The relationship between the sea and the city of Bombay is almost inseparable, as their interdependence has existed as long as the island itself. A few centuries ago, the coastal importance of the cluster of seven islands of Bombay attracted many empires worldwide.
To keep the western coasts guarded and safe from the enemy of the ruling empire at the time, several forts were built by the sea. From the glory of one empire to the ruins of another, these ancient infrastructures have been standing tall.
Today, Mumbai has around 11 forts within the city. Out of all the forts, two forts on the western coastal side of the city stand out the most. These two forts were built by two different empires along the same coast and had impeccable importance on the military front.
Interestingly, these two historically relevant forts stand at complete opposite ends of relevance today. While one of these majestic forts attracts thousands of locals and tourists from across every corner of the city, the other one has become as isolated as ever and is almost forgotten as time passes by.
Let’s have a look at these forts and analyse the reasons for them.
The Bandra Fort, originally called the Castella de Aguada which literally translates to “Fort of the Waterpoint” in Portuguese, is located at the land’s end, on the western suburbs of Bandra.
Historically, it has been recorded that after defeating Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, the Portuguese built the Bandra Fort in 1640. It was used as a watchtower overlooking the Arabian Sea, the Mahim Bay and the southern island of Mahim. The fort was armed with several cannons and guns to make it one of the main defence ports across the city.
Later, in the 18th century, the Portuguese started to lose their grip over the Bombay islands. Foreseeing the defeat of the Portuguese, the British army partially destroyed the fort, fearing that the Marathas would capture it and use it as a forward military base to attack the British empire.
Post-independence, the fort was in visible ruins and that is when the Bandra Bandstand Residents’ Trust stepped in and took responsibility for the repair works of the fort.
Today, the fort is much more than an important heritage site. It has become one of the main hangout spots for the youth across the city. Along the line of the fort, there is a neighbouring park, amphitheatre and a garden for visitors to enjoy.
With a glittering view of the Arabian Sea at its feet and the sound of the calming palm trees swinging along with the breeze, it is understandable why the Bandra Fort has, till date, been one of the most visited sites in Mumbai, both by the tourists and locals. The fort is incredibly clean and well maintained. The grey stone walls with a clear sea view add that extra aesthetically pleasing look to the architectural marvel, which attracts the crowd.
Another historically important fort that was located on the western coast is the Worli Fort. Built at the very edge of the Worli hill by the British in around 1675, this fort was a lookout place for enemy ships and pirates at the Arabian Sea.
Located at the present-day Worli Koliwada, the fort is surrounded by a rich heritage of the Koli community, who were the city’s original inhabitants. The fort is currently divided into two levels. The lower level is reserved for the fort’s entrance and the higher level of the fort offers a majestic view of the Mahim Bay on the south and the Worli sea-face on the north. The fort also has a built-in temple along with a well.
As years passed by, the once historically significant Worli Fort lost its value. Even with a blissful view of the Bandra-Worli sea link and the mesmerising Arabian Sea, the fort does not attract many visitors. Unfortunately, the fort faces sheer negligence from the government. And although the Archeological Society of India completely restored it in the late 2000s, the fort was never given special attention or looked after again.
The glorious Worli Fort, which was once of great strategic importance to the British Navy overlooking the Mahim Bay, has now turned into a forgotten old monument at the tip of south Bombay. The fort may have a chance of restoring its lost glory with a little help from the state bodies and locals across the city.