Murud-Janjira: Sea Forts and Sunset Boulevards

Murud-Janjira: Sea Forts and Sunset Boulevards
Sunset at Murud beach, Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com

Historical island forts, life on the beach, and lip-smacking sea food make this coastal destination near Mumbai a must-visit

OT Staff
June 03 , 2021
20 Min Read

Murud Beach waits all day for the sun to turn red over the Arabian Sea, with the impossibly located Padmadurg Fort, seemingly floating in the water, in the foreground. And you wouldn’t be off the mark if you believe that life and economy in Murud organise themselves around the daily sunset.

 
 
 
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A long drawn daily ritual begins about a couple of hours before the sunset. Bhelpuri and panipuri vendors occupy selected spots and get busy, slicing boiled potatoes and mashing chickpeas. Coconut-water sellers pile up the fruit, readying their long, curved knives to chop off the tops. Cold drink vendors arrange ice-slabs and bottles of coloured syrups, and are quick to dole out a kala khatta or a nimbu pani at the slightest request. Horses, paired and dragging their six-seater carriages, do their warm-up runs; there are some bullock-carts too, all decked up and eager to go. This makes the supply side of the sunset economy.

Horse carts await passengers at Murud Beach

From among the representatives of the demand side of the same sunset economy, the elderly are the first to arrive, taking up prime seats on the benches lining the road next to the beach. The younger lot are happier to be in the nearby restaurants, under the shade of palm trees. As it gets cooler and the sun ever so slowly departs, the crowd gets thicker. Soon the shallow sea is full of playful people splashing water at each other, riding the waves, laughter ringing out all around. The tourists in this crowd can’t keep their eyes off the Padmadurg Fort in the distance and compare it with the Janjira Fort they would have visited earlier.

The sprawling ruins of Janjira during monsoon

The fascinating Janjira is the famous citadel occupying an island close to the Murud coast. Equally fascinating is the story of the Siddis, who ruled the Murud region for more than three centuries, and who built this extraordinary fort. The Siddis were trader-warriors from Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) who settled in Murud-Janjira and gradually merged with the local population. Some of them ruled the region for about 400 years and became famous along with their fort. Today, apart from the beach, the Janjira Fort and the mystique enclosed within its moss-covered robust walls are what draw tourists to these beautiful shores.

Read: 5 Weekend Breaks from Mumbai

Murud Taluka is part of Raigad district, spreading along the coast from Revdanda Creek to Aagardanda Creek. The entire coast is hilly and the coastal highway runs close to the Arabian Sea, through these hills. Murud town is small and is located to the south of the taluka. Janjira, the prime attraction here, is the famous fort on an island 4 km south of Murud. The town and the fort form a single unit in popular imagination and are referred to as Murud-Janjira. 

 
 
 
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The Murud Beach faces west and fans out from north to south. The Padmadurg Fort stands on a rocky outcrop about a mile across the beach into the Arabian Sea. Most hotels and restaurants are located on Darbar Road (also called Dr Rajendra Prasad Road), running along Murud Beach. Datta Mandir Road is the main road going east into the town from Darbar Road. The main modes of transport in Murud town are auto-rickshaws and shared tempos. For taxis, check with your hotel.

Caution: Most of Murud Beach is safe for swimming, provided you do not venture far into the sea. At high tide, the water comes inland; it’s deep enough even right along the beach. At low tide, people tend to go far out to reach deep waters, and that increases the danger. Be careful in the southern part of the beach – it has a zone which is dangerous because of unexpected dips. You won’t find many people in swimsuits or shops selling beachwear. 

Things to See and Do
A two or three-day holiday is ideal to see Murud and its surrounding attractions. While Janjira Fort is the main reason for visiting Murud, the beautiful, peaceful beach is where people spend most of their mornings and evenings.

The two island forts – Janjira and Padmadurg – can be seen from the beaches during the daylight hours. At sunset, the best place to be at is the beach or up at Idgah, the highest point in Murud. 

Murud Beach 
A sail boat ride off Murud coast
Murud Beach is a sheltered stretch of sand surrounded on three sides by hills. Rocky outcrops flank it to the south and north; to the east lie Murud town and the hills beyond. Early mornings are great for a private audience with the ocean. Evenings are livelier; crowds converge on the beach to enjoy the breeze, the daily spectacle of the sunset and the sense of belonging to a community. Murud does not offer much by way of activity.  However, you can enjoy rides on sailboats (on shared basis or full boats) operated by the fisherfolk at the Rajpuri Jetty. 

Padmadurg Fort

 
 
 
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The Siddis of Janjira posed a serious challenge to the might of the Marathas, and as a counter strategy, Shivaji’s son Sambaji commissioned a fortress, late in the 17th century, on a rock called Kasa, a mile into the sea. The now desolate fort was once guarded by high walls and six bastions, and saw fierce battles between the Siddis and the Marathas. A number of cannons can still be seen within the crumbling walls of the fort. Private boats can be hired to visit the fort (during the daylight hours) with permission from the Superintendent of Customs (the office is opposite Golden Swan Resort).

