Monday, 7 September 2015

Ratnadurg - The Cliffhanger Fort in Ratnagiri

You have given up on forts in Maharashtra. First you are not sure if you are already inside a fort since the gateways, walls and bastions are all gone. And if by chance you do spot a sign that says this open space overgrown with vegetation is a fort then you have to literally go down on your knees, like an archaeologist half buried in prehistoric dirt squinting at a possible weapon of mass destruction, to look for anything surviving. And that archaeologist has better chance of finding the tool that your ancestor used to kill a boar than you to find anything standing in a fort in Maharashtra.

View towards the Southern part of Ratnadurg and Arabian Sea - at Ratnagiri Maharashtra

The only reason you are going to go see Ratnadurg is that it offers awesome view of the roaring waves crashing below. And while all built structures would be gone, the monsoons would have created a green carpet all around. Also, you would stay true to the mission of this trip – enjoying the rain and sea and greenery.

It can't get prettier than this - on the way to Ratnagiri Fort

You are heading towards the western most tip of the town that juts out into the sea. This projecting land divides Ratnagiri’s sea shore into Safed Samundar (White Sea) to the North and Kaala Samundar (Black Sea) to the South. The narrow road leading to the fort is submerged in a sea of greenery.

Heading up to Northern part of Ratnadurg or Bhagwati Fort

Ratnadurg apparently has two distinct parts. You are on your way to the North or Upper Fort. The road dips before you see the ramparts of North part of Ratnadurg as the auto rickshaw huffs and puffs up the steep climb to the main gate of Bhagwati Fort or Bale Qila.

The Ugly, the Grotesque, the Joke - Maharashtra ASI wake up and smell the coffee

First look at the gate and your suspicions are confirmed. Maharashtra ASI is indeed full of nincompoops. Just when you thought these so called keepers of heritage cannot outdo themselves, they just outdid their outdoings! These people are killjoys: they just might put you off forts unless you have regular diet of forts of MP and Rajasthan to keep your faith alive. Keeping up the statewide healthy tradition, they have dutifully let this fort too wither and crumble. And when everything was gone they have installed this hideous fiberglass wall up in front. It seems you are entering the sets of a C Grade movie. They should seriously think of handing over the heritage here to someone competent like MSRTC or to MP ASI.  

Bhagwati Temple at Ratnagiri Fort

You did not have any expectations and in your frequent visits to heritage places in Maharashtra, you have learnt to stay unfazed. The only built structure is the Bhagwati Temple from which the fort gets its name. It is modern and painted. You keep moving.

Dude, you aint finding nothing here in this fort, so might as well take my photo

The Jetties below the Ramparts of Ratnagiri Fort

Keeping to the walls you move to your right. Rain keeps you company. It feels good - this rain in Konkan is rejuvenating your body and soul. You just have to be careful as you try to hold on to the umbrella; the wind driven over the Arabian Sea is threatening to parachute you with the umbrella to the churning waters below. Down there you can see couple of jetties for boats. Looking closer you can see the jetties are protected by concrete tetrapods. Such tetrapods line up Marine Drive in Mumbai to protect the expensive real estate.  The views are incredible as high winds sweep across the fort and below the waves churn up white surf – it is Safed Samundar after all.

The ramparts have been restored by the authorities but the same jokers have made it look like the boundary walls that you see lining up the government buildings.

Let's drop anchor in Konkan

Oh well, focus on the job at hand. The monsoons, like across Ratnagiri, have spread magic before your eyes. The fort has come alive in rains with greenery and butterflies and vines and cliff banana plants - a sight that had cheered you up in the crumbling Narnala Fort in Akola last monsoons. You make your way along the walls soaking in the atmosphere circumambulating around the Bhagwati Temple as it keeps peeping through the tree cover on the left and the turbulent waves roar below on the right.

Looking towards the Southern Bastion with the Lighthouse

The Southwest bastion, just beyond, has openings through which an eye was kept on ships coming in, and with them, the accompanying pirates. The southern part of the fort, from here, is covered in mist; even as the seas and the skies dissolve into each other again. The waters below keep rolling into the cliff and here above, in the fort, the rain sends you in sweet rapture.

Soon the rain starts pelting and you come back to take refuge in the temple. It has been a familiar pattern all day today – skies lighten up, clouds roll in, rain follows - first gently and then in torrents. Torrents will soon turn into gentle dancing rain before sun peeps out and the pattern repeats.

