From the Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency

Ratnagiri and Savantvadi Districts (Vol.X) Originally printed in 1880.

The chief object of interest is Shivaji's fortress and coast capital, Sindhudurga, or the Ocean Fort. On a low island about a mile from the shore, though less striking than Suvarnadurga, it is very extensive(*1), a little less than two miles round the ramparts. The walls are low, ranging from 29 to 30 feet(*2). They are on an average 12 feet thick and have about 32 towers from 40 to 130 yards apart. The towers are generally outstanding semi-circles with fine embrasures for cannon, with in most a flat seat on the parapet, and stones projecting inwards drilled with flag staff holes. Here and there narrow staircases lead from the inside to the top of the walls. The entrance is at the north-east corner. (*3)

The area of the fort is forty-eight acres. Once full of buildings, it is now a mere shell with nothing inside but a few small temples. (*4)

To the Marathas, Sindhudurga is Shivaji's Cenotaph (*5) and in it's chief shrine Shivaji's image is worshipped. The image is of stone and the head is covered with a silver, or in high days, with a Gold mask. In the stone of the walls prints of Shivaji's hands and feet are held in reverence and protected by small domes. (*6)

Besides the temple buildings, the fort contains the huts of a few Gabits who have rented from the Government the numerous cocoa palms that grow within the walls. Inside the fort, near the temple stands a solitary Adausonia digitata, gorakh chincha, tree. The Temple or shrine is supported by a yearly cash allowance of Pounds 152 4s. (Rs. 1522) assigned in 1812, by the Kolhapur chief through his minister Ratnakar Appa. (*7)

About the middle of the seventeenth century (1665), failing in his efforts to take Janjira from the Sidi, Shivaji chose Malwan with its rocky islands and reef-blocked harbour as his coast head-quarters. (*8)

Besides the main fortress on the larger of the outer islands, at which he is said to have worked with his own hands. he fortified the smaller island Padmagad, and on the mainland opposite the town and at the mouth of the creek about a mile and a half north, built the forts of Rajkot and Sarjekot. (*9) At the time (1713) of the division of Shivaji's dominions between the Kolhapur and Satara families, Malwan fell to the Kolhapur chiefs, and under them became the headquarters of the most active and destructive of the coast pirates. (*10)

About 1710 Hamilton (*11) describes the chief as an independent freebooter who kept three or four grabs to rob all whom he could master. In October 1715 his boats attacked two vessels, in one of which was Mr. Strutt, Deputy Governor of Bombay, but seven shots scared them away. (*12) In 1730 the pirates of Malvan seized on an English wreck. This caused much dispute, but at last a treaty was concluded with Shankar Paut, the governor and commander-in-chief fo Malvan. (*13) In 1765 an expedition, under the joint command of Major Gordon and Captain John Watson of the Bombay Marine, was sent against Sindhudurg. They speedily reduced the fort, and and intending to keep it gave it the name of the Fort Augustus. But as it was unprofitable and very hard to dismantle, the fort was given back to the Kolhapur chief. on his promising not to molest trade, to give security for his future good conduct, to pay the Bombay Government a sum of P38,289 (Rs. 3,82,890), and to let the English establish a factory at Malvan. (*14) In the beginning of the present century, the Malvan pirates were as troublesome as ever. Towards the close of 1812, Colonel Lionel Smith, with a slight military force and a squadron of small craft helped by the fifteen-gun cruiser Prince of Wales, went to Malvan and completely rooted out the nest of pirates. (*15)

Pandavgad, the other island fort, with an area of one arce, lies about half a mile from the mainland and within a mile of Malvan. This island, where Shivaji used to build ships, half reef half sandbank, with ruins and coconut palms, is the prettiest part of Malvan. (*16) In 1862 the walls were very ruinous, there was no garrison, and the supply of water was defective. (*17)

Of the two mainland forts Rajkot and Sarjkot, Rajkot Fort stands within the boundaries of the town of Malvan, on rising ground surrounded on three sides by the sea. In 1828, Rajkot was a mere enclosure of dry stone, open towards the bay and flanked at three corners by towers of cement mesonry, then entirely ruinous. Inside it were several buildings in tolerable repair, and the walls appeared never to have been intended except as a slight protection to them. (*18) In 1862 the fort was in several places much broken down, there was no garrison and only one gun. (*19) Near it are some buildings of interest, the barracks made in 1812, and the mamlatdar's office, the old Residency, and probably the factory established about 1792. (*20)

Sarjekot Fort, about 1 3/4 miles north of Rajkot in the village of Rundi on the coast, is washed on the north by the sea and protected on the three other sides by a ditch. In 1862 the walls were in bad repair and there was no garrison and no water. (*21) Close to the town are a number of Christian graves, but only two with any writing on them. Of these one was raised by the officers of the station to Colonel Robert Webb commanding at Malvan, who died in 1815. The other is the tomb of a serjeant.

There is small Roman Catholic chapel on the road leading to Achra. In the town are Hindu temples dedicated to Rameshyar, Narayan, Sateri, Dattatray, and Murlidhar.

