The Magnificent Sea Forts of Ratnagiri

On a beautiful background of the vast blue sea and the surrounding dense greenery, there stand the great sea or marine forts built on the meeting point of the river and the sea that is the creeks of Konkan. Standing on the western coastline of Konkan, you can see these forts standing strong even today as the great protectors of the sea. A sea fort is either completely surrounded by water by virtue of being on a coast or sometimes by the land on the other side. It may be a fortified island, built on a large part of an island or a tidal island, a construction built on the seabed, or consist of stone pillars erected on the seabed. The architects have sought to command a sea lane or block a potential landing place. Being surrounded by water impedes a land attack.

The sea forts in Ratnagiri region have a vast history. More than 52 mountain and marine forts in Ratnagiri district were constructed since the time of some of its early ruling dynasties like the Satvahanas, Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas, Shilahars, Mughals, Marathas, and the Britishers. They were a primary defence mechanism against enemy invasions and were called ‘Durg or Killa’ in the local language.  The Great Maratha King, Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who was a true visionary, realized the importance of strategically located strong forts at a young age and went on to capture and build many forts in his struggle to establish a ‘Hindavi Swarajya’ or the `Independent Land` form the Mughal invaders. Sea forts were created in the middle of the sea with a solid foundation and provided an efficient base for controlling sea traffic and trade.

Along with the main sea fort built on the creeks, there are also smaller forts which can be found on the rivers on the place where the boats can travel up to. These forts were built so that a clear view of the sea and the forthcoming fleet of ships could be seen. For thousands of years, Ratnagiri was a major destination for sea trade. Big ships carrying raw materials would dock at the Ratnagiri harbours. Therefore, these forts were built with the purpose of protection and fortification against these foreign traders and any troubles that might arise between the two ruling powers. The one who ruled the sea ruled the trade in that area too.

When the merchandise would arrive from abroad, it would first be checked at the larger port such as Jaigad, Dabhol or Rajapur in Ratnagiri district, and once the trade was completed, this merchandise would be transferred to smaller boats and then taken to the smaller port through the creek. This merchandise would be taken to the smaller ports in the interior parts and then it would be taken to the local markets on bullock carts or donkeys. Small and big sea forts were built at equal distances to keep a watch on this entire trade process. You can find sea forts built on the sea trade route of Ratnagiri district. The Ratnadurg fort on the coast of Ratnagiri city is standing there since 12th century. In the medieval period, Jaigad was built at the mouth or the entrance of Shastri creek, Purnagad fort was built on the Muchakundi river, Govalkot fort on the Vashishthi River, and Anjanwel fort near the famous Dabhol port were built on the mouth of the creeks on the western coastline.

Today these distinct Marine forts are no longer important as `vigilant forts’ as they were, but even today they gain the popularity as scenic and beautiful locations on the coasts of Ratnagiri. With their ruins and remains they try to unfold the glorious history of their era. Come visit these historically rich and naturally enthralling sea fort in Ratnagiri, experience the ancient architecture and the famous trade routes of these creek forts and live in the nearby beach resorts and comfortable home stays.

Tikleshwar Temple

If you wish to experience the true beauty of nature and a peaceful atmosphere, you must make it a point to visit the Tikleshwar temple in Devrukh. Situated in the beautiful green ranges of the Sahyadris, the Tikleshwar temple is one of the major pilgrimage spots that you cannot afford to miss during your visit to Ratnagiri in the Konkan region. Devrukh is a famous town in the tehsil of Sangameshwar in the Ratnagiri district of Indian state of Maharashtra. Every year Sangameshwar experiences heavy monsoon due to its location in the vicinity of Sahyadris.

Standing on top of the Tikaleshwar Mountain, you can see the long spread dense green forests, terrifyingly steep valleys and the glorified beauty of the rugged Sahyadris. Very few people know about this temple as it is situated deep in the forest ranges. Like the famous Marleshwar waterfall, the nearby Tikleshwar temple has remained unknown to the tourists. If you travel along the path that leads to Tikleshwar, you can easily notice the temple painted in white from a considerable distance. The area of the temple is pretty spacious. Along with the devotees, many trekkers and mountaineers are attracted towards the beautiful valleys of the Tikaleshwar. Just opposite the temple, there is a concrete rooftop provided for the shelter of the devotees and visitors. There is a Pradakshina Marg just below the peak which is a path around the temple which allows the devotees to circle the temple. This is an ancient tradition which is followed by all the Indian devotees. One can find some caves and stone cisterns consisting of clean, pure water on that path.

