BMC to revamp 800-year old Mahim Fort – given as Portuguese dowry to British

Mumbai, March 14 (IANS) The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has planned out a major revamp of the over eight centuries old Mahim Fort and the adjoining Mahim beach promenade to boost tourism in the city, officials said here on Thursday.

The proposal was unveiled a month after the BMC’s weekend ‘Sea Food Plaza’ run by Koli women self-help groups, proved to be a runaway hit with more than 40,000 foodies, families and fun-lovers freaking out there on authentic fish delicacies.

In the new and first of its kind initiative, the BMC plans to restore and beautify the Mahim Fort and its precincts on the beach to lure more tourists, plus, the existing sea-front and the wall – resisting the Arabian Sea waves lapping there round the year, but lashing in the monsoon.

The dilapidated Fort, estimