The historical Janjira Fort. In the middle of the sea. Photographs: Mahesh Patwardhan

The Janjira fort is situated near the coastal village of Murud, in the Raigad district of Maharashtra, India.

Murud, a sleepy fishing town, lies about 165km south of Mumbai.

The fortress of Janjira was built by the Siddis who were descendants of sailor-traders from the Horn of Africa.

It became the capital of the Siddis of Janjira.

It is famous for being the only fort along India's western coast that remained undefeated despite Maratha, Dutch and English East India Company attacks.

Although constructed on an island, the towering walls seem to emerge from the sea.

With a height of over 90ft above the sea and 20 ft strong foundation, it took 22 years to build the fort.

The only way to reach Janjira is by local boat from Rajpuri Port, about 5km south of Murud.

Janjira fort was originally constructed in the 12th century by Siddis, businessmen turned rulers from Abyssinia, near Africa. While that puts the age of the fort at over 900 years old, most records say that the fort in its current form was built over 300 years back by Siddi Johar.

The fort, built centuries ago, is almost entirely intact even today, despite the ravages of wind and tide, a testimony to the marvels of ancient engineering.

Inside the fort is a deep well with cold and sweet water - a wonder of nature in the midst of the saline sea.

Inside the fort walls, the ruins of a mosque, a palace and bath with water channeled from streams, tell of ancient times when royals occupied the quarters.

There are several towers and turrets in the Janjira Fort, which are used for keeping guns and cannons. This fort had a total of 500 canons once but now only a few of them exist.

These cannons were largely responsible for repelling oncoming enemies from the sea. Kalal Bangadi, Chavari and Landa Kasam are some other well known guns that are found inside the fort.

Among the many cannons mounted in the fort, the most famous cannon is the 'Katlal Bhankari'.

This is the only fort in the 700+ km coastline of Maharashtra which remained unconquered.
Attacked by the Portuguese, the British, the Marathas, the fort remained unconquored.

Although it is famous as a fort that was never conquered, it could well give in to the ravages of nature in the years to come.

How many years before its walls slowly turn to rubble and its interior back into forest?

A Fortress Out at Sea

Photographs: Mahesh Patwardhan

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