May 1st, 2008
How ironic, I thought as I gingerly stepped off the off the rocking sailboat onto the wet steps of Janjira. Shivaji tried to raid this fort several times and yet never managed to set his foot in Janjira. And all I had to do to get here was pay Rs.400 ($8) for the boat rental.
Tired of the pirates, in the 15th century, the fishermen of the Rajapuri village built for themselves a wooden fort (medhekot). Between 1567 and 1571 it was razed and rebuilt. (Our guide insisted that the fort was first built in 1118CE. I really could not find references to support that data point). The workmen who built the fort knew their tide-table well. They constructed the outer walls during low tides and innards during the high. The fort was ruled by Assyrians until it became part of independent India in 1947. Besides Janjira, there are only two other unconquered forts in India: Daulatabad near Aurangabad and Golconda in Hyderabad.
The main entrance It has been designed to be invisible amidst the shadows of the strategically placed bastions. So much so that the entrance is apparent only after coming within sniffing distance of it. (see photo series later in the article).
The entry way has a beautifully carved royal emblem - the lion walking over elephants.
The fort, at last count, has over 450 cannons including Persian and Arabic. The most famous of the cannons - Kalal Bangadi - still ominously points at the Rajapuri village
Despite being in the middle of the sea, the fort has two sweat water tanks. The fort, built over 22 acres, is self sufficient with its own mosques, temples, farms, and has withstood sieges many sieges, the longest lasting over 14 months.
The majestic Royal Courtroom
The fort is in advanced stages of decay and yet, very, very formidable. After all, the fort has withstood the English, the Portuguese and the Marathas for 500 years, with a bit of TLC it can go on for another 500. Three and half floors of majestic Raj darbar – the royal courtroom – is the biggest surviving building and gives a glimpse of it’s better days.
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A boorooz – turret - overlooking the main entrance to snipe the the invading enemy
Beautiful Mughal-style arches in the watchtower that has portholes on all sides providing a 360 degree view.
Chor Dindi – a secret escape that goes down to the water line where a few boats would be waiting. From outside, the opening looks just like another window - another marvel of its design
Sambhaji, Shivaji's son tried to build this Fort Kasa to counter the strategic importance of Janjira. Sambhaji also tried to dam the creek by filling it with rocks and stones for a full frontal attack. Sambhaji could not do what his father could not either. Sambhaji died in 1689 at the hands of Aurangzeb.
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Here are some photos that how easily the main entrance disappears I took three straight-line photos, a minute apart, as we headed back to Rajapuri. In the second frame, the doorway is almost gone. In the third, Janjira is an shell!
Here is a zoomed photo of Janjira. You know exactly where the main entrance is but you still cannot see it - despite the the boats being a dead giveaways.