Vijaydurg Fort

Ratnagiri, Maharashtra

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The oldest fort on Sindhudurg coast constructed in the regime of Raja Bhoj of shilahar dynasty in 1205 (construction period 1193-1205). The fort was earlier known as "Gheria" as it is situated in the village "Girye". Shivaji Maharaj won this fort from Adilshaha of Bijapur in 1653 and renamed it as “Vijay Durg” as the then Hindu solar year’s name was “Vijay”. Vijay means Victory.

The Vijaydurg Fort stands testimony to the naval prowess of the Marathas. It is 500 km south of Mumbai on the western coast of Maharashtra. The village close to the Vijaydurg fort gets its name from the fort. Vijaydurg was earlier known as ‘Gheria’ as it is was surrounded on three sides by the sea. It was renamed Vijaydurg after it was conquered by Maratha King Shivaji in 1653 from Adilshah of Bijapur. Vijay stands for ‘victory’ making it the ‘fort of victory’. Shivaji developed the 17 acre fort as an important base which was used to harbor and repair Maratha warships.

The Vijaydurg Fort is situated at the mouth of Vaghotan River that separates Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg districts. It is the largest fort on the coast and stands mighty due to its fine architecture. The fortress was virtually impregnable because of the 40 km shallow creek which acted as a natural protection around the fort. The shallow creek made it impossible for massive enemy ships to approach the fort. Marks of cannon balls can still be seen on the fort walls.

The fort is constructed using laterite stones. A 10 m high compound wall, about 300 ft away from the fort deep in the sea, served as a defense against attacking ships. Ships collided with the wall and sank. The fort also has a 200 m long tunnel for emergency evacuation.

These features of the fort make it highly admirable. The fort was also known as the ‘Eastern Gibraltar,’ because of its imposing presence.

 

Features of Architectural Interest

  • According to unconfirmed reports, there is a 200 meter long, undersea/underground tunnel from the fort to the palatial Dhulap house in the village. Supposedly, the roof of the tunnel has been pinched to protect it from landslides and it is also well ventilated. Now the tunnel is partially blocked. If the presence of the tunnel can be confirmed, and the tunnel cleared, it could serve as a tourist attraction of historical and architectural interest.
  • Recent oceanographic evidence supports the existence of an undersea wall, constructed out at sea at a depth of 8–10 meter depth undersea. Made of laterite, the wall is estimated to be 122 meter long, 3 meter high & 7 meter broad. Attacking ships often met a watery grave after colliding against this wall. When the Siddhi of Janjira was going to attack Vijaydurg, he got a message from Portuguese telling him that they had lost 2 of their ships while they were nearing the fort.
  • 1.5 km from the fort up the Waghotan Creek, exist the remains of a naval dock carved from rock. This is where Maratha warships were built and repaired. The ships built here were of the 400-500 tonnage capacity. This 109 meter long and 70 meter wide dock faces the north side and is an achievement of Maratha naval architecture. Most of the smaller ships used to be docked near this small inner port. The southern and eastern side is cut out of a natural rock and rest is dry masonry. In addition to this a number of grapnel and triangular stone anchors were noticed in the adjoining area of dockyard.
  • On the other hill in front of the fort a wall was built to deceive the enemy. When the enemy attacked the wall, he had already wasted his ammunition and before he could understand, he would be attacked by Marathas from the rear side.
  • The Archaeological Survey of India had undertaken restoration and repair works for Maratha forts in Maharashtra which included Vijaydurg Fort along with Shivneri and Sindhudurg Fort.
  • The fort has many monuments, now in ruins which show the characteristics of Maratha architecture. The food storage and court are such classic examples.
  • This fort also has a Khalbatkhana, where important meetings were held. There are only 3 forts that had a Khalbatkhana. They are Rajgad, Raigad and Vijaydurg.

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