Unfolding the Secrets of Vijaydurg Fort

Kulkarni, Mugdha

Ngā Pūtahitanga / Crossings: A Joint Conference of SAHANZ and the Australasian UHPH Group

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In India historic forts have been attracting the attention of Indian and Western scholars in recent times. National and international heritage institutions like ICOFORT-ICOMOS (International Scientific Committee on Fortifications and Military Heritage – International Council on Monuments and Sites), ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) and State Archaeology Departments are focusing on the study of these forts, aiming for their conservation.

This paper presents a history and analysis of Vijaydurg Fort, one of the Maratha Sea forts of the Konkan region of Maharashtra, built along the coastline of Arabian Sea from 1657 to 1740 C.E. Vijaydurg Fort was an important naval station during the Maratha rule in order to administer the southern part of the Konkan coastline.

This paper provides a brief review of the literature on Vijaydurg Fort, and an historical overview of it, and then focuses on a graphic record of the place that comprises maps from both the Maratha and British periods as well as drawings and paintings. The paper seeks to establish what this unique and significant graphic record contributes to an understanding of Vijaydurg Fort. Why was it located where it was, what factors affected its design and its evolution, and why did it maintain its importance over time despite change in the ruling dynasties?

The paper shows that Vijaydurg Fort was strategically placed, given the cultural and maritime context, and that the design of the fort has evolved as per the requirements of each ruler and the activities carried out in and around it. Today the fort is accessed only from land, but the design and shape, including the proximity of gates and bastions to the inner built forms, convey its former maritime purpose. The fort was certainly placed at a strategic location using the natural features and it has evolved and undergone physical changes with the changing dynasties. The amendments mostly dealt with expansion and strengthening with smart defence mechanism aimed at safeguarding the trade and maritime activity of the region.