Green Carpet rolled out for you - Ratnadurg

Even though there is absolutely no feeling of being in a fort but protocol demands a little description of this so called fort. Ratnagad or Bhagwati Fort was built by the Bahamanis to be later conquered by Bijapur’s Adil Shah. The fort passed into hands of Shivaji in 1670. Later British and then Peshwas became the owners of this horse-shoe shaped fort sitting on top of this laterite hill in Ratnagiri. It is said Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi had visited this fort before the First War of Independence.

Ratnagiri or Rain Forest of Amazon? 

On Cloud Nine - South part of Ratnadurg with Lighthouse. And that is sea on the left side!

It is time to go to the south part of the fort. You go down into the valley in the middle and then climb the narrow road along the southern ramparts as you follow the light house showing the way. This is the first time you are this close to a lighthouse.

Lighthouse at Ratnagiri Fort

View of Kaala Samundar from Ratnadurg

The sign indicates that the Ratnagiri Lighthouse or Deep Stambh is run by the Directorate of Lighhouses and Lightships under the Ministry of Shipping. You had no idea such departments exist which leads you to think there must be a directorate that runs the traffic signals on Delhi roads. You are greeted with same delightful views as you look over the Kaala Samundar and the fishing village below. Under misty skies today really can’t make out if the waters are indeed black.

Best Seat in the Fort

It has been a wonderful day and half in Ratnagiri and the little known city in the beautiful Konkan has effortlessly managed to charm and thrill you.

Road to Konkan

You are sure that even with the yearning for his homeland, King Thibaw would have been grateful to be living in picture perfect Ratnagiri: a frame that has sea beyond the cliffs, rapturous rains, misty hills, greenery everywhere and beautiful people. The beauty of Konkan and Ratnagiri would have dulled some of Thibaw's pain. You feel lucky that Ratnagiri chose you to discover her many charms. It is time to discover other Konkan charms in the rains.  

Getting There: Ratnagiri has friendly auto-wallas who can drive you to the fort unless you want to walk the few kms through the greenery. 

Ratnagiri lies on the south west coast of Maharashtra on the Mumbai-Goa highway and is well connected by trains from Mumbai. Ratnagiri is about about 350 kms from Mumbai and 300 kms from Pune. In Ratnagiri you can hire auto rickshaws to take you around the town and to the fort. The Jijamata Garden will offer you spectacular views of Arabian Sea and Bhatye Beach. Other attractions are the Thibaw Palace, now turned into a museum and Ganpatipule Beach with spectacular views of the sea from the cliffs on the way and scintillating light shadow play on the waves.

Travel Tip: Most lighthouses including the one here at Ratnagiri are open for public viewing from 4 to 5 pm.

Related Posts on this Blog:

1. The Anguish of Thibaw Palace
2. Lokmanya Tilak Birthplace

3. Ganpatipule Beach Cliffhanger


  1. Like the featured chameleon of late you too have been changing colours but this is the colour that I like best. Forts are your forte and this post provides visual as well as sensory pleasure.
    I had earnestly hoped that the Konkan monsoons should not transform your basic style, your passion for built heritage and your pet peeve - Maharashtra ASI! You have returned with a vengeance, cursing the lethargic Maharashtra ASI, yet plodding onwards in hope of finding some architectural marvel and despite the disappointment still writing with humour.…. indeed your trademark post !

    1. Hi Aparna,

      Yes Maha ASI has taught me to stay in good humour. But then this trip was all about rains and Ratnadurg is beautiful in the monsoons. Hope to keep my original colours but you never know - rains have this effect on me!

      Hope to come back to write about built heritage soon.But life has been kind these days and more of flora kind of heritage coming up!


  2. Ratnadurg Fort is built in the shape of a horse shoe. It is located right at the mouth of the Arabian Sea. The fort area is surrounded by lush green fields and is flanked by smaller fortifications. The fort also houses a temple in its premises called the Bhagavati Temple, where navratri festival is celebrated with much fervour. Apart from this beautiful fort there are a lot of places to visit in Ratnagiri that can be explored.

    1. Hi Nick,

      Thanks for visiting. Yes Ratnagiri has lots to see and the town turns magical during the monsoons. Hope to visit Ratnagiri during the Navratri Festival.