With the stone crumbling at several places, the unseemly graffiti covering entire walls and the fountain which runs dry, one wouldn’t think the Sion Fort to be nearly grand enough for its original purpose; marking a boundary of the British Empire.
“Built between 1669 and 1677, the fort was constructed by the then Governor of Bombay, Gerard Aungier. It marked the border of the British island of Parel and the Portuguese island of Salsette,” explains Atul Bhargav, Superintending Archaeologist at the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) office, Sion. It is this fort that gave the Sion area its Marathi name, “Shiv”, meaning “boundary”, he adds.
Today, the fort is a mere skeleton of its old self, perched atop a hillock. Traces of its past can be found in the graceful winding steps, and massive arch and a cannon, mostly unattended. The view of the city, makes it worth the 10-minute climb. The top of the fort gives a 360 degree view of Sion. That perhaps explains why the British might have used it as a watchtower.
“We come here to relax sometimes and children like to play in the gardens,” says Jayant Parmar, who runs a scrap business in Mahim, making a passing mention of how the structure is often used by youth allegedly for drinking or taking drugs. Young couples who come to find some privacy, are a regular feature, according to him.
The ASI plans to take up the task of restoring the fort, according to Bhargav. The task of garden development has been handed over to the BMC, and renovation work for the same has begun. “Our friends said it is the only place worth seeing in Sion,” says Rakshita Iyer, a college student from Sion, who was visiting the fort for the first time with friends.
Bimla Gupta from Gorakhpur said the place makes her feel closer to nature. Her granddaughter, prancing around climbing up and down the fort, seemed to agree.