Murud-Janjira – A 15th-century Island Fort in India
Murund Janjira is an oval island off the Murund coast of Konkan in the district of Raigad in Maharashtra. It is one of the favorite getaways of people from Mumbai but also attracts several foreign visitors. The island is home to an ancient fort spread over 22 acres of land. This is the only fort on the western coast deemed impregnable and unconquered through history. What makes it famous was that the Murud Janjira fort, stronghold of the Abyssinian Siddi kings, was once guarded by 100 cannons. The very image of this mid-sea fortress guarded by booming cannons and fierce kings is enough to leave one spellbound.
What is Murud Janjira?
The name of this coastal village and the island comes from two different words – Murud, a derivative of the Konkani word Morod (a reference to the Abyssinian rulers) and Janjira, a derivative of the Arabic word jazeera meaning island.
History of Murud Janjira
The history of Murud Janjira dates back to the 15th century when the island was fortified by local fishermen to protect their families from pirates. The Siddi Emperor Malik Amber, the Abyssinian-origin de facto ruler of Ahmednagar, then commissioned a rock fortresses to be built in place of the rudimentary garrison preset on the island. Ever since the Siddis settled in Murud Janjira; the fortress remained their source of inspiration and pride. The Marathas, the British, and even the Portuguese mounted repeated attacks but the fortress remained unconquered. It is believed that even through long periods of siege, the well in the island yielded sweet water allowing the residents to survive.
How to Get There
Murud Janjira is an island off the Konkan coast in the Raigad District of Maharashtra. The nearest railway station is the one at Roha but Mumbai is the nearest major junction. From Roha, the coast is about an hour by car. Taxis are easily available at the station and are willing to take tourists to Murud Janjira and back. The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport of Mumbai is about 142 kilometres from Murud Janjira and is the nearest airport. The roads are excellent and regular buses and coaches also ply from Pune, Dadar, Thane, Borivali, and Mumbai central. For larger groups and families hiring a cab or a minivan may be the best option.
Tourist Attractions In and Around Murud Janjira
- Murud Janjira Fort – Right in the middle of the azure waters of the Arabian Sea is the island of Murud Janjira. The fort on the island is a heritage structure and is its main attraction. Dilapidated and overgrown, and yet charming and stately, this fort is testimony to the rich heritage of the region. Look out for the massive entrance with a carving of six elephants surrounding a tiger.
- Murud Beach – One of the least crowded and most beautiful beaches of the region, the Murud Beach is a relaxing stretch of shimmering golden sand. The most beautiful times to be at the beach are during sunrise or at sunset when the fort seems to light up against the backdrop of the sun.
- Garambhi Falls – The Garambhi falls are one of the most beautiful natural falls in the western part of the country. A drop of about 100 metres, pristine pure waters and a perennial falls surrounded by lush green forests. Here is your natural paradise.
- Garambhi Dam – This massive dam was built by Nawab Sir Siddi Ahmed Khan, the last of the Siddi rulers of the region and dedicated to Queen Victoria, the British monarch of the times. It is the main supply of fresh water for the entire region.
- Kasa Fort – The Kasa or Padmadurg Fort is an ancient fort built by Sambaji, grandson of Chhatrapati Shivaji. Surrounded by water, it is often inaccessible but is also a beautiful fortress and a great tourist attraction.
- Ahmedganj Palace – The palace is the current royal residence of the Nawab of the region. The beautiful palace is surrounded by mosques and royal cenotaphs.
- Gol Gumbaz – The octagonal tomb of Mohammed Adil Shah, Sultan of Bijapur, is a beauty to behold. The unique construction of the tomb makes it special. The acoustics of this structure are such that each sound is echoed 9 times. The seven tiered building is a favorite with tourists.
- Siddi Tombs – These tombs of the Siddi rulers are best known for their Indo-Saracenic architecture. The Persian inscriptions on the tombs are believed to point to a hidden treasure. Many treasure hunters try their hand at deciphering the location to this day.
When to Visit
Like most of the coastal regions of the Western Ghats, Maharashtra tends to become uncomfortably humid and hot during summer months. The sultry days of summer give way to a torrid monsoon. A rising tide and rough waters are likely to mess up your travel plans. The best season to visit Murud Janjira is winter. From October through March the days are cool and sometimes sunny and nights are fabulously pleasant.
What to Eat?
Not unlike the rest of Maharashtra, Raigad is famous for its tangy but light food. Do try the potato curry (Misal) and the Vada Pav (local version of burger). For the main course you may want to sample the local chappatis, dal, and vegetable meals. Do try out the famous Maharashtrian sweets – Barfis, and Srikhand. Unlike other parts of coastal India, seafood is not very popular here. On the island – Do try some of the fresh coconuts sold near the fort.
Regular ferry services between Kashid Beach and the Murud Janjira island are likely to cost about INR 20 per head. The boats are cramped and it is advisable for groups to negotiate on the fare of the entire boat (about INR 400-500). The boatmen often act as guides too.
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