5 Must Visit Forts of Mumbai That Are Forgotten

5 Must Visit Forts of Mumbai That Are Forgotten

Mumbai is home to some beautiful forts, and unless one makes that trip to these remnants from the past, built by different rulers, they stand forgotten

Maithili ChakravarthyUpdated: Monday, October 23, 2023, 07:19 PM IST
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Pics: Maithili Chakravarthy

Those rugged structures, stony facades, the forts in Mumbai city are some really important relics of the past. Built for defence, today these Bombay forts have become selfie points. People revel in travelling to them and taking pictures, selfies, and hanging out in groups.

“Mumbai has the second highest number of forts in the world. The city with the highest number is Portsmouth in England. The task is to create awareness about Mumbai’s forts so that they are looked-after and maintained. There are forts within forts here, and Fort, the area in South Mumbai is a shining example of a fort. Today the forts are being encroached upon, and most of the walls of the Sion Fort are gone. These forts are silent custodians of our heritage and should be protected,” says archaeologist Kurush F. Dalal.

Shares Bharat Gothoskar, Founder and CEO of Khakhi Tours, “If you consider the entire Mumbai Metropolitan region, we have more than a 100 defensive structures which are not in use. These structures need to be conserved not only for generating tourism but also to instil a sense of pride among citizens. The aim should be to first remove the encroachments, followed by conservation of ruins.”

Beauty of the Sion Fort

What can one say about the forts of Mumbai that hasn’t already been said. The Sion Fort was constructed by Bombay’s Governor, General Gerald Aungier, in order to offer passage from Mumbai to the Salsette, the neighbouring island. Located on a hillock, the fort has windows which probably had canons in earlier days. A staircase leads one up the fort, and the fort looks pretty much like a ruin. You can peak out of the windows, take selfies, or rest for half an hour or so in its shade. Such forts take us back in time, reminding us of days gone past. We wonder what purpose they served and they stand in sharp contrast to the hustle-bustle of the city. The ruined structures are surely admirable and in the age of Instagram and social media, these stony structures are much sought-after, because one wants their feed to look picturesque.

Says Akshaya Patil, a professor for the NCC who took her students to the fort, “I want my students to know about all the hidden forts of the city. I want to create awareness and train them. I want them to understand how this fort was constructed, so strategically to keep a watch on the sea. But now I don’t think much sea is visible from here, though one can see a small piece of the Worli-Bandra sea link. People should go beyond what they already know and look around.”

One that changed hands many times – Belapur Fort

Then you have Navi Mumbai’s Belapur Fort. Another ruined structure, surrounded by lush greenery, this fort was constructed by the Siddhis of Janjira. The fort is near Panvel Creek’s mouth, and post the Siddhis, the Portuguese took over the fort. The fort once again changed hands and was taken over by the Marathas under Chimaji Appa. After that, once again the fort changed hands and the British’s East India Company took over. One can today peak out of its windows and breathe in history, the history of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai.

Immensely popular -- Bandra Fort

After that you have the very famous Bandra Fort. A solid selfie point given its proximity to Bandstand and the sea. Movies have been filmed here and from the fort, you can even view the sea link. Beautiful flora and fauna are present within this structure which is attached to an amphitheatre and gardens and steps one can walk around within. The other name for this majestic, yesteryears’ structure is Castella De Aguada, revealing quite clearly that the Portuguese had control over the structure. It is said that people shoot for their weddings and other occasions here. The magic of the past is sure strong. So walk around, relax, sit in the surroundings and watch the sea – one can never tire of such places. They give people a sense of belonging. Belonging to a community. Says Azim Merchant, “I’ve visited the fort as a child. It's changed over a period of time. The last I visited it was around 6 – 8 months ago, with my nephew. I showed him how and what it is. It’s surely worth a visit. They’ve transformed it well.”

In the middle of Koliwada – Worli Fort

Travel back to South Mumbai and you have the Worli Fort. Surrounded by Worli Koliwada, to reach it, one has to cross the entire fishing village. It was built more than 400 years ago by the British, not the Portuguese, as is mistakenly believed, as a viewing point for enemy ships and sea vessels. A well and a temple grace the fort and the rustic settings, the stunning, ringside view of the Bandra-Worli sea link, make the fort a must-see too.

Flamingo point – Sewri Fort

Finally you have the Sewri Fort, which served as a watch tower atop a quarried hill, overlooking the harbour. It stands on the island of Parel, on a hill, overlooking the Indian mainland area. This was primarily a defence fort that was built during the days when the British and the Mughals had continual clashes. The fort has a complicated history, where it went from being a defence fort, to a structure used to house prisoners, to being a Bombay Port Trust go-down. Either way this is one more imposing and majestic structure with its arches, and its series of steps. Additionally, the fort is a flamingo point where in February one can watch the tall, leggy birds from here. Explains security guard Mohammed Aslam, “People didn’t know about this hidden structure earlier, but today, in the age of the internet, they know and I see more people visiting and taking pictures here.”

Says Gayatri Gokhale, a visitor, “My husband and I love exploring all the hidden architectural relics of the city. We have seen a few other forts in the city, but this one was left. We only wish there was more information about the fort here, and that it was better maintained. We’ve seen forts in Pune as well, and they are much better maintained than Mumbai’s forts.”

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