Mirjan Fort

Kumta, Karnataka

#Historical and Heritage


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Mirjan Fort is a beautiful fort located in the village of Mirjan on the west coast of the Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka. The Mirjan Fort has rich history and there are many versions on the origin of the fort.

The fort is built over an area of about 4.1 hectares (10 acres). It is built with laterite stones. It was built with high walls and bastions. The fort has four entrances (one main and three subsidiary entrances) and many wells, which are interlinked and with access channels leading to the circular moat (used as a defence measure to protect the fort) that once fully surrounded the fort, and leading to the canal works outside the fort's limits.

At each entrance, there are wide steps to enter the fort. The fort is double-walled and has high turrets on the bastions. It is now seen mostly in ruins but is being restored by ASI to some extent. The ruins have been inferred as remnants of a secret passage, entry doors, a darbar hall and a market place. Stone images of Hindu gods and goddesses are also seen under a large tree.

 

History

There are many versions to the dating of this fort. The first historical vision the Mirjan Fort was built initially by a Nawayath asper Ibn_Battuta book this fort was first built by Nawayath Sultanates early 1200, then it came under the Vijayanagara Empire. Then the fort was refurbished in 1608 (Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) refers to its building over a period of 1608–1640) on the south east coastal part of the Tadri Creek.

Another vision that is traced to the period 1552–1606 is that the Mirjan Fort was built initially by Queen Chennabhairadevi. She was from the Tuluva-Saluva clan and ruled for a long period (for 54 years) under the protection of the Vijayanagara Empire (the queen preferred to be subordinate (mahamandaleshwara) of Vijayanagar rulers), as the queen of Gersoppa (a small town on the northern banks of the Sharavati River). She was given the epithet "the Pepper Queen or Raina da Pimenta'. She devoutly practiced Jainism and during her rule constructed many Jain basadis. She ruled "in conformity with the doctrine of succession Aliyasantana or Matriarchal, a tradition followed in coastal belt of Konkan and Kerala". Her domain covered North and South Kanara districts and south Goa, which had important ports such as Malpe, Bidnoor, Mirjan, Honnavar, Ankola and Karwar from where the pepper, the most important produce of the region, was shipped to Europe. However, she suffered reverses after the Talikota war in which the Vijayanagar Empire was routed. She then shifted from Mirjan Fort to a safe location in an island in the middle of the Sharavathi River.

According to another version, a Bijapur noble Sherif-ul Mulk built this fort as a first line of defence to protect Kumta town and the Kumta fort located to its south. The fort was built or refurbished in 1608 (Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) refers to its building over a period of 1608–1640) on the south east coastal part of the Tadri Creek.

One more version is that the fort was under the rulers of the Vijayanagara Empire. After the fall of this empire, Bijapur sultans are stated to have captured the fort and Sharief-ul-mulk, the then governor of Goa, is credited to have either built or refurbished the fort. Mirjan was the location of their palace. In the 17th century, the Keladi dynasty, an independent principality then ruled the territory of Kanara, south of Mirjan with their capital at Bednur. In 1676, Keladi queen Chennamma had captured this territory up to Mirjan.

In 1757, the Marathas had seized the Mirjan Fort. The event that led to the capture of the fort was due to the death of Basappa Naik, the last ruler of Bednur, in 1755. His wife had taken control, representing her 17-year-old adopted son, Chanbasaviah. Since her adopted son opposed her taking a "paramour", she got him murdered. This had resulted in a revolt by the agitated local people, and taking advantage of the situation the Marathas had captured the fort.

In the period between May 1783 and March 1784, the British, under the command of Major Torriano had captured the fort before proceeding to Honnavar.

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