A Visit to Korlai Fort and Lighthouse, Alibaug, India

Original Post here by my Friend Parresh Soni

A visit to Korlai fort also called “Castle Curlew or EL Moro” and Korlai lighthouse

Monsoon was in its end of season mood with rains coming for few hours in a day or at times it was complete dry spell of heat. Taking into consideration the variance in temperature, Dr Ajay suggested that we do some offbeat treks and not go for pure treks. It was finalized that we go for small trek to Korlai fort and lighthouse near Alibaug. It was interesting and I decided to join them. As I had been to Kanhoji Angre lighthouse near Alibaug and this was going to be my 2nd lighthouse visit. It was going to be on Sunday – Oct 13th and meeting place was decided at Churchgate station at 7 am.

Korlai fort historyΒ : Korlai also called Castle Curlew or EL moro is a Portuguese fort in village of Korlai. It was built on the island of Moro de Chaul which guards the way to Revdanda creek. This strategic position of fort helped Portuguese defend their interest from Korlai to Bassein. This fort was built in 1521 under the permission from Sultanate of Ahmednagar. The fort moved from hands of Portuguese to Ahmednagar sultanate and back to Portuguese and finally in hands of Maratha’s from 1739 – 1818.
The fort is 2828 feet long and and average breath is 89 feet. It had 305 battlement for guns and could be entered by 11 gates (four outer and seven inner). Vestiges of Portuguese occupation are manifested in distinct dialect spoken by Korlai villagers till date which is “Kristi” which is mix of Portuguese Creole and local Marathi.
My Visit :Β Since last 15 days there were some news about cyclone Phalin going to hit the east coast of India and as the day came near, it turned out that the cyclone was strongest to hit Indian shores in a decade or more. Though the cyclone was in the Bay of Bengal, the depression caused some rains here in Mumbai a night before our visit. I was hoping that on our day of visit, it shouldn’t rain for it would spoil the view and our photo shoot of the place. I woke up early around 5 am only to find it was drizzling a bit. By the time I started my train journey to Churchgate from Borivali, it has started to rain heavily. My heart sank thinking about rains playing spoilsport and visit was going to be a disaster as rains would come with fog and we would not be able to capture the place in our lens. Drenched in rains, I just reached Gateway in nick of time for our yacht was about to depart to Alibaug. We were only 5 of us and some of our group members had cancelled due to Phalin rains fear or due to last day of Navratri festival.
So here we were, 5 musketeers on the way to explore what Korlai had to offer. Luckily moment we left the shores of Mumbai, rains had stopped, Our yacht was not crowded as compared to normal Sunday’s. As Mumbai skyline move farther away from us, we got spectacular closeup of ships docked in the sea. Amazing to see some of them as high as 5-6 stories or more and were as good as small housing societies. Some were dredgers, some like floating oil rigs and multi-purpose vessels. We also got a chance to see a submarine peeping out of the sea !!!!

It took almost one hour to reach Mandwa port and from there it was 40 minutes bus ride to Alibaug ST stand. As everyone had left early from the house, We all were dead hungry and our first stop was at Udipi restaurant opposite ST stand. With hunger controlling our mind, we stopped looking at the ticking time, Consequences of which was that moment we reached ST stand to catch a bus for Murud, one bus just zipped past us and next bus was only one hr later at 11.30am !!!! It was hilarious situation for us that bus we wanted to board just went past us and we just kept starring. Now rather than waiting for one hour we decided to explore the option of tum-tum and Korlai is approx 20kms from Alibaug.

If we hire own tum-tum, it was costing Rs 200/- till Korlai while shared one till Revdanda market would cost Rs 15/- and from there to Korlai would be another Rs 20/-. It was unanimous choice to go for shared one. It was bumpy joy ride all the way to Revdanda and then till Revdanda bridge. We decided to walk down from the bridge as it would allow us to check the Korlai village life.

Walking past the paddy fields on one side and Revdanda creek on the other, we could see the Korlai fort standing tall at a distance. Rains had completely stopped and it was bright and sunny now. Disadvantage was that its was quite hot as we walked towards the village. Korlai village population would around 5000 people. We walked past small row houses and narrow lanes, being a Sunday afternoon, not much people were on the roads. There was one unique temple in middle of village called Bapuji temple. It didn’t really look like one from outside. It was huge village house but inside they it housed the local deity and framed pictures of Hindu god’s and goddess adorned the walls inside.

On asking direction, we were told that there is one of way to go to fort is from the lighthouse compound and road to the lighthouse is typical coastal road with sea on one side and mountain on the other. We decided to follow the coastal road. The village houses close to the seashore were uniquely painted. Each house wall was painted in different bright colours and it really looked awesome. Some houses in the village were huge ones, may be belonged to the elite class of the village.

