Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Storming Sewri Part 2 - The Sewri Fort





I first read about Sewri Fort in an article on the various forts in Mumbai. Every time I visited the Sewri Jetty to see the flamingos and other birds, I wondered where the fort was. A friend later told me that it was just off the road we took to reach the jetty. Unfortunately, ardent birdwatchers aren’t always heritage enthusiasts, and I never found company to go to the fort. Much as I love to explore, going into a deserted and ruined fort alone didn't seem the safest thing to do, and the fort remained on my wish list for all these years. When Travel-Logs announced their Sewri Walk, the one place I was keen to visit was the fort. Thankfully, the dates and timings were convenient for once, and I eagerly jumped on to the bandwagon!




The Sewri fort was built in 1680 by the British, on the island of Parel. The main purpose of this fort was to act as a watch tower, given its vantage position overlooking the eastern seaboard as well as the mainland. It was captured by the Siddis in 1689, and remained in their hands for a few years till the British managed to drive them away once again. The fort is said to have been instrumental in repelling an attack by the Portuguese in 1772. So much for history... now for what remains of it....



The fort is barely visible from the road. Newer buildings have come up in the vicinity... not just warehouses, but also residential buildings, which succeed in hiding this remnant of our history. If I had gone there alone, I would have wondered if there really was a fort here.

Can you see the fort? This is the view as seen from the road? 


Right at the entrance is a dargah, which is what draws crowds. We found ourselves there on an Urs day, and the place was teeming with people – pilgrims, loiterers, as well as policemen.





The fort has been ‘restored’, which seems to mean that almost everything has been covered with concrete. What I took to be the dome –like ceiling of the original structure is apparently an attempt to bolster the weight of the concrete used for reconstruction, something which is deeply disappointing.




In spite of all this, traces of the structure remain and help us imagine what it might have been like, in a day when the place was solely used as a look-out at a time when war could break out anytime!






It is obvious that this must have been a functional fort – there are no embellishments, no decorations. It’s simply a watchtower, with space for those assigned to it. Everywhere there are holes, probably used for cannons or rifles.





Though the fort is said to have been built in 1680, the date over the entrance says 1734.. or 1736, the variation coming from the way the last digit is inscribed...



And yet, there is something interesting about the design... the curves give it a completely different look from other forts I have seen. 






Its such a pity that we have a tendency to deface every wall we can see... and heritage walls, even those covered with concrete, seem to invite people to render themselves immortal by etching their names on it!




The staircases are interesting... most of them curved, but unfortunately, thanks to the renovation, only a few of them actually lead somewhere!




Also, so much work has been done that it is now almost impossible to distinguish the different renovations carried out in different eras. 




The best part of the fort is surely the view. On one side, you have an uninterrupted view of the sea... including the Gharapuri, or Elephanta Islands...


Unfortunately, while the view is great, it also shows us just how badly the mangroves have been maintained. 



And on the other side, the view extends over Sewri – Wadala. If it weren’t for the high rises, we could probably see even further.





While I was searching for information about the fort, I realised that Mumbai once had 11 forts in all, of which 8 still remain, though mostly in ruins. Three have been demolished over the years. There are few cities in the world which can boast of such heritage, but it is sad to think that we hardly appreciate it. How many of us even know the forts within our city? And how many of them have we seen? Here is a timeline of the various forts in Mumbai. The image is from Wikipedia. For more information on the forts, click here.



My desire to visit the Sewri fort has now been fulfilled, but it has evoked another desire now... to visit all the forts left in Mumbai... or at least the ones which are open to the general public. Now let’s see how I can make that wish come true! 


24 comments :

  1. Good to know Mumbai has so many forts. Terrific photoblog on Sewri Fort.

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  2. Hope you get to visit the other forts too! The neglect story gets repeated almost everywhere :(

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    1. Its such a pity to see the neglect, Mridula....and as you say, its everywhere, which just makes it worse.... but in spite of that,its still such a pleasure to visit them... hope i can visit all someday.

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  3. WoW, sadly i haven't come across many posts on such interesting sites in mumbai. Will visit here when i am in Mumbai next :)

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    1. oh, there are so many interesting places in Mumbai, deej! but sad to say, even after all these years, i hardly know them at all! but next time you are here, let me know and maybe in showing you around, i can see a bit more too :D

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  4. Nice fort. You have described it well.

    http://rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

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  5. Well, I was not aware Mumbai has a fort, too! Great!

    http://renuka-mytraveldiary.blogspot.in/2013/03/nainital-lucerne-of-india.html

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    1. Thanks Renuka... unfortunately, few people are aware of this!

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  6. Nice photos Anu ! I could relive my time spent there two years back. The dome white earlier. I have been to this fort along with a visit to Sewri jetty and the condition of the fort is indeed dilapidated.

    I have written how I felt about it here. You can compare photos also. :)
    http://www.lemonicks.com/Travel/2010/06/15/sewri-fort-mumbai/

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    1. Thanks Nisha! I did read your post.... saw it before I went, actually :D

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  7. Nice photographs. I am happy that most of the things are in tact (even if restored without application of mind). Last year I could only visit Sion fort. My remarks made earlier (yesterday) seems to have failed to register.

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    1. Thanks PNS. i am so sorry your earlier comment wasnt registered... seems like the kinks in the comment are still there :(

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  8. I have been to Sewri Fort. It was an amazing experience to see so many Flamingo. Overall great job with your post just reading it refreshed my memory.

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  9. I have visited the Castella de Aguada or the Bandra Fort saw the same signs of restoration as the Sewri Fort. Let's do a deal - you take me to Sewri Fort and I'll take you to Bandra Fort, and then we'll explore the other remaining forts together. What say?

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  10. Nice...!! I went to India last with a wonderful offer of xclusivevacations.com and I enjoyed my trip thoroughly. The forts and palaces in Rajasthan are spellbinding and the arrangements made by my tour operator were even better than my expectations as the cost was quite less. I would like to visit India again.

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    1. I hope you get to visit India again, Laura!

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  11. Wonderful to know about this fort. Nice to know about 11 forts around Mumbai . Flamingos of Sewri are also interesting .

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  12. It was really good to read this post. For all the years of growing up in Bombay, I didn't know about this fort. Some of the details seen in your photos are really interesting and would have loved to check out the view from there! We lived in Sion, so know the Sion Fort since we'd go up there often during our summer vacations.

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    1. Thanks Kiran! I didnt know about this one earlier, either.. and sadly, I wasnt aware of the Sion fort for a long time either.. and still havent been there :(

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