If you stay at Kashid beach and want to have a beer, you have a problem. They don’t sell any alcoholic substance in Kashid. What do you do? Simple, drive 3 Kms to Nandgaon and buy your stuff. But that 0may not be the only reason to visit Nandgaon. It is a beautiful little small town on the seashore which can be seen from the top of the hill as you drive from Kashid. It has its own beach. The speciality of the place is that the seawater passes through a small creek and the mangroves which are very close to the village. It is also the nearest town to the Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary covered earlier in this Blog.
Our destination today is the famous town of Murud or Murud-Janjira as some people call it to distinguish it from another town of the same name and associate it with one of the most famous sea-forts in the Arabian sea.
Even as we approach the destination, we take a small detour prompted by the roadside sign. There is a small village called More (pronounced Mor-ye) priding itself on a temple. We descend the hill towards the seashore to the small little village.
The temple is nothing great but kept neat and clean and very colourful.
This lady in the village square has bought this pair of ray-fish and was displaying them to the envy of the neighbours and posed for the photograph after tidying her saree.
Can you go to the seashore from here? Sure, please take the left turn and proceed.
Will this car pass?
May be. Try.
No thanks. We decide to return to the main road. I have driven through so many narrow roads in the last 80 days, I am having nightmares. I am serious. This is not a joke.
I met this man in the village square. He did not look like a local and he greeted me in Hindi. He wanted to find out who the person in-charge of the temple is.
‘I am not and I don’t intend to be one. Where are you from?
What are you doing here?
I am a salesman.
I have not seen a cleaner temple than this one in the last few years. If he succeeds in selling something here, it would be like selling ice to the Eskimo. You never know. To start with I am surprised this man from Delhi has reached all the way here. I wish him success.
We move on. The road passes the seaside with greenery all around and then after some time we see the palace of the last ruler of Janjira , the Nawab, inheritor of a bizarre part of Indian history wherein the slaves brought in from eastern African coast ruled a part of India.
This palace is occupied and vistors are not encouraged.
There is no way one can blame the Nawab for his destiny. It was created for him by the previous Muslim rulers of the Sub-Continent. The Bahamani sultans of Deccan broke away with the Moguls in the year 1437 CE. They then brought in slaves from Ethiopia (or what was called Abyssinia) more probably that part of Ethiopia which is now an independent country called Eritrea.
These slaves spread, in course of time, in the armed forces of the Muslim rulers and became important part of it.
The Bijapur sultan entrusted his most important fort the ‘Jal-Janjira’- the water fort to the Habshi (meaning Slave ) governor, In the year 1621, Siddi Ambar the governor declared himself the ruler of the place. This was the foundationnof the the Siddi dynasty. This situation continued under the British rule and until the independence of India when the ‘subsidiary ruler’ relationships with the British Crown where ended by the government of Independent India.
The palace overlooking the sea and at an aesthetically selected location was built much later and I am told, much of the material in the old fort was transported here laying the palace in the fort desolate. I appreciate the foresight of the Nawab. He could foresee that his being in the Fort at a huge expense was not a viable option in the future. The Patels of this world would not allow it.
The present day Murud is a seaside place for the people in the cities to come and help themselves to the fresh air of the sea. It has a number of establishments catering to the tourists and there is one on the hillside before reaching the town where we stayed a night. Brilliant views and sunsets. Bad food. To make things worse a Muslim place with no beer allowed. the view from the hotel.
To escape Allah’s wrath, we go and stay the next night at a place owned by a couple both of whom are teachers and would not mind if we drink. Not that we ask them. They have not displayed any pre-conditions at the Reception. The man is a drawing teacher. He has hung many of his drawings and oils on the walls of this small lodging. Nice people but the place needs improvements.
We spend some time looking for places other than the main draw- the Fort. There are not many of them. There is a place called Garambhi, made famous by a celebrated Marathi novel ‘Garambhicha Bapu’ published in the year 1952 authored by S N Pendse. It was also adapted as a Play and made into a film in Marathi. Half way down people advise us that there is nothing there, just the name. You can go and see the irrigation Dam instead. We heed the advice. We don’t photograph strategic places which are not allowed to be photographed by regulations. So we avoid taking pictures of such places although the regulations are sometimes ridiculous.
On our way back to Murud we wander and take a left turn instead of right. After a short drive we are rewarded with the sight and site of what is called Khokari Tombs. There are many of these around apart from the three or four which are large and dominate the landscape. These are the tombs of the Siddi dynasty rulers of the past.
One interesting part of this place is the presence of three large Baobab trees. This tree is mostly associated with the Portuguese who have brought it to India. There is no record of Portuguese rule over this area but then Korlai-Revdanada-Chaul is not far away.
We drive past these and towards north to reach Murud but no, we are passing a different place which we intended to see the next day. Rajapuri. This is a fishing harbour from where one is supposed to visit the Jal-Janjira or Murud-Janjira, the Fort much talked about. So be it.
You park the car near the road leading to the village from where you take the boat. It is not necessary but somebody has to earn Rs.40/- per car. We need to cross the fort by a boat to be provided by the villagers. Everything is ‘fixed’. The to-and-fro fair is Rs. 80/- ( 40 passengers in a boat) for the 100-150 meters’ distance and 45 minutes’ wait. Once you board the boat an announcement is made that you will not be able to see the fort without the services of a ‘Guide’, you will be lost, eaten by wild animals, bitten by the snakes, will not be able to board the boat in time and may go mad etc. etc. Please hire a guide who is already on the boat and charges only Rs 200/- per person, 250% of the boat fair. At Rs. 200/- per person for 45 minutes, this is among the country’s highest paying jobs. Mind you they carry 40 persons in a boat.
For fear of life people shell out the money. I had visited this place some 20 years ago. This extortion racket did not exist then. You could go by one boat and return by another paying them separately. Now it is not so. You have to return by the same boat and within 45 minutes. They hold you to ransom.
The fort is separated by a narrow channel which has a history. I mean the channel.
It has many things to show starting from the Dargah of a Peer. The Rs. 200/- for 45 minutes guide blares out the history, geography, mythology, religion etc. in long sermon lasting about 10 minutes. Then he challenges the younger part of the crowd to climb a steep part of the fort and return in 5 minutes. They take about 20 minutes which he uses to talk to his 4 wives and a dozen children. By the time the youngsters return panting and sweating, it is time to return. Thank you.
The fort has a lot to see. One of the country’s largest cannons.
Large halls overlooking the sea.
and other things that you generally find in a fort.
A dargah at the entrance.
And this family of the Leser Whistling Ducks swimming in the tank in water covered with green algae with the young ones.
Text by Suryakiran Naik
Pictures by Suryakiran Naik & Veena Naik