MURUD – JANJIRA is the local name for a fort, situated on an island just off the coastal village of Murud, in the Raigad District of Maharashtra, India.
The word JANJIRA is not native to India and may have originated after the Arabic word JAZEERA (Island). Murud was once known in Marathi as HABSAN (of HABSHI or ABYSSINIAN). The name of the fort is a concatenation of the Konkani and Arabic words for “island” (MOROD and JAZEERA). The word MOROD is peculiar to Konkani and is absent in Marathi.
Murud – Janjira Fort is situated on an oval-shaped rock (instead of the “oblong” and “square-shape”) off the Arabian Sea coast near the port town of Murud, 165km south of Mumbai. Janjira is considered one of the strongest marine forts in India. The fort is approached by sailboats from Rajapuri Jetty.
The fort has 26 rounded bastions. Now in ruins, the fort in its heyday was a full-fledged living fort with all the necessary facilities —— palaces, quarters for officers, mosque, two small 60ft-deep natural fresh water lakes. On the outer wall flanking the main gate, there is a sculpture depicting a tiger-like beast clasping elephants in its claws. The four elephants symbolize Shivaji’s major enemy dynasties on which he possessed control, whereas he tiger-like beast symbolizes control of Shivaji on these. There are prominent Ashoka Chakras on all the major gates of Janjira Fort.
A special attraction of this fort are three gigantic cannons named KALALBANGDI, CHAVRI & LANDA KASAM. These cannons were said to be feared for their shooting range. Another gate to the west is sea-facing, called the DARYA DARWAZA.
There is also another fortress, named GHOSALGAD, which is located on top of the hill around 32km east of Murud – Janjira, that was used as a outpost for the rulers of Janjira.
Janjira fort, built at the end of the 17th century, is almost entirely intact even today, despite the ravages of wind and tide, a testimony to the marvels of ancient engineering. According to all accounts, the JAL – DURK (Sea Fort) could not be conquered by any of the Kings ruling the neighbouring territories. Surprisingly, not even Shivaji could acquire the fort despite 13 expeditions to conquer the fort. His son, Sambhaji, tried a unique approach to capture the fort : digging an underwater tunnel to enter. But, he too failed in his attempt. Not to be deterred, Sambhaji constructed another fort just across the bay, called KANSA. Most of the earth that was dug up to build the tunnel was used in the making of this 2nd fort, which was to be the base for future attacks on the Sea Fort of Janjira. It took 22years to build Kansa, and it is constructed on 22acres of land.
Visitors can gain access to the Janjira Fort from Rajapuri. The fort wall is about 40ft high and has 19 rounded porches or arches, some of which still have cannons mounted on them. Inside the fort walls, the ruins of a mosque, a palace and bath with water channelled from streams, tell of ancient times when royal ladies occupied the quarters. The deep well with cold and sweet water —- a wonder of nature in the midst of the saline sea, still provides water to quench the thirst of the weary visitor. This invincible fort remained unconquered until it became part of the Indian Territory after Independence from the British in 1947.