Murud is a beautiful fishing village on the western coast of India - about 5 hours drive from Bombay (Mumbai). Since it has a municipality, water supply, schools and hospitals, you could even term it a small town.
It has a beautiful beach ideal for swimming, bathing and water sports. The beach is fringed with swaying coconut trees, a variety of palm trees and casuarinas. Unfortunately, the only water sport presently available is boating, sailing and deep sea fishing.
Murud is historically important because it was the capital of the Janjira State (area - 842 sq. kms.). The Nawabs of Janjira ruled the area around from here. The Janjira Fort is located 2 kms. into the sea - about 6 kms. from Murud.
History of Janjira State
During the past several centuries, traders brought slaves from Abyssinia and other parts of East Africa and sold them in Egypt, Arabia and India. The Abyssinian slaves had black skin and curly hair. They did not have the thick lips the Negroes have. They were called Habshis or Siddis.
They were faithful, brave and hard working. They were very trust worthy. In India, successive rulers appointed them to positions of high trust.
In 1490, King Malik Ahmed Shah of Ahmednagar broke away from the Brahmini kingdom and established his own Nizamshahi kingdom. He appointed his Abyssinian slave the commander of the Janjira Fort.
In 1621, Janjira became an independent state. Siddi Ambar Sankak Habshi became the first ruler of independent Janjira State. The Siddi rule continued for 327 eventful years till the merger of the State with India in May 1948. The last ruler was Siddi Mohamed Khan, who after the merger, settled down in Indore.
His successors have a palatial palace at Murud complete with a museum. But the present Nawab also lives in Indore.
History of Janjira Fort
The Janjira Fort has a colourful history. During the 15th century, the Rajpuri village which is 4 km. from Murud was inhabited by fishermen and the Nizams ruled the entire coastal region.With the Nizam’s permission, the fishermen built a wooden fort (Medhekot) on a huge rock in the sea, 2 km. off the shore of Rajapuri, to protect themselves from pirates and thieves.
Later, Burhan Khan, the minister of Nizamshah, the ruler at Ahmednagar, demolished the wooden fortress; and between 1567 and 1571 built an impregnable stone fort in its place. He named it Janjira Mehroob (Mehroob means crescent moon).
Siddi Ambarsatak, the fore father of the rulers of Janjira (later, they adopted the title of Nawabs), was nominated the commander of Mehroob.Shivaji made six unsuccessful attempts to conquer this fort. Later at various points of time, Sambhaji, the Peshwas, the British and the Portuguese tried to take over the fort, but Janjira remained unconquered till its merger with India in 1948. Janjira is one of the rare forts in Maharashtra which could not be taken over by the Marathas. The reason for this is the impregnable fort and superior naval forces and marine skills of the Siddis.
The Siddis ruled from the Janjira Fort which is located 2 kms. into the sea. Surrounded on all four sides by the Arabian Sea, the fort is undefeatable. It could never be captured by anyone. In the 1950s, the Archaeological Survey of India took over charge of the fort. They relocated all the residents of the fort to the nearby villages. Some restoration work is presently going on.
As you enter Murud, you will see the stately mansion of the Siddhi Nawabs of Murud Janjira perched on a high hillock overlooking the entire bay. You can visit the museum there. The present Nawab usually lives in Indore.
India has a large number of forts. But Janjira Fort is unique.
To visit Janjira, you have to go to Rajpur village (4 km). From there, you have to go to the Janjira Fort by sail boats. Rajpur has a harbour and a beautiful sea beach. For the first time in my life, I saw buffaloes swimming and bathing in the sea.
Once you reach the fort, you will find it most captivating. The strong entrance has successfully withstood numerous attacks.
The five-storied Surulkhana palace is almost in ruins. The top two stories have fallen off. Some renovation work is going on.
There are 2 large fresh water tanks inside the fort and some tombs.
The fort had about five hundred canons. But only a handful remain today. There are in all 19 Buruj (ramparts) in the fort. Every Buruj has huge guns capable of sinking any approaching vessel. Some of the guns bear names. The 3 most important big guns are ‘Kalal Bangadi’, ‘Chavari’ and ‘Landa Kasam’. These were built by an alloy of five different metals.
During its hey days, a large number of people lived inside the fort. But after it was taken over by the Archaeological Survey of India, the residents were moved out. Much of Janjira Fort has been corroded and washed away due to the insistant battering by the Arabian Sea. But what remains is still a most formidable structure.
The temple of Dattatreya is located on a high place on a hillock. You get a panoramic view of the entire bay from here.
Places to see around
For those interested in history, archaeology or religion, the 2000 years old Buddhist Caves near Bhalgaon (20 kms from Murud Janjira) are a must see. Leave a full day for exploring the caves and a wonderful picnic.
The Padmadurga Fort built by Shivaji Maharaj is situated to the north west of Janjira. It is not as big as Janjira Fort, but Padmadurga Fort is also an interesting sea fort which can be visited and enjoyed.
There are two unspoiled beaches on the way to Murud - Nandgaon and Kashid. You can spend time swimming and sunbathing in these beaches.
Murud is 150 km from Mumbai,
The nearest airport is Mumbai 150 km.
Nearest railway station is Roha 122 km.
A most convenient way to go there is by ferry from Mazgaon Ferry Wharf to Rewas (23 km from Murud); or by catamaran from Gateway to Mandwa. From Rewas or Mandwa, you have to take a road transport.
(The ferry services are suspended during the monsoons)
Mumbai to Murud 150 km
You can go to Murud by car or taxi. There are plenty of local public buses, too. The drive takes about 5 hours.
You have to travel up to Panvel and then take the road that passes through the Karnala Bird Sanctuary upto Pen. You have to cross Ali Bag (100 kms. From Mumbai). You will also cross the beautiful Nandgaon and Kashid beaches.
After 20 kms. From Alibag, you can also go to Murud via Roha, a small town dotted heavily with large and shady trees. This route is 10 kms. longer, but you will pass through beautiful country side.
There are a number of hotels where you can get food and accommodation at reasonable rates. There are no four or five star hotels. Try to stay in a hotel on the beach side.
There are a large number of restaurants where you can taste the authentic local (Konkanese) food.
Best Time to Visit
Murud has a pleasant coastal climate and can be visited any time of the year. But carry plenty of sun protection and light cotton clothes.
During the monsoons (rainy season), the sea can be rough and could be closed for swimming.
Murud Janjira is a beautiful tourist spot quite close to Mumbai. It is enjoyable. But it has yet to be fully developed to realize its full potential.
(1297 words) Binoy Gupta