Mumbai has always being infamously known for its streets bustled with people who struggle to make a living, for being ever polluted concrete jungle which lacks the tranquillity of the rural life. Yet there are still few rare places near Mumbai which are still untouched and remain to enchant us. One such place which I came across is the Sewri fort located on the eastern shoreline.
It is one of the 8 forts left in Mumbai and one out of the three forts in the eastern shoreline, the other two being the Sion Fort and the Mazgaon Fort. It is classified as grade 1 heritage structure and is currently owned by Maharashtra’s Department of Archaeology and Museums. Though this fort is mere 10 minutes walk from Sewri station, most people do not even have inkling about its existence.
After getting down at Sewri station early in the morning, we asked few locals about the fort and were amazed when they answered by replying “Yahan toh koi fort nahi hai, yaha sirf flamingos dikhte hai”.
Our quest was finally over after a while and we reached the Sewri fort which is located on a road which is surrounded by storage depots of petrol companies. The area is cluttered with trucks and oil tankers. There is no indication of the fort in the vicinity and it is barely visible to a visitor. The lack of signboard and information board makes it strenuous for a person to explore the fort properly. The fort is surrounded by land on three sides and there is a cliff on the fourth side that drop downs to the mangroves.
There is a dargah situated right besides the fort which attracts few visitors especially during Muslim festivals where there are fairs organized.
The entrance is an arched door which leads to a small dark cell like room. There is another arched door inside the cell which leads to a main courtyard inside the fort. This courtyard is spacious and has steps and leads to a place where you can enjoy the view from the top. The view depends on the direction you look at. One can see the dargah from one side, flamingos, Sewri jetty on another, high rises to industrial units on another side. The view is great but it is devastating to see how badly the mangroves are maintained and how the human developments have led to complete destruction of the mangroves. The fort seems to be interesting because various aspects like its strategic location, surrounding, size, architecture and it’s rather intriguing history.
The fort is deserted and shady and I was wondering if it has become a hangout place for thugs.
While coming back from the fort we met a 60-year-old lady named Bharti Kisan Lokhande, who is a local staying nearby. She was a chatty and cheerful person who readily told us many stories about the fort which her grandfather had witnessed. It is believed that the fort was built originally to serve security purpose as a watchtower or a check-post in 1680.Though at the entrance of the fort the number 1736 is inscribed and many believe that it is the year when the fort was built. We came to know that she visits the fort everyday and sit on the steps of the fort. She informed us that many photographers come here, especially early in the morning on weekends and during the flamingo festival held every year. The place promotes ornithology and you will find many ardent bird watchers visiting here.
It was reported last year that the Maharashtra Tourism Department Corporation (MTDC) has plans of reviving the Sewri Fort and proposed a “makeover of the fort to include a museum, mini-theatre, souvenir shop and an open deck restaurant”.
What is worth pondering upon is the fact that does that place really requires these added luxury or the top priority of the officials should be to keep the fort and the area clean and to appoint security guards to ensure that the heritage structure is well maintained? Also there is an urgent need for the officials to post signboards and information boards to help the tourists locate the fort and to avoid the unnecessary hassle.
Very few cities of the world can proudly say that they have heritage forts like Mumbai, yet we fail to appreciate the heritage and do not value its existence let alone promote it.