Mumbai’s forts were built to guard the city, a major trading centre during the British and Portuguese times, but today, they themselves are in desperate need of protection. The state Directorate of Archaeology & Museums is now on a mission to develop a Fort Circuit, beginning with the restoration of the Bandra, Worli, Sewri and Ghodbunder forts.
The authorities hope that after the deadline of March 2008 is met, Mumbaikars and tourists will watch these forts come back to life.
The Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry will partner MTDC and Department of Archaeology
in post-restoration management.
Ghodbunder fort >>
The Portuguese built the Ghodbunder fort, near Mira Road-Bhayander, but there is neither archaeological nor literary evidence to precisely date this monument. There are several records, such as old maps and texts, which tell of several attempts by the Marathas to capture this fort. The Portuguese successfully resisted the attack by Shivaji’s force. However, later the Marathas captured it.
Sewri fort >>
The Sewri fort, originally meant to act as a check post, was built by the British on a quarried hill in 1680. It was later converted into a prison and also used for storage. In 1772, it held off a Portuguese attack. After Independence, the fort was taken over by the Bombay Port Trust.
Worli fort >>
It was built by the Portuguese during the 16th century. Guards were posted to keep a watch on the seafronts and gun slits can still be seen on the walls.
Bandra fort >>
In 1737, the Maratha army attacked this fort, but could not capture it. When the Marathas conquered most of the northern Konkan region, the Portuguese realised they could no longer defend the fort. That’s when the British suggested that the Portuguese destroy the fort rather than surrender it. In 1739, both the European powers did just that.
|Bhushan Gagrani, managing director, MTDC|
Maharashtra boasts of more than 350 forts and most of these are hill or sea forts. Restoring them is very expensive, time consuming and difficult because of their very nature. It would be impossible to take all forts for restoration. For instance, restoring the Raigad fort itself would cost Rs 100 crore. So, these four forts have been taken up initially. There has been some encroachment and this has been an obstacle.
|R N Hegde, director,|
Department of Archeology, Maharashtra
The actual cleaning work has started at Ghodbunder Fort. It was so full of vegetation that we had to remove some of that for easier access. In fact, the walls are being held up by the roots of the trees.
The Sewri Fort is the most beautiful of these four forts. We have already removed truckloads of debris and we are developing the Sewri Bay area to make a gallery for flamingo viewing.