Read: Sentinels of the Sea

Janjira Fort
The island fort of Janjira off the Murud coast
There are sail boats leaving from the Rajapur Jetty for the Janjira Fort. The Siddis built the stone citadel in the 16th century.  The fort was spread over 22 acres, and there were 19 towers mounted with cannons and many turrets. Three particularly huge cannons – Kala Bangdi, Chavri and Landa Kasam – can still be seen among the ruins. The fort had two sweet water tanks and earned a reputation for being impregnable.

Tip: Be prepared to climb up and down over the ruins if you want to see all the attractions here. A local guide can be helpful but negotiate the price beforehand. Carry sun protective gear and drinking water.

Datta Mandir and Idgah

 
 
 
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Datta Mandir is located atop a hill to the north of Murud, and is approached by 200-odd steps or by a motorable road. The rarely used Idgah mosque is still higher on the same hill. Both these shrines offer panoramic views of Murud town hiding beneath a green canopy of coconut and arecanut palms. A line of hills rises in the east and there is a lovely blue spread of sea in the west. 

Garambi
Eight kilometres to the east of Murud is the scenic spot of Garambi, famous for its perennial spring that trickles through laterite rocks. There is a dam here that is over a hundred years old, built as part of Victoria Water Works, the water supply system for Murud. Garambi is especially beautiful after the monsoon from October to December. 

Khokari Tombs

 
 
 
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There are three tombs at Khokari, a small village 6km southeast of Murud on the road to Aagardanda Jetty. The tombs, now in a state of ruin and neglect, are nevertheless beautiful specimens of the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, built in the 18th century by the Siddi dynasty of Janjira. 

Shopping

 
 
 
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Murud is famous for its coconut chikki and barfi. You can buy it from any sweet shop near the ST Bus Stand or in the market near Siddi Bagh. Weekend visitors from Mumbai also buy fish from here–surmai, pomfret and prawns. 

Where to Stay

 
 
 
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Most hotels in Murud are mid-range and budget, and are conveniently concentrated on the road along the beach. Weekends are heavily booked throughout the year, except during the rains, and it’s best to book in advance if you plan to come here during this time. Tariffs go up during Christmas and New Year vacations. There are many hotels on the Darbar Road along the beach. 

Where to Eat

 
 
 
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Konkani seafood has to be the food of choice in Murud, though it’s often spicy. The restaurants in Golden Swan Beach Resort and Sandpiper Resorts are good places for Konkani food. They also serve Indian, tandoori and Chinese cuisine. Patil Khanaval, Hotel Vinayak and Hotel Anand Vatika, all near the beach, have good seafood (jhinga curry and masala fish being two options) and also local vegetarian curries. The stalls and eateries on the beach also offer mouth-watering batata vada, pakodas, bhel and panipuri, and refreshing coconut water to wash them down with. 

Around Murud

 
 
 
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Nandgaon (8km)
Nandgaon is a small town on Murud-Alibag Road and it has a Siddhi Vinayak Temple that’s over three centuries old. It is the temple that attracts visitors while the beach lies mostly empty save for locals playing beach cricket or taking a dip in the sea. The main street of Nandgaon, flanked by beautiful two-storeyed houses, leads to betelnut plantations next to the beach. The 2-km-long beach, protected by hillocks on its two ends, offers a serene atmosphere. You can get auto-rickshaws and buses from Murud to Nandgaon. There are a few hotels and homestays here. 

When to Go
Murud-Janjira may be visited round the year but November to February is best. May to August is off-season. Not many visitors come here during the monsoon from mid-June to August, but it’s exceedingly green and beautiful then. But the sea will be out of bounds.

GETTING THERE
Airport:
Mumbai (167km/ 4.5hrs) is the nearest airport to Murud-Janjira
Rail: Nearest railhead: Roha (66 km/ 2 hrs). ST buses are available from Roha to Murud
Road: From Mumbai Take NH66 to Vadkhal Naka via Karnala and Pen. At the point where NH66 turns left to Goa, take NH166 to Alibag via Poynad and Khandale. Take the coastal road to Murud via Revdanda and Kashid. State Transport buses ply to Murud from Mumbai Central and Borivali.
Sea: Boats leave from Mumbai’s Gateway of India for Mandwa Jetty between 6.15am and 6.30pm, except during the monsoon. Usually, ticket prices include the bus ride from Mandwa Jetty to Alibag. Murud is 54km from Alibag.

Note: With pandemic containment restrictions in place in Maharashtra, please check with the state tourism offices for latest regulations before planning.


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