Malvan also boasts of a couple of historic forts. One of the most popular fort is Sindurga (meaning Ocean Fort), was built in 1664 by the great 17th century Maratha King, Shivaji on "Kurte" island to the glory of the Maratha Empire. The construction of a sea fort is a stupendous task, and at Sindhudurg no efforts were spared. Over 2000 khandis (4000 mounds) of iron were used for casting and the foundation stones were laid down firmly in lead. Even today, as one approaches the fort past a rocky reef, navigable through a narrow channel, one marvels at the transportation of such heavy material through such choppy waters.
Sindhudurg fort stands on a rocky island and was built by shivaji when all his attempts to take the island fort of Janjira proved futile. The construction was done under the supervision of Hiroji Indulkar, an able architect. Shivaji had invited 100 Portuguese experts from Goa for the construction of the fort. It is also recorded that 3000 workers were employed round the clock for three years to build Sindhudurg. It was the body from the Sack of Surat that went into the building of Sindhudurg.
To the north of Malvan stand a few forts possibly built to serve as support systems for the Sindhudurg Fort. Cross the Kolamb Creek and you reach Sarjekot Fort, 2 km north of Rakjot, which was built by Shivaji in 1668. Set on a hillock, at the mouth of the Kalavali creek, its location was once ideal for anchoring ships and shipbuilding. Padmagad, set on an island, is said to have been the main shipbuilding base of Shivaji’s navy. The once-imposing structure is now in ruins. The auto fare from Tarkarli to Sarjekot is roughly Rs 100 and from Malvan Jetty to Padmagad Rs 70.
The Iron Fort: A symbol of Maratha glory
From afar, the Sindhudurg Fort looks like an intimidating battleship at sea, just as it was meant to. The fishing boat that takes you to the fort rides the waves somewhat crazily, making your heart beat faster, and it is an apt way to begin discovering all that this magnificent structure stands for.
Stepping on the beach on Kurte Island, looking up at the fort, you realise why this citadel was the symbol of Maratha dominance. Its walls are 30 ft high and 12 ft thick. Right now though, its 48 acres are home to 18 families, descendants of the Maratha warriors, living in tiled houses all over the island. During the monsoons, they’re marooned in the fort. The rest of the year, they depend on country crafts to reach the mainland.
It takes strong legs to climb the big steps to the top of the 2-mile-long ramparts, but the heritage on offer is rewarding. First in line is the fort’s most prized relic, the foot and hand imprints of Chhatrapati Shivaji, preserved in a slab of dry lime on one of the turrets above the entrance. Inside, much of the fort is in ruins. There are three shrines here, each with a dark cave-like temple of its own. One is dedicated to Mahapurush, a deity worshipped only in South Konkan. The other is the Sri Shivarajeshwar Temple, built by Shivaji’s son Rajaram in 1695, which houses a statue of the warrior king. It is the only temple where he’s worshipped. One of the three shrines hides a secret tunnel, an escape route that led all the way to Kolamb, a few kilometres away. Though now shut, the mouth of the tunnel is still visible.