I would never have suspected that there would be an ancient fort in Dharavi.
Dharavi is the largest slum in Asia - and a perennial choke point for traffic going from East to West Mumbai. Not really a place you would associate with ancient monuments.
I became aware of the fort by reading about it in Ashutosh Bijoor’s blog, where he went hunting for a lost fort – I imagined him like an Indiana Jones on cycle – and after that I read up on it on Wikipedia.
It was a part of the ring of forts put up around the British possessions of the seven islands of Mumbai, back in the 1700s to protect them from the Portuguese and later from the Marathas. The main fort was Bombay castle and the other forts were Sion, Worli, Sewree, Dongri , Mazgaon, Mahim and Riwa fort in Dharavi. As you can see in the map, these protected the 7 islands from the mainland of Salcette – which was Portuguese owned, and later Maratha owned.
Continuing on my Bombay forts trail, I decided to cover 2 forts in one trip this time – Mahim and Bandra forts. They looked out on the same mahim bay, from opposite shores.
(above image credit - Ashutosh Bijoor of www.bijoor.me - an absolutely inspiring cycling blog - do check it out)
I cycled from Sion (past Sion fort - which was the first fort I visited - you can see the blog here), crossed Dharavi (past Dharavi fort – which I have yet to visit), crossed Bandra swamp and took a left for Mahim.
I must have crossed this road a million times, and I never knew that there was a fort there. And nor did any of the locals, it seemed. One or two looked nonplussed when I asked them, and then a couple confidently guided me to a police station.
‘But wheres the fort?’
‘Oh, theres no actual fort’ he replied ‘all the offices and buildings here are called the fort’
‘Balls.’ I replied ‘There is a fort here – I have seen photos and read Wikipedia and Bijoor’s blog.’
‘I tell you there is no fort’ he argued. ‘I have lived here for years and years’
‘Oh never mind’ I soothed him ‘where is the beach?’
He directed me to the beach, and I went off there, through the bamboo wala stalls and various storage buildings.
It was a sea fort . It has to be on the beach.
And it was.
I blog about my travels - and the thoughts they set off! Sometimes the simplest destinations can be the most thought-provoking!