Mandangad Fort, on the high hill of the same name in Dapoli, about twelve miles inland from Bankot, has two forts and a triple stockade with an area of about eight acres.(*22) Of the three fortifications, Mandangad proper, with two reservoirs, lies to the south, Parkot is in the middle, and Jamba, with a dry reservoir, on the north. In 1862 the walls were in several places much ruined.(*23) The likeness of the name suggests that Mandangad may be Mandagora, a town of the Konkan coast, as mentioned by Ptolemy (150) and in the Periplus (247). At the same time it seems more probable that Mandagora was on the coast at the mouth of the Bankot creek, on the site of the present villages of Bagmandla and Kolmandla. Though they are probably much older, local tradition ascribes Mandangad to Shivaji, Parkot to the Habshi, and Jamba to Angria. They were taken in 1818 by Col. Kennedy with the loss of one seaman and nine or ten sepoys wounded. (*24)

The head-quarters of the Mandangad petty division have, since 1859, been in Durgavadi, a small village of 577 souls and no trade, at the foot of the hill. It has a mahalkari's and chief constable's office, a post office, and a vernacular school. (*25)


(*1) The figure of the fort is highly irregular with many projecting points and deep indentations. This arrangement has the advantage that not a single point outside of the rampart is not commanded from some point inside. (South Konkan Forts 1828)

(*2) On the sea side so low are the walls that at one place they seem almost below high water level, and inside of the fort are masses of wave-worn rock and stretches of sand (Nairne's MS)

(*3) In 1828, the north and east faces were in very fair repair. A few fig trees had here and there made their appearance, but they were of no great size. The state of the west and south faces was deplorable. In no part of either of them was the parapet entire. In most places it had been washed away by the beating of the monsoons so as to leave not above two feet remaining and in many parts it was destroyed clear away from the level of the ground and the whole of the terreplein or cannon platform was washed away leaving great blocks of rough stone. A large stretch of the west and the smaller parts of the south wall were undermined. It was doubtful if the west wall would stand many years more. In spite of regular repairs the buildings of the fort were, except the magazine and gateway, in a wretched state almost falling down. (Southern Konkan Forts 1828). Considerable repairs must have been carried out, as in 1862 the walls and bastions were, with few exceptions in fair order. There was no garrison, water was abundant and supplies easily obtained. In the fort were nineteen old guns. (Government list of Civil Forts 1862).

(*4) In the 1862 list the area is given as 31 acres and it was said to contain thirteen houses, three temples and one rest-house. (Government list of Civil Forts).

(*5) Grant Duff in Nairne's MS.

(*6) But for their exceeding smallness these imprints are very accurate representations of a hand and foot - Mr. R.B. Worthington C.S.

(*7) (Nairne's MS.) Monday is the chief day for Shivaji's worship and the Kolhapur chief sends turbans and other presents. The shrine is seldom visited by pilgrims and is not honoured by a fair. (Mr. G.Vidal, C.S.)

(*8) The difficulty of the harbour entrance, and the care taken in fortifying the land approach raise the belief that Shivaji meant Malwan as a place of refuge should he be brought to extremities. Nairne's MS.

(*9) Grant Duff, I 188 and Nairne's MS.

(*10) Grant Duff, I 188 and Nairne's MS. Of the Malwan pirates Milburn (Oriental Commerce, I. 296) gives the following details: In the seventeenth and early years of the eighteenth centuries Malwan was the head-quarters of pirates known as Malvans, a very cruel race, according to Grant Duff, the most active and desperate of all the coast corsairs. None but the Raja fitted out vessels which were of three kinds; galivats, shebars, and grabs. The galivat had generally two masts, were decked fore and aft, had square top sails and top gallant sails and was rigged mostly in European fashion. The shebar had also two masts the aftermast and bowsprit very short, no top masts, very little rigging and was not decked. It's largest sail was stretched on a yard of very great length running to a point many feet higher than the mast. They sailed well and were fine vessels in fair weather and smooth water. Many were more than 150 tons burden. The grab had instead of bows, a projecting prow, either two or three masts, and was decked and rigged in European fashion. Vessels of all kinds carried eight or ten small guns and about 100 men. Their favourite rendezvous was at Pigeon island. They generally went on fifteen-day cruises, the common seamen at starting getting 4s. (Rs.2) and the captains 16s. (Rs.8). On their return they got grain and 6s. to 8s. or more, according to their rank and good fortune. Prizes were the property of the chief, but unless very well suited for service they were generally released. They sailed with no written commission and with instructions to take any vessel they could master except such as had English colours and passes. Sometimes they seized boats under English protection, evading the open assault by sending on some boats, who examining the pass, contrived to steal or lose it and make off. Soon after, the rest of the pirates came up and seized the trader. In many case restitution was demanded by the British Government and made without demur.

(*11) New Account, I. 247.

(*12) Low's Indian Navy, I. 92.

(*13) Low's Indian Navy, I. 116.

(*14) Grant Duff, III. 99-100.

(*15) Low's Indian Navy, I. 278.

(*16) Nairne's Konkan, 72. It is said to have been once held by Mhars. Government List of Civil Forts, 1862.

(*17) Government List of Civil Forts, 1862.

(*18) Southern Konkan Forts, 1828.

(*19) Government List of Civil Forts, 1862.

(*20) The 1765 treaty had a provision for a factory. But as the stipulation was repeated in the 1792 agreement, the factory had probably not till then be started. Grant Duff, 509 in Nairne's Konkan, 105.

(*21) Government List of Civil Forts, 1862.

(*22) Government List of Civil Forts, 1862.

(*23) Government List of Civil Forts, 1862.

(*24) MS, Records in Nairne's Konkan, 114. The reduction of the forts of Mandangad and Jamba was announced in General Orders of the 20th February 1818. In Colonel Kennedy's detailed report, he specially thanked Captian Farquharson, Lieuts. Dominicette and Capon, and the seamen and native officers for the intrepid and gallant manner in which they assaulted the triple stockades in front of the communication gateway and carried the forts by escalade. Service Record of H. M.'s XXIst Regiment N. I.

(*25) Mr. G. Vidal, C. S.