Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bandra Fort

At ‘Land’s end’ in Bandra there are the ruins of an old Portugese fort - Castella de Aguada (Portuguese: "Fort of the Waterpoint"), also known as the Bandra Fort.
The name indicates its origin as a place where fresh water was available in the form of a fountain
("Aguada") for Portuguese ships cruising the coasts in the initial period of Portuguese presence. It was built in 1640 as a watchtower.
The Portuguese, who had established a base in the area in 1534 after defeating Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, built several sea forts along the western Indian coastline.
Castella de Aguada was one such strategically located fort, overlooking the Mahim Bay to the south, the Arabian Sea to the west, the islands of Worli to the south and the town of Mahim to the south west. The fort also guarded the northern sea route into Mumbai Harbour.
The strategic value of the fort was enhanced in 1661 after the Portuguese ceded the seven islands of Bombay that lay to the immediate south of Bandra to the British.
After the decline of the Portuguese in the early 18th century, the Marathas became the largest threat to British possessions. Sensing an impending Portuguese defeat, the British partially
demolished the fort as a precautionary measure. The demolition would obviate the possibility of the fort being captured by the Marathas, with the possibility of it being used as a forward military base to attack British Bombay.
In 2003, a conservation program was started by Bandra Band Stand Residents’ Trust to save the fort. It was spearheaded by a local Member of Parliament (MP), Shabana Azmi, who funded part of the effort from her allotted funds. The brick arch of one of the gateways on the verge of collapse, and the foundation masonry of the fort wall that was in danger of tidal erosion were repaired.
The nearby Taj Land's End Hotel is responsible for maintenance of the fort
The fort is owned by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Included in the fort makeover are the preservation of the natural rock formations, providing pathways, and the creation of an
amphitheatre. The architect for the makeover was P.K. Das.
The way up the fort is a short flight of stone steps. Once on top the views all around are worth the visit.
A lotus pond to meditate on.
In the south you have the marvellous Bandra Worli sealink and on the north is the Taj Lands
End Hotel.
The sea in the west never ceases to fascinate.
And if you are there early in the morning you shall catch the sunrise in the east
and people exercising
dogs chilling
Here is a map to help you get there.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sion fort

Mumbai’s history can be seen in its dilapidated forts. One such is the Sion Hillock Fort built between 1669 and 1677 by the British Governor of Bombay, Gerard Aungier, atop a conical hillock.
This hillock is situated a few metres east of the Sion railway station.
Sion was the boundary between British-held Parel island and Portuguese held Salsette Island and the fort marked the northeast boundary of their possession.
Its main purpose was that of a watchtower. However, there is another point of view which states that it was the Portuguese who had built this fort to protect their possession of the seven islands prior to handing them over to King Charles II as dowry on his marriage to Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza in 1662.
Today Sion marks the beginning of the suburbs in the eastern part of Mumbai and the Fort is used by the locals for walks and other physical exercises.
Quite a few students too come to study in the nooks and corners of the fort.
At the base of the hill is the branch office of the Archaeological Survey of India, and a garden – the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Udyan. One has to go through this garden to reach the top of the fort.
The fort is in a dilapidated condition with a collection of broken stone steps and scattered walls.
The walls are decorated with declarations of lovers who wished to immortalize their love.
It has a small room on top with a wooden trussed ceiling of old tree trunks of which only a few remain.
The views from top are worth the time spent to reach there.
There was also a small cannon lying on the hillside, as if it was just thrown there in a hurry by retreating forces.
It sure is an interesting place to visit and satiate ones interest in the history of Mumbai. The best time to visit would be early morning or maybe late evening when the sun would not be at its harshest best. It would not take more than an hour to leisurely explore and revisit Mumbai of yore.
A map to help you get there -