The view of the valleys and the mountain ranges seen from the top of the temple is truly mesmerizing. You can see the Maimatgad fort to the east and a road leading to the Marleshwar temple from the top of the mountain. There is a path from the top of the hill that leads through the Gothane village, the Kundi Ghat leading from the Kundi village to the Chandel village, all of this area can be seen from the top of the Tikleshwar temple mountain. But now, all the roads leading from the top of this mountain have been closed because the villages like Chandel and Rundiv have been shifted from here due to the Sahyadri Tiger Reserve Project. And this whole region has been declared as a reserved and protected forest area. Thus, the Tikleshwar temple is situated in a unique location.

The Talawde village situated at the base of Tikaleshwar is 4 km away from Devarukh. A new road has been constructed from there to climb the Tikaleshwar Mountain. You can also drive up to the top. But the last quarter mile must be climbed on foot and is known to be a very steep and tiring climb. Adventure lovers and trekker usually love travelling on such roads. The Chotekhani fort and Bhavanigad can also be found in this region itself. Along with that, the Dhodhavane waterfall which flows throughout the year is also situated in the Tikleshwar and Prachitgad region. This entire area is truly picturesque and if you decide to stay in Devrukh, you can visit all these places around Tikleshwar in just two days. The cool, pleasant winds and the peaceful environment will really appeal to your heart.

Turtle Festival – Velas, Ratnagiri

As the day breaks the number of nature lovers and foreigners await to witness an exciting miracle of nature. The tiny turtle hatchlings, emerging out of the golden sand beach, breathe the fresh salty air of the Arabian Sea nearby. And then, at top ‘turtle speed’, they embark to the inviting cool sea waters. It is the culmination of a lengthy process, which starts around November under the protective cover of darkness. The weary female turtles emerge from the rolling sea waves to lay their clutches of around 100 to 120 eggs on the sandy beach. Each year, the tiny village of Velas, in Maharashtra, bears witness to a truly heart-warming sight as hundreds of newly hatched Olive Ridley turtles take their first steps towards the big blue sea. The start of life afresh!

We only have one planet and we should all do our part to ensure that it’s protected by combining our modern ways of living with a deeper respect and understanding of what nature provides. Environmental conservationists understand that the way we live is a reflection of how we feel about the natural world, and our everyday habits show how much we truly value all the things that the Earth gives us. As we can see, in the matter of the turtle festival, the Olive Ridley Turtle sightings are getting lesser each year. The Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra Organization is trying its best to protect these turtles. They patrol the beaches prone to turtle visits and collect the eggs and place them in separate sand pits in a protected area under artificial conditions. The eggs are left to incubate naturally and take around 50-55 days to hatch. This procedure contributes a lot to conserving the Olive Ridley species and protects them from endangerment. It is our responsibility too to actively participate in this conservation by visiting the Turtle Festival every year, creating awareness about these Olive Ridley hatchlings and even volunteer with the NGO to help save the lives of these tiny turtles.

The endangered Olive Ridley Turtles thrive in warm tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian Ocean and India is a hotspot breeding ground for them.  Velas accounts for 40% of the hatchlings on the west coast of India. Every year, around November-December, adult female Olive Ridley turtles come to the shore of Velas to lay their eggs. These turtles visit in large groups for mass nesting. Olive Ridley turtles are endangered because they die in large numbers due to manmade circumstances. Researchers say that the females remember the beach they were born at and return when they attain adulthood, to lay their eggs at this very beach, no matter where they are in the world. But the Olive Ridley turtle eggs have been victims of poachers and also dogs, jackals, and even humans that eat them. Therefore, the Kasav Mohatsav has been a major contributor in saving these endangered species.

Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra organization started the work of protecting the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles in Velas, in Ratnagiri more than a decade ago. They worked in 15 villages to protect the turtles but only found 36 nests as compared to 50 in a single village. These figures prove that the marine turtles are rapidly advancing towards endangerment. So far SNM has protected numerous nests and successfully released more than 60,000 hatchlings.

Come visit the Turtle festival locally called as the Kasav Mohatsav in Velas to see this natural wonder yourself where you can stay in the affordable local homestays, enjoy a walk through Casuarina groves, visit the historical sites around Velas and obviously enjoy the authentic Konkani cuisine. You can also visit the beaches of Anjarle, Karde, Ganeshgule, and Ratnagiri to enjoy similar activities of turtle conservation in Ratnagiri District.