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.

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