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Monday, May 25, 2020

Seaside Sentries

Chhatrapati Shivaji realised the vulnerability of his kingdom through the sea routes and established India’s very own naval defence,called ‘armar’ in Marathi.

Written by N Ganesh | Published: January 5, 2009 12:50:20 am

Youth from Kalyan-Dombivli revisit Maratha king’s first line of defence

Chhatrapati Shivaji realised the vulnerability of his kingdom through the sea routes and established India’s very own naval defence,called ‘armar’ in Marathi. Three hundred and fifty years later,a group of six motorcyclists from Kalyan revisited the ‘armar-e-hind’,the network of coastal forts in Thane that were once the first line of defence against enemy intrusion. “It is ironic that the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26 came by the sea route,a vulnerability that was identified by the great Maratha king 350 years ago,” says Shripad Bhosale,who led the team of six riding two-wheelers to 17 coastal forts in Thane district in four days from December 26 last year.

Bhosale is an advocate practising civil matters in Thane and Kalyan courts by the day and other members of the teams are also working professionals and students. What the team saw was the appalling condition of the historic sites,some of which have been reduced to ruins and are also used an open public toilet.

The team started from Durgadi fort at Kalyan which was the site where on October 24,1657,Dadaji Bapuji Ranjekar at the behest of Shivaji set up what was pre-independent India’s first naval base and ship building facility. At Pimplaj fort in Bhiwandi Taluka,the team found the historic site to be littered with human excreta.

At Firang Kot,also in Bhiwandi Taluka,at the base of the fort were signs of large scale excavations of red soil.

There is some restoration work being carried out at the Vasai fort. While Vajra Kot,also in Vasai Taluka,is now claimed to be in a private property,the team had to persuade the “property owners’ to permit them to visit the fort. “The highlight of the expedition was the visit to Hira Dongari fort that found its mention in the records but was not to be located by the archeologists and historians. It was Shridatt Raut from Vasai who,a couple of months ago,discovered the remnants of that fort,” says Bhosale.

The fort at Danda in Palghar Taluka is in dire straits with the fort walls having been overtaken by trees and creepers. The team will soon be meeting the villagers,representatives of the media and other prominent people,making a case for the safe-keeping of the forts.

“Learning about our history enables us to live with pride and also cultivate a sense of nationalism in us. Whatever lack of social commitment you notice is due to the lack of awareness of history,” Bhosale adds. Though the youth have been venturing on expeditions this year they have come together under the banner of Swaraj Pratishtan,an organisation that would focus on creating awareness of history among the younger generations.

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