Revisiting Madh Fort (Versova Fort)

I had visited Madh fort on 1st January 2013 as a result of my new year resolution of cycling to all the forts and other historical sites in and around Mumbai. Madh fort is normally kept closed and is not open to visitors. However they do let out the fort for shootings of films and television serials. On this weekend I had the pleasure of riding with my cousin Hemant who was visiting from the US, and we did a short ride to Madh via Marve. I could not resist taking him to the fort, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was open and preparations were on for the shooting of some television serial.

A short history of Madh Fort:

In the beginning of the 17th century, as the Portuguese started acquiring Salsette and Versova, they built the Madh fort. The records of 1720, mention that the Madh fort is very narrow and deep. It is also said to have the best bay on the coastline. In 1728, Madh fort was functioning poorly. A treaty was signed between Marathas and Portuguese in 1732 in which the Marathas demanded the handover of Versova. In 1774, it again fell into the hands of Portuguese and later at the beginning of 19th century, when the military colleges at Colaba and Mahim were closed down, Madh became the training centre for new recruits. Till 1818, there was an army base here, and after Independence it came under the authority of Indian Air Force.

We rode to Madh via Marve, and arrived at the fishing jetty to witness all the fishing boats unload their precious cargo. These fish at the famous Bombay Duck or Bombil fish that is a delicacy when fried. It is also sun dried on bamboo stands such as the on in this picture, and the dried fish let out a powerful distinct odor

The fort juts out on a small peninsula beside the jetty, and seems to be largely in tact, with its ramparts and bastions standing imposingly along the coast

The blue waters of the Arabian sea seem to mix with the golden rays of the rising sun, and the fishing boats lie in it peacefully, after a successful morning harvest of fish

We met two other young cyclists who had ventured out for their first long ride. It is truly nice to see so many youngsters taking up cycling. While talking to them, we noticed a few people walking on the ramparts of the fort above, and came to know that there was some shooting going on, and the fort was therefore open!

We rode over to the fort, and indeed found that there were preparations going on for shooting of some television serial. We locked our cycles together outside and went in to take a look.

These stairs lead up to the entrance from one of the bastions. The door is normally locked, but it was open today and the shooting crew were busy moving props and equipment into the fort.

If you look at the fort in Google Earth, you can see that the fort has a very interesting shape. It is a seven sided polygonal structure, with bastions at each corner, with one large circular bastion in the middle. A large rectangular courtyard flanked by ramparts on all sides is to the north, while beside the circular bastion there are two other smaller areas. The bastion at the southern most tip is where we entered.

We walked over to the large circular bastion in the middle, and noticed that the walls around it were broken with a few remaining structures that seemed to have been restored

The large rectangular courtyard had a big water tank on one side, with a row of chambers to the west and an open area to the east, flanked by ramparts that looked over the Arabian sea.

We walked on the ramparts all around the courtyard, enjoying the view of the Arabian sea and the cool sea breeze that compensated for the heat of the sun

The bastion at the north eastern tip has several port holes through which one can keep a watch on any boat or ship that attempts to land at the jetty beside the fort

Most of the internal structures are not in tact, and are overgrown with wild shrubs and trees

However the chambers at the western face of the courtyard seemed to be in tact, with a series of doorways along the entire length

As we entered the chambers, we could see that there were a row of rooms, connected to each other with rectangular windows that allowed the air to circulate throughout.

The window at the southern end of the chambers looked over the doorway that lead to the courtyard from the large circular bastion

We found a small secret door that led directly outside the fort, and exited from it

We were so lucky to get a chance to see the fort from inside! But now it was time to head back. The sun was rising fast and it was slowly getting hot. We took the ferry across to Versova and headed back home, satisfied after a short but fruitful ride.

This is the route we took – from Andheri via Western Express Highway, then crossing over to Link road and to Marve, then along the coast to Madh Fort, then across the creek to Versova to head back via JP Road

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  • Siddhesh.Chitre

    Hi.This is Siddhesh.Chitre,we met at Madh fort and i liked your blog.Inspiring to read your other conquests!And will take tips from u,for my future trips on the bike.Incidentally,i cycled from Andheri to Utan beach.,via GORAI CREEK and back just day before. Cheers ! Hope to hear from you.

    • Thanks for visiting Siddhesh! Was great to have met you at Madh fort, and its unfortunate you could not join us on that rare occasion when the fort was open! And I’m so glad to hear that you have been cycling regularly… but please do wear a helmet 🙂

      • keyur shah

        Sir this is keyur shah… I had also met you at mash island with Siddhesh.. It was a lot of fun but after that trip I have reduced my cycling because of the low stamina.. How can I work on my stamina because by reading your blogs it seriously inspires me a lot so can you just give me tips regarding all this?

        • Thanks Keyur, was really nice to see both of you at Madh. To build your stamina, just start with smaller rides till your body gets used to the rhythm and build it up gradually. You will be surprised how soon you’ll be able to do longer rides with ease.

  • Amitabha Gupta

    Hi Ashutosh,

    It was very thrilling to read your blog on Madh Fort on the net, when I was searching for some information on it.

    I need a small favour from you. Could you take some time from your busy schedule and tell me whether the fort shown in this video is Madh fort ? This is one of the episode of Basu Chatterjee’s epic serial- Byomkesh Bakshi.

    Here is the link : youtu.be/2fLyN0oQfMo

    The camera angle is different from the conventional one to make it look like Bihar, but I am almost sure that it is Madh Fort. I need you to confirm it.

    Thank you for your time.

    Regards

    Amitabha Gupta

    • Hi Amitabha

      I had a look at the episode. Though it does resemble Madh Fort, I dont think it is the same. The first scene looks strikingly like Madh fort, but if you notice, the bastion facing the sea does not have a staircase with an entrance into the fort the way Madh fort has.

      I have a feeling it could be the Tarapur fort though.

      • Amitabha Gupta

        Whatever photographs I have seen of Tarapur Fort, I have seen quite dense vegetation around and no clear view of the fort is possible as seen in the video.

        I feel it is the Madh Fort because A. The height of the bastion from the ground as seen in the video matches with Madh Fort
        B. The road in front of it goes just past it C. Number of Single palm trees around it. D. No dense vegetation around

        When you say “the bastion facing the sea does not have a staircase”, please note that the camera angle has been positioned cleverly to cover only the first two bastion is visible and not to bring the bastion with staircase in view at all.

        Check the photograph of Madh fort in the link given below. Consider the first two bastions from the left ( extreme left bastion is not fully visible) and compare with the two bastions shown in the video. The shot was taken from low angle at a close distance from the fort’s wall , so that anything beyond the second bastion is not visible to the viewer. In fact the trunk of the palm tree just behind the second bastion ( the car stops just under it) is half visible. If you check the photograph below, you will find the palm tree behind the second bastion.

        Sorry to have bored you enough with my deduction, but I would request you to have a second look and come with your final opinion.

        http://c0056906.cdn2.cloudfiles.rackspacecloud.com/367380-1.jpg

  • Yash

    Thanks for the review, Please can you tell me some precautions before going there…..

    • Basically you need luck… most of the times the fort is closed to visitors. It is open only for shootings and they need to take special permissions.