May 30, 2012 by freakychakra
Forts and the sea have always fascinated me. Bought up in the new urban jungle and devouring the heroic stories of forts and knights through the alleys of history texts, I have always been fascinated by the opportunities to explore the standing remnants of these stories myself.
A fort reminisces me of a grand old knight, standing in his full glory wearing his uniform and helmet and brandishing his shining sword. Yet this knight is falling prey to the traps of time and can do nothing but be a silent bearer to a grand past and watch that past being silent and steadily eroded around him by an ungrateful and unconcerned present. Yet he does this with an unassumed pride, a pride that’s a legacy of his glorious past and will be a legend forever.
Arnala fort, located off the beach of Arnala near Virar is one of the last standing well maintained forts in Mumbai. I am not sure, if the maintenance is a gift of the governance or local populace or a gift of the way it was constructed. Just that, the fort stands there in its full grandeur washed by the clear blue sea on all its sides … yes, you got it right; it stands in an island.
To reach the fort you will need to go to the northernmost suburb of Virar. From Virar station you will get buses regularly for Arnala beach. Once you reach Arnala market, you will need to take a right instead of the left which will take you to the beach. About 10 minutes of walking in the right direction you will reach a makeshift port from where you can catch a boat to the fort. This area is marked by the presence of fish hanged around to dry before they can be sold in the open market. Please note, that there is no dock or anything even remotely like a dock here. You will actually need to wade through knee deep water and struggle yourself onto the boat and it is the same at both ends. The first time I went there, I had to beat a retreat as my accompanying friends couldn’t risk their cameras while wading through the water. But the second time I went with my DSLR and came back safely, without a drop on my camera After crossing over you will enter a fishing village and nearly half a kilometer of walk later the mighty Arnala fort’s gates will be standing there welcoming you.
Once inside, there isn’t much to do besides covering the entire area of the fort walking through the side walls of it. You will see the entire wall area littered with fishes put out for drying in the open by the local fishermen families. After safely trudging the distance me and my friend perched ourselves atop one of the watch towers admiring the vast endless beauty of the sea from this grand proud monument.
Except for the silent beauty of the sea, the grandeur of the fort and the thrill of crossing over the sea to reach there, there isn’t much that you may expect here. Yet, the history and its pride conquers your heart and memories as you take a trip down the walls of this fort. There is also a watchtower at some distance from the fort. A lot of stories abound about it amongst the locals. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to make it to the watchtower. That too should be a plan in the itinerary if Arnala fort ever comes up in your weekend plans.