Korlai beach was clean and view spectacular. A quite serene beach with alternate white and black sand. It was completely empty and seems to stretch on forever. Would have loved to take a dip in waves hitting the shores but our destination was the lighthouse and then the fort. The way to the lighthouse is narrow strip of coastal road cut from the mountains. On our way, we stopped for quite a few occasions for a photo shoot as the view was spectacular with beaches down below and hill fort above.

Lighthouse from the village is only a small distance away and we were standing at the gate in no time. Gate seemed closed but light of hope was few bikes parked outside the gate. As we walked inside, we found a security and a caretaker sitting inside. The lighthouse compound was neatly done garden and some cannons put on show and there were small cabins just after the gates. It also had huge satellite dish and quarters to stay at the backyard. There was huge steel structure which seems to house something like a telescope which we later found was a radar and a telescope remotely connected all the way to Shipping ministry in Delhi.

On enquiring caretaker was more than glad to give us a tour of the lighthouse, charges were nominal at Rs 10/- per head and camera charges at Rs 20/-. The way to the top was through spiral staircase from inside a room. One thing which was striking was that entire compound was neat and clean. We climbed all the way to the top of lighthouse tower. View from here was simply awesome. The fort was clearly visible at the back and in front it was blue sea as far as we could see.

On talking with caretaker, we found that he was an engineer stationed at the lighthouse. He first asked us to do photo shoot if we wanted and then he would give us insight about the entire place works. Seemed pretty exciting for us. Again photo shoot followed. On talking with him, we found that the lighthouse was built in 1955 and fully automated, helping ships navigate and stay on their channel (route). Also explained in details how there was a set of 4 backups for the lighthouse to function without any breakdown. The tall structure which was close by was radar to keep a close eye and was constantly beaming pictures via satellite to our coast guards. He also provided insight on bright colour of lighthouse and how each lighthouse would have different set of colour combination and how the ship captain would identify on basis of this from his manual of his exact location and his channel. It was truly amazing to know how the entire lighthouse functioned and the caretaker gave us complete insight. Thanking the caretaker heartily we now decided to explore the fort, one of the route to the fort was neatly carved steps from the lighthouse compound.

The steps were steep but not many and in no time we were standing at the entrance of the fort which had stood by time and was reminiscent of our rich history. The fort was covered with thick growth of vegetation.

We decided to first explore the north side. Huge entrances welcomes the visitors on each side of the fort. View of the entire sea and Revdanda creek was spectacular, clearly making one wonder the importance of fort and its strategic location. It was around 12.30pm so we decided to have our packed lunch in shade of the fort gate.

Now it was time to go down south, as we were told at the lighthouse that southern part of fort was where the some attraction was and also it was our way back to the village. On the way we came across some water cisterns.Some canons still hold guard at strategic locations of the fort, they are truly the silent spectator of the forgone years.

The best part of this fort is that on eastern side lies the Arabian sea and on the western side lies the Revdanda creek so if we climb and peep from the walls of the fort on either side one would see blue waters. We also saw some inscription in Portuguese on the two of the gates. At the southern end of fort lies the abandoned church. We spend some time sitting in the church and doing some photo shoots again.

After exploring the fort, We moved down to the village through the western side of the fort. I really wanted to listen to villagers conversation in local dialect of “Kristi” but we couldn’t find any. The sun had taken toll on us but small shop in heart of village came to our rescue. The lady at the shop not only sold us chilled water but also gave us lime, sugar and salt which we made into fresh numbu pani. Luckily we also got rickshaw for Revdanda immediately and were back at Alibaug by 4.30pm. On reaching Alibaug we only found that there was no boat for Gateway before 6.30pm and we had almost one hr 30 minutes gap. Again tea and some snacks followed. By the time we reached Mandwa port it was almost 7pm and sun had already set. On the way back the ships parked in middle of sea sported completely different look with full lights on and Mumbai skyline looked like glittering diamonds in the night. Before moving back home by train. We stopped at famous Parsi ice cream shop Warden to feast on their sandwich ice creams which I have cherished from my days in college at Jai-hind in early nineties. It was yet another of my adventures coming to an end.

Next weekend hoping to be on another of my adventure trips to some other exotic locations. Till then Au revoir ……


12 thoughts on “A Visit to Korlai Fort and Lighthouse, Alibaug, India

  1. Nicely written!..:)
    Infact,whole Alibaug-Revdanda-MurudJanjira zone is awesome!
    One should stay there for atleast 3 days to experience the beauty of Nature + History.
    I stay in Dombivli(Mumbai)..but my village is Nagaon which is on the Alibaug-Revdanda road. Its always a delight for me whenever i go there. πŸ˜€

  2. I throughIy enjoyed going throuh your very descriptive account of your marvellous experience of visiting the historic fort of Korlai, It has inspired me to visit this fort and admire our rich heritage of our bygone days, Thanks for your time and affort,

  3. if you want to hear listen to the local language kristi, which is called nau ling you need to only take a walk in the upper village behind the church. thats were everyone speaks it.

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