Kolaba Fort, Alibaug: A historical landmark amid the Arabian Sea

[] The 300-year-old Kolaba Fort lies, built upon a small hill in the Arabian Sea, near Alibaug, was once an important military fortification for the Marathas

Kolaba Fort or Kulaba Fort or Alibag Fort, is an ancient military fort which lies at sea, roughly a couple of kilometers away from the sea town of Alibaug. Alibaug lies around 35 kms away from Mumbai along the Konkan coastline in Maharashtra. Kolaba Fort is a well-protected landmark and a major destination for tourists, surrounded by the clear waters of the Arabian Sea and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area. This historical building in Alibaug is close to 300 years old and was a prominent naval station during Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s reign. The fort once had strategic importance as a military fortification for the Marathas in times of war.

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Kolaba Fort

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The Kolaba Fort is only two kms away from the popular Alibaug beach and you can walk to it when the tide is low. During high tide, a boat will be needed for reaching the Kolaba Fort. Hopping onto a ferry or speedboat from the Gateway of India will take you to the fort in very less time. There are nearby jetties to Alibaug in Rewas and Mandawa. Regular ferry services are provided between sunrise and sunset with the journey time standing at approximately 45 minutes. Pen railway station is 30 kms away with good connectivity by trains to Mumbai. The key feature of the fort is the height of the walls at 25 ft and the temple within the fortification, particularly at the time of Ganpati puja. It is known as the Siddhivinayak Temple, developed in 1759 by Raghoji Angre. The fort also has the Haji Kamaluddin Shah Dargah.

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Kolaba Fort Alibaug

Kolaba Fort: History and interesting details

Kolaba Fort was selected for fortification by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj after south Konkan attained freedom. The construction work reportedly commenced on March 19, 1680. Shivaji Maharaj made it a key naval station thereafter and the command of the settlement went to Mainak Bhandari and Darya Sarang. It became a center for attacks by Marathas on British naval ships. The Fort was ultimately finished by Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj after the death of his father, in June 1681. In 1713, with the treaty being created with Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath, the Kolaba Fort and many other forts were handed over to Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre.

Kulaba Fort

Angre used it as a naval base for launching attacks on British ships subsequently. The British joined their Portuguese counterparts in attacking Kolaba Fort in 1721. A 6,000-strong land force of Portuguese men joined hands with three British ships under commodore Mathews. However, they were unable to capture the Kolaba Fort. There were several fires at the fort and one that broke out in 1787 demolished the Angre Wada. The fort’s wooden structures were sold by the British in 1842 via auction and its stones were used for building water works in Alibaug.

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The average height of the fort’s walls are 25 ft and it has two entrances towards Alibaug and the sea. The fort contains freshwater wells inside. During monsoons, one can go to the Kolaba Fort by traversing waist-high water at low tides. The inscription on the English cannons at the fort states ‘Dowson Hardy Field, Low Moor Ironworks, Yorkshire, England’. The Fort offers some of the most spectacular views of the Arabian Sea.

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Kolaba Fort, Alibaug: A historical landmark amid the Arabian Sea

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The Kolaba Fort, upon the small hill, is a testament to the engineering and architectural excellence of the period. The carvings on the walls depict peacocks, elephants, tigers and several other motifs. There are several vestiges of battles including cannons dating back several centuries and numerous other artefacts as well. The freshwater well, Siddhivinayak Temple and Padmavati and Mahishasura Temple are key attractions, along with the Dargah of Haji Kamaluddin Shah. The Kolaba Fort is a major tourist attraction today and one of Alibaug’s most famous destinations. The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has declared the Kolaba Fort as a monument that is ‘Nationally Protected’ for its historical importance.

Kolaba Fort, Alibaug: A historical landmark amid the Arabian Sea

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Where is the Kolaba Fort located?

The Kolaba Fort is located at Alibaug, in the Arabian Sea itself.

Which is the nearest beach to the Kolaba Fort?

Alibaug Beach is only a short walk away from the majestic Kolaba Fort.

Who constructed the Kolaba Fort?

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj selected this site for building a strategic fortification which eventually turned into the Kolaba Fort. Construction was completed by Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj, his son.

(Header image source: Surekha Kolhal, Instagram)

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Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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