v.1.0 February 22, 2006
Perhaps the most famous of Shivaji’s forts. It is built offshore, near Malvan in District Sindhudurg near Goa and is protected by chains of forts which are described below. The sole approach lay through a narrow channel, which ran between two small islands, on which the forts of Padmadurg and Dhontara were built. Otherwise the area consists of rock reefs.
The location makes a stealthy approach impossible. It is one of three large coastal forts intended to protect the Maharashtra coast.
At this point in our research, we are not aware of why sea approaches had to be covered: as far as we know, the Moguls and their tributary kingdoms were without navies. Nonetheless, the coastal and Arabian Sea trade was vigorous, and the Europeans had begun taking territory in India.
It appears likely, however, that the sea forts must have provided anchorages for Shivaji’s navy. We know that the fort of Vijaydurg, off Bombay, was used in this manner, and capable of taking in vessels of up to 500-ton within its walls. We will see below that Sindhudurg was also capable of protecting inland anchorages.
Photocredit: Sanju and Ankur’s Blog
This wonderful photograph clearly shows the reefs and the gun embrasures. Except for some temples, all the buildings inside the fort have fallen down and disappeared though barely 350 years have passed. The traditional Indian indifference to history is very much to blame.
The availability of three natural streams of water was probably a key factor in the choice of the site.
The fort was put under construction on November 25th, 1664, and finished three years later by a workforce of about 6000.
Shivaji was a master builder of forts, and each is laid out with minute attention to detail. For example, Sindhudurg features 52 embrasures for artillery. It features Shivaji’s signature hidden entrance: to find the entrance an invader had to reconnoiter the folds of the wall from close, where he was vulnerable to fire from the walls.
Photocredit: Sanju and Ankur’s Blog
The author reports the trip takes 15 minutes.
Sindhudurg’s walls are about 3.2 kilometers in length. The foundation walls are 4 meters thick and laid in lead; the rampart walls rise to 10 meters. The enclosed area is about 15 hectares.
Sindhudurg As Part Of a Coastal Fort System
A fascinating aspect of Sindhudurg’s location is that it lies at the center of a fort system.
Immediately protecting the fort from the landward side was the fort of Padmadurg, now almost disappeared into the sea. Padmadurg lay between the Sindhudurg and the coast, and featured a dry dock – a narrow tongue of water between two rock walls. It was Shivaji’s main ship construction yard as well as being part of Sindhudurg’s defenses.
North of Malwan were two additional forts, Rajkot and Sarjekot. Rajkot was northwest of the town, and stood on a promontory, and three of its four faces was protected by the sea. Sarjekot was also on a hilly headland, and it lay 2-km north of Rajkot. Its north face looked seawards; a ditch protected the other three sides.
Sarjekot was constructed in 1668 at the mouth of Kalavali Creek. The creek was navigable inland for 11+ kilometers, and it runs in zig-zags, thus producing natural safe inland anchorages. Presumably many of Shivaji’s ships could shelter in the creek during storm season.
But even these three forts were not enough for Shivaji. The two forts to the north of Malwan had two counterparts to the south of the town, Nivti and Yashavantgad. The latter was at the mouth of a creek like Sarjekot.
There were two more forts, Bhagavantagad to the north and Bharatgad to the south of the creek near Masure.
Details of the fort locations are from http://www.konkandarshan.com/tourist/f_sindhudurg.htm
The Indian Navy named its 3 Nanuchka II missile corvettes after Shivaji’s coastal forts. INS Sindhudurg (K 72) was the second of the class. She was commissioned in 1977 and decommissioned in 2004.
Sindhudurg District lies to the extreme south of Mahrashtra State. Goa is further south, and Mumbai (Bombay) is to the north. The fort is situation off Malvan.