Korlai Fort

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Weather:

Time Required: 1-2 hrs

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Sunrise to Sunset

Entry Fee:

No entry fee
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Korlai Fort, Kashid Overview

The Korlai Fort is an extensive military fortification primarily occupied by the Portuguese during the 1500's. Currently, in ruins, the mighty fort stands strong overlooking the vast blue of the Arabian Sea. Built in 1521, on an extension of land (basically an island) shielding the Revdanda creek inlet, the island was once called Morro De Chaul, in which 'Morro' translates to a small hill, and 'Chaul' refers to a nearby Portuguese-Creole (a dialect called Kristi) speaking village. A great construction of its time, this fort now stands in ruins but is a fabulous piece of history nonetheless. The beauty of the surrounding hill slopes is another incentive to visit this destination.

The Korlai Fort is huge, and it is said that in its heyday, the enclosure could fit more than 7,000 horses and as many men! The strategic significance of the fort was revealed during invasions, as it is located on the slopes of a hill, housing a towering lighthouse and eleven large gates, making it hard to infiltrate. Stretching over a length of 2828 feet and breadth of 89 feet, the enclosement overlooks a small fishing community and provides commanding views of the creek.

The sight of sea waves crashing onto the rock faces from the fort top is picturesque. Korlai Fort is now a famous attraction alluring visitors owing to its enchanting atmosphere filled with historic ruins and tranquil vistas. This place is the perfect destination for photographers and nature lovers, and evenings are the best time to visit if you wish to enjoy the colourful sunset. The expanse of the fort area is quite vast, and you can also enjoy a trip to the lighthouse nearby. A charming and endearing destination, this place is a must visit for all!

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The unmatched scenery of the sea is the primary reason tourists, and visitors flock here. Impressive views of the bay guarding the entrance to the Revdanda creek and long stretches of sandy beaches are a sight to see. This is one of the more impressive forts in the region due to the long history associated with the place. An ancient water cistern by the name of Santa Cruz is present in the northern region of the fort. The Korlai lighthouse still operates and one can visit here from the southern gate. Remnants of the Portuguese occupation can be spotted in the unique dialect of Portuguese Creole called Kristi (still used by native Korlai village inhabitants) in the many inscriptions over the gate walls and altar (as mentioned above). The ruins itself transport you back in time and captivate your curiosity with utmost charm.

The fort can be visited any time of the year but the winter and monsoon months are apt. Summers can get pretty hot with the temperatures reaching up to 40 degrees Celsius making it uncomfortable to explore the site.

Formerly known as Ceul Rock, this site has been a witness to many struggles between the Portuguese and the Muslims. With the aid and permission of the Ahmednagar Sultanate, the Portuguese commissioned the building of the Korlai fort, which was completed in 1521. It was used as a mutually-dependent place of operation between the two regimes until 1594 when tensions broke out, and Abranches, a Portuguese captain with approximately 1,500 soldiers and 1,500 locals, took over the fort. It is said that the army camped there tried to prevent this by placing a dead elephant at the main gate and a dead horse at the inner gate.

Although the residing soldiers surrendered, the Portuguese did not have enough men to stand guard and destroyed much of the fort, leaving behind only the central watch tower in place. The son of Shivaji Maharaja, Sambhaji Maharaja, attempted to capture it but failed and backed out on 6th December 1687. The Marathas finally took over the fortification in 1739 and ruled over the area until 1818.

From 1818 onwards, till Indian independence, it was under the rule of the East India Company and subsequently the British Raj. Few areas of the ruined fort, such as the church were made operable and were used during weekends and holidays. The Korlai Fort was revered and appreciated by travelers and visitors before its destruction due to wars.

The large fortification was once said to house around 7,000 horses and as many men! The area covered by the fort is quite large, and it stands tall at the height of 2828 feet. The main entrance to the fort is guarded by a bronze lion, and a bronze eagle is placed over the highest watchtower. There are eleven gates in the fort, four outside and seven inside. The area within the fort is divided into three sections by two lines of bastioned fortifications. A church is also present on the fort premises, built in 1630, and it was operational until 1728.

Some parts of the fort were rebuilt later but now had a garrison of only 50 men. The church within the fort was used for worship on Sundays and holidays. Korlai fort was also strategically very important as it guarded the mouth of the bay. Sambhaji the son of Shivaji tried to take it over but failed and had to withdraw his forces on 6 December 1687. The fort was taken by the Marathas who held it from 1739-1818.

There is an essential inscription over the doorway, surmounted by a coat of arms and having Portuguese stars in the middle of seven castles. Two other inscriptions over the main entrance and an altar in the chapel are both undecipherable and worn out. Described by travellers and visitors as 'a magnificent fortress strong as any other in the world', the Korlai Fort ruins are a proof of its lost glory. The fort, although in ruins, is an endearing historical site.

One of the things that reflect the loveliness of this architecture is the lighthouse at the southern end. With its delicate roads up to the top, the lighthouse is surrounded by a well-maintained garden. A spiral staircase leads to the top of the establishment from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the entire area.

1. The best way to enter the fort is from the lighthouse side entry gate, which also lies at the end of the bus route.
2. There is a lot of walking involved in exploring the site. So, make sure to wear comfortable footwear.
3. A local guide is available at the fort premises who assists in reaching the lighthouse, all the while narrating the history of the fort.
4. There is a small shop beside the Korlai Lighthouse which sells snacks and coldrinks.
5. The person in charge of the lighthouse generously explains its functioning for a nominal fee.
6. If visiting during the summers, beware of the snakes.

The Korlai Fort can be easily reached by road from major cities like Mumbai (111 kilometres) and Pune (160 kilometres), from where local buses operate on an almost daily basis. Nearby towns such as Murud, Roha and Alibaug are also well connected by state transport. The nearest railway station is in Pen, about 50 kilometres from Korlai.

If visiting from Alibaug, take the first right after crossing Kundalika River. On reaching the village, ask any local for the directions and you will be guided to Korlai Fort. The road to the fort is poorly constructed, bumpy and uneven at places. The way is very narrow and only one car can cross at a time. However, the view is spectacular and makes up for the bad roads.

There is limited parking space near the fortress, accommodating only around ten cars. From the parking, you have to trek a little. The hiking involving ascending some stairs (around 100 steps) which take around 15 minutes. It is an easy hike which can be done by kids also.

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