Thursday, July 16, 2009
Adventure unfurls @ Alibaug and Murud Zanjira
For whom the bells toll, Time Marches On………….so goes the Lyrics of Metallica. Well when is working in high pressure organization which is filled with activity taking a break almost is a luxury, taken at a risk of displeasing one’s boss. I did manage to club the Diwali holidays, to move away from Mumbai, and thus escaping the sounds of deafening crackers being exploded in the apartments.
We decided to drive early morning to Alibaug via the Panvel, and take a detour to NH17 Mumbai-Goa route. Enroute through a winding route one reaches Karnala bird sanctuary, where there is a refreshment stop over. If one reaches early enough one can spend an hour exploring the thickly forested terrain and hillock to spot some birds such as vulture, koel, robin, kingfisher, Owl etc can be spotted. . As one treks for one hour, through the karnala bird sanctuary which is home to monkey, hares, mongoose, monitor lizard etc….Further ahead there is a ruined fort of Karnala, as one reaches the peak one can have a glimpse of Matheran and a blurred view of Bhimashankar from a distance. These spots are trekkers delight since the peak is the shape of Thumbs up sign. If one has the right equipment and expertise, one can scale the peak, it is not for novice climbers like us. This thumbs up formation is supposed to be a volcanic plug measuring 1538 feet height from the Hillock.
From Karnala we moved via Pen towards Alibaug, and reached the destination around lunch time, we took up an accommodation on the promenade facing the sea. We filled our belly with nice konkan fish curry preparation along with fried Bombil. After that we checked out the beach front which was filled with high tide water. One should be aware of the high tide and low tide cycle inorder to cross over to Kulaba Fort. The blackish soil gives a different tinge than the normal beach sand. The Sunset profile on the beach front can be scenic landscape for photo buffs.
The famous ornithologist Salim Ali did his bird watching in the locales of Konkan coast, Alibaug serves as a weekend getaway for many a corporate executives from Mumbai.
One can take a ride on the horse drawn carriages towards the Fort, by walk it might take around 20 minutes brisk walk. The horse carriages wait for 30 minutes for tourist to take a detour. There are two temples Jai Bhavani, which is the family goddess of Shivaji Maharaj and Hanuman temple. There are two cannons installed by the British after the fall of the Marathas, which is manufactured at Yorkshire, home town of Geoff Boycott. One has to quickly finish their tour return before the high tide sets in other wise one has to wait for the second low tide cycle to return.
Beaches Galore : One gets to witness plenty of beaches along the coastline, Akshi, Nagaon, Kihim, Versoli beach are some of the popular ones. One can explore the twin forts of Khanderi and Undheri from Nagaon beach. One has to hire a boat and cross over, and one of the forts has a military check post where one can be frisked and questioned for ascertaining the genuine ids to avoid illegal activities.
Enroute to Rewas danda which is jetty for transporting cargo, one can come across Kanakeswara temple which can be reached vide 750 steps, which calls for top physical fitness. Kanakeswar forest is attached to the temple where panthers are supposed to be scott free along with snakes. One needs to venture into the terrain in a group for personal safety.
The next day we took a blinder of a decision to cover Murud Zanjira and Harehareswar temple. We traveled through Rewas Danda jetty and reached a junction with Banyan tree adding to the enigma. We just enquired the route to Murud Zanjira and were guided rightly so. Enroute traveling through the hillock we came across a barricaded enclosure which had an ASI symbol of protected monument. It aroused some curiousity in us, so we moved the car on a muddy terrain away from the main road into the hillock. We did for safety reason so that nobody can tamper with the car. We parked the car at a vantage point and broke into the fenced boundary. We found a neatly laid stairway towards a hillock. We did not know what to expect, it was an impulsive decision. As we moved on we enjoyed the scenic beauty of nature and reached the peak to find a stunning series of caves of Buddhist origin. Alas we did not have any knowledge of its history, but the errie silence was adding to the suspense. We quickly covered the main caves 6 in nos out of the 34 caves. We took some pictures for posterity. We returned back to safety of our car and proceeded towards Murud Zanjira.
After a lot of painstaking search like a history professor on the internet I atlast could spot the historical significance of the cave. The link is furnished below for those who are interested in it s heritage. The cave is known as KUDA caves.
We moved around 25 kms from Kuda caves and found there was Dam on one side, which seemed quite huge, the paucity of the time we avoided going towards the Dam, instead we stopped on a hillock from where we could see the beautiful fort of Murud Zanjira, on the hillock it seemed to have ruined walls of a Fort and we found an ancient kings palace which was barricaded from prying visitors. We took some photographs of some stray horses grazing and the ruined fort and than we quickly droved towards Murud Zanjira.
Outlook Clue : This great weekend travellers guide published by Outlook gave us some insight into the history of the out of bounds Nawabs palace. The Siddis ruled this terrain guarding their fortress and palace fiercely. They claim descent originally from Abyssinia in Africa. The Ahmedganj Palace belongs to the Siddhi Nawab, which is spread over 45 acres of Land, which contains moque and buried remains of two past rulers.
The Palace is now under the Nawabs descendent and it is closely guarded for the fear of miscreants ransacking the premise in search of the fabled treasures. Folklore popular among the people claim that untold wealth lies buried like the pharaohs tomb in Egypt. The inscriptions on the tomb point to prevalent, Mori an ancient language spoken and lost to posterity. Nevertheless one will be lucky to study the rich heritage of the Nawab of Siddhis, if one obtains the permission.
MURUD ZANJIRA FORT :
This impregnable fort is also known as AJINKYA, the Fort has survived the constant attacks from Marthas, Moghuls, Dutch, Portuguese and the British. The word Jazeera means in Arabic an isle. The Siddis acted as feudatories of Vijayanagar, Marathas, Moghuls and Bahamani Sultans. The fort can be safely assumed to have been built during the Vijaynagar Empire by the local Koli fishermen community. Later the Fort seemed to have been usurped by Habashi soldiers who acted as merchant vessel dockers at the Fort. They intoxicated the local fishermen and captured the Fort and subsequently the Siddhis took over the Fort. From thereon they fiercely guarded the Fort against all invaders. In 1676 Shivaji unsuccessfully tried to capture Zanjira, later he built forts surrounding Murud such as Vijaydurg, Sindhudurg, Ratnagiri, Padamdurg, Kasa Fort, etc. The Siddhis signed a treaty with the British to safeguard their interest against the Portuguese.
If one wants to reach the fort, one has to set sail in a catamaran across the sea, which is guided by wind sail. It is a beautiful experience to set sail in an ancient contraption which moves in sync with the velocity of the wind. Many a bollywood rustic movies seem to have been shot on this locale.
Inside the fort, there is a huge tank to collect fresh water from the rainfall, a ruined palace and watch posts located across the fort. Cannons were originally deployed and now we can get only glimpse of the past with 2 cannons in place. It is quite hot and humid during most part of the year, better to carry plenty of drinking water, salt and sugar candies along with umbrella. It is fabled that Charles Shobraj, serial killer was imprisoned inside the Fort for a short duration, away from the prying media.
The fort raises nearly 90 feet above sea with a deep foundation of 20 feet. Some claim it was built in honour of Siddi Johar to protect his guru. It took 22 long years to construct the massive fort spread across 22 acres. The fort seemed to have contained a granary to store supplies during the rainy season. Till 4 decades a school was functioning with 550 families stationed inside the Fort. The queen Zubeida used to grace the palace and bathe nearby the pond along with her consorts. Slowly after independence the entire fort was vacated to retain it as a national monument. Now it is firmly under the safe hands of the ASI as protected monument.