Mumbai News

Instucen to conduct courses on forts in Mumbai – Deccan Herald

Once impregnable by military standards, a majority of the forts in Mumbai, the commercial capital of India, are in ruins.

In fact, in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, which also comprises parts of Mumbai’s adjoining coastal districts of Thane, Palghar and Raigad, there are several small, medium and big forts and fortifications. Mumbai city itself has around a dozen forts. These include forts on land, along the Arabian Sea and hills.

Added to it are a grid of tunnels and several caves – which are of immense importance as far as history and heritage are concerned. These forts also show that geography has influenced history, economics and politics.

In a unique initiative, the India Study Centre Trust (Instucen) is conducting a week-long course on ‘Forts of Mumbai’. “Forgotten sentinels, the forts of Mumbai made possible the rise of the city from a set of swampy islands to India’s greatest trading city. Dotted across the coast, these forts are slowly decaying into oblivion,” said Dr Mugdha Karnik, the managing trustee of Instucen Trust.

The course will be held from June 15 to 20, said researcher and expert Raamesh Gowri Raghavan.

Two veterans – Dr Rashna Poncha and Dr Kurush Dalal –  will bring alive once again the archaeology and history of these magnificent monuments. Dr Dalal is a veteran archaeologist, historian and culinary anthropologist. Dr Poncha, an assistant professor at the History Department, Sophia College (Autonomous), is passionate about teaching and about history.

The forts in the hustling-bustling commercial capital withstood the ravages of time for centuries – but commercial development of land and neglect from authorities is threatening their existence. Every fort or garrison has its own history and heritage. Some of these forts come under the jurisdiction of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) while some of them come under the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums of Maharashtra. The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is also working with various agencies to protect these forts – besides other agencies including corporations in the MMR.

What is unique about the forts in MMR is the unique mix – imprints of Marathas, East India Company, British Raj, Portuguese, Mughals, Siddis – and it throws light on close to five to six centuries.

The Bombay Castle, which touches the Arabian Sea on the eastern side of south Mumbai, is well protected as it is the headquarters of Western Naval Command, the sword arm of the Indian Navy. As far as the seven islands of Bombay is concerned, these forts protected it at one point of time.

Some of the forts in Mumbai are the Sion Fort, Mahim Fort, Dongri Fort, Worli Fort and the Sewri Fort. If one takes into account the western forts – two important forts are the Vasai Fort and Arnala Fort, while on the eastern suburbs there is the Belapur Fort and the Kalyan Fort. Sandwiched between eastern and western suburbs are the ruins of the Ghodbunder Fort. The creeks of Dahanu, Mahim and Dharamtar and rivers like Ulhas, Vaitarna, Tansa, Kundalika and Mithi had contributed to where the forts have been established.