawn on the rock, near to Dandi. The religious part of the function was done front to the same rock called ‘Moryacha Dhonda’. Shivaji spent a couple of days in area after foundation laying ceremony.
After the death of Shivaji, Sambhaji & then Rajaram succeeded the throne respectively. On Rajaram’s death, A cleavage ensured in the relationship between Shahu & Tarabai. Rani Tarabai entrusted to defence of Konkan coast to the upcoming Kanhoji Angre. But Angre struck a deal with Shahu entrusting the coastal defense to him. In 1731, by a treaty between Shahu & Sambhaji raje Bhosale, Malvan –Panhala belt came under Bhosale. Bhosale started to control Sindhudurga.
British, as per their policy , tried to play Peshave against Angre. After the latter’s defeat, with the help of Peshave’s , British tried to gain the strength in the coastal region. Their ships traveled in konkan region for trades. They, however, had to face opposition from local Sardar. British force with major Godson & captain Watson capture the fort in1765 & renamed it ‘Augustus’.
Kolhapurkar rulers Jijabai could not stand this ignominy & under a treaty signed on January, 12, 1766 . bought the fort from British for Rs 7 Lakhs & some land. British were allowed to trade through the area. The locals viz. Kolis & Bhandaris restarted harassing the British traders. So they recaptured the fort in 1772. Thereby strengthening
On 1st October, 1812 , six month prior to the end of Peshave rule, British again attacked the fort & made goods with whatever documents & articles of Shivaji’s period they could lay their hands on. On 27th , October 1910 , The government declared the fort as protected area.
At present the fort is in the care of Archeological department. In 1962 , the Chief Minister, Shri Y. B. Chavan visited to the fort and announced a donation of Rs 90,000/- to repair the damage. In July 2002, a part of the wall admeasuring 10 meters in length & 8 meters in height gave way. The repairs were carried out with the help of the amount of 10 lakhs contributed by Mr Suresh Prabhu from MP’s funds. & another Rs 50 lakhs by Shivsena leaders.
Today this historical monument is in dilapidated stage.
Construction of Sindhudurga Fort.
Considering direction of the wind & force of the rain water, it was decided to start work of the fort from southern end. But as a plinth level came to about 25 ft., the boulders stones clashed down. All efforts to mend matters proved futile. It was then decided to take resort to British Godam of Rajapur. From where 500 Khandis of lead were bought, melted & sprayed at the base of the rampart. Near 4000 workers & 100 Portuguese toiled at the site under the vigil of 5000 Mavals (loyal). The stones of boulders required for the work were brought from far away Phonda & Amboli. The workers were staying in Devli & Kumbharmath areas.
The circumference of the fort measured near about 3 Kms. The fort built on 48 acres of land, Known as ‘Kurte island’. For construction of fort they decided to use lime for joining huge stones of boulders. Multiple tones of lime was necessary. The task of collecting various kinds of shells from Nivati to Kalawali belt was entrusted to poor labors in the region. A conch opening on the right side which was found in the pile & which was considered auspicious was ceremonially presented to the king. Crushers were put into operation to crush the pile. For this job, bullocks were specially brought from Ghat area. The fortified nature of the entire construction could be seen from the fact. After every boulder, a basket of lime (Caustic Alkaline Substance) mixture was used. The height of side walls were raised depending on the strength of the wind.
The fort has 52 bastions. The fort barrier of the entrance is so skillfully made that the outsiders wanting to enter the fort does not come to know the existence. The entrance barrier (the main gate) made of the hardest type of wood (oomber), is 9 ft in height & 3.5 ft in width. Above that is Nagarkhana (built by Shahu) where drums were played to naval important events. The main barricade leads between two bastions. The left side bastion is 20 ft in height & the right one is 40 ft in height. To beat the force of the waves, shivaji had constructed 3 mighty defense walls parallel to foundation of fort.
The zigzag defense wall of the fort is between eight & ten feet in width. To maneuver the fort as well as war materials two subsidiary fortress were built to the south of the entrance. Two watch towers were also constructed within a distance of half a mile. Elaborated & concealed arrangement are noticeable along the wall to ensure the rapid movement of the materials. Although Kurte island is rocky area surrounded by sea water there are four sweet water wells in the fort. Three of them are known as Dudh Bav (Milk Well), Dahi Bav (Curd Well) & Sakhar Bav (Sugar well), All of them had sweet water even though island is surrounded by sea water is veritable miracle in the fort. During Shivaji’s days, there were about 150 houses inside the fort. On western side of the fort there is dungeon (Subterranean place of confinement) for prisoners. More than a dozen water closets are also provided for the use of the people. In order to safety of the residency in rainy season, the slope of the inner floor in the fort inclined toward the defense wall. In addition with 50 ft watch tower to the south there is also a flag post stands. It is said that in old days a flag was hoisted on the height of 228 ft. The concept of the fort construction is entirely Shivaji’s thought. Hiroji Indulkar supervised the entire work. A dome shaped construction on north sided rampart of the fort contain impression of Shivaji’s right hand & left foot. The home warning was performed on Friday, March 29, 1667 where Shivahi was present. A small palace was also constructed in the fort for stay of Shivaji.
Shivaji’s temple is the main temple in the fort. It is only one of its type in the country. This temple was built by Rajaram which was extended with construction of outer hall by Shahu. It has an idol of Shivaji seen without beard & mustache. The legend behind this idol says that Rajaram requested Shivaji & draw a portrait after the death of Shivaji’s mother, Jijabai. That time as a customary Shivaji shaved off his beard & mustache. With this portrait Rajaram ordered an idol to sculpt.
The fort has a Shiv temple known as Amriteshwar temple. A little ahead from the Shiv temple there is a Bhavani temple with Goddess Bhavani idol installed in Madev temple also has a shiv lingam installed in it. A legend has at that there is an underground tunnel in the fort to effect emergency exits. To escape attack from Shahu , Tarabai came to the fort Sindhudurga in 1706.
The dry area in south is only an opening to the fort known as ‘Ranichi vel’, where Tarabai used to bathe.. Because of the sea water all around the land inside the fort is unsuitable for cultivation. Only vegetables re grown there. The land now mostly belongs to private owners. There are some 300-400 coconut trees at present. One such tree with twin branches , indeed , stands out. In July 2002, a part of the wall admeasuring 10 meters in length & 8 meters in height gave way. Today Sindhudurga fort has only 10 houses having some 20 people.
Location & Tips For Tourist
Fort is just 1 Km away from Malvan jetty. Small safety boats with outboard machines are used for public transportation. Maximum 20 tourist can be adjusted in a boat. Ticket fare is Rs 27 for adult & 14 Rs for Child including return journey. 1 hr is given to the tourist for excursion in the fort.
The boat ride to the fort is quite playful, but it is easier if you are visiting during tourist season from 8 A.M. to 6 P.M. daily.
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