Saturday, 8 May 2010

Forts of Konkan 1: Kille Gopalgad किल्ले गोपाळगड

Welcome to this series on forts in Konkan. In this series you will be able to get key information on forts which dot land of Konkan. Being the first post in this series, I shall give some basic information on forts and their relevance to the region.
As a common myth, most of the people believe that forts in Konkan and Maharashtra came into existence because of Shivaji and subsequent Maratha Kingdom in this region. Many of the locals also have strong belief. There is another common myth that Konkan does not have or has very little ancient history, whatever history it has essentially starts with Maratha period. Many forts in Konkan are the living facts which easily disprove these myths.
But question is why so many forts in this narrow hilly tract which is just so obscure part of this country. But the existence of forts prove one thing that these parts were no obscure a few centuries ago, they are not the structures of one's fancy but served a practical purpose. That practical purpose was protection of trade and the people who wanted to do that. Konkan being a coastal region with so many ports which may look small or just nothing these days has been a hotspot for trade for the entire subcontinent. The trade which actually took place on these port towns needed connections with the rest of the country and were origins for trade routes. Three types of forts can be seen in Konkan region. First type of forts are built on islands in the sea e.g. Kille Sindhudurg. Second type of forts is of those which are built near the sea coast or creeks but on mainland. e.g. Kille Vijaydurg. Third type are hill forts e.g. Kille Ranganagad.

We are starting this series with Kille Gopalgad, a fort in Ratnagiri district. It is a fort which was built on the banks of Vashishti creek. It was built for the protection of Dabhol an ancient port city which also finds its mention by the famous geographer from ancient Greece Ptolemy.

A view of Dabhol port from Kille Gopalgad
(Photo Courtsey: Mr. Arun)
Anjanvel, Tal. Guhagar, Dist. Ratnagiri, Maharashtra

Gopalgad was first built by Siddisad, a sardar of Bijapur dynasty rulers in 1500's who were controlling the southern Konkan at that time. There is Persian stone inscription about that in the fort. Then it was later on occupied by King Shivaji, King Sambhaji. In 1699, it was captured by Khairatkhan who was a Siddi ruler who ruled from Murud Janjira. Tulaji Angre then won this fort in 1744 and then later lost it to Peshwas in 1755. During the Peshwa rule, the Village of Anjanvel in which this fort is situated was district headquarters and it was a centre for ship building industry and cloth weaving. In 1818 when Peshwas lost to British, the fort also went to them but not easily and they had to fight a battle for it.

The fort is in poor condition with many walls crumbling. There is one well in the fort almost at the centre around which there are remnants of palace. Some canon balls can be found in the fort. There is a private Mango orchard in the fort and due to ownership issues the entrance to fort is blocked. The fort is surrounded by deep trenches which are now filled again with soil at many places. There are many view points on the fort walls which offer views of creek and Dabhol port. One can easily imagine while looking at them, how the guards used to keep a watch on ships passing through creek and activities which were taking place on the port. Let's hope that government intervenes and restores this important landmark in the history of Konkan, Maharashtra and India.

Nearby attractions:
A kilometer away from the fort lies a beautiful location where is situated a lighthouse and temple of Talakeshwar. It offers breathtaking views of sea and a high rockface entering the ocean. If anybody is interested, one can also visit Anjanvel beach not for its beauty but for the ship repairing activity which still exists, a remnant from its industrious past. The famous Enron Power Project which is nowadays called Ratnagiri Power after chaning of hands is also in this village.

How to reach:
By your own vehicle:
1. From Mumbai
Route I: Mumbai- Mangaon- Ambet- Dapoli- Dabhol and then carry your vehicle over a ferry boat to Dhopave or Veldur and come to Anjanvel. (total distance from Mumbai Approx. 290 km.) It is shorter but takes extra time to reach this destination due to changing at ferry boat but strongly suggested to understand Dabhol and importance of Gopalgad.
Route II: Mumbai- Mahad- Chiplun- Shringartali- Pawarsakhari- Anjanvel (total distance from Mumbai Approx. 330 km.)
2. From Pune:
Route I: Pune- Mangaon- Chiplun- Shringartali- Anjanvel
Route II: Pune- Satara- Chiplun- Shringartali- Anjanvel
3. From Kolhapur:
Route I: Kolhapur- Karad- Chiplun- Shringartali- Anjanvel
Route II: Kolhapur- Ambaghat- Sakharpa- Sangameshwar- Savarda (Ganeshkhind)- Shringartali- Anjanvel
4. From Goa- Goa- Rajapur- Sangameshwar- Savarda (Ganeshkhind)- Shringartali- Anjanvel
By Public transport:
Mumbai/ Pune/ Kolhapur/ Goa- Chiplun (by train or ST or private bus)- Guhagar (by ST buses, direct buses available from Mumbai/ Pune/ Kolhapur). By ST buses or auto rikshaws to Anjanvel. (Guhagar- Anjavel – Gopalgad distance 16 km)

Nearby Places for stay:
Budget lodges are available at Dapoli, Shringartali and Guhagar. Some resorts are available near Dabhol and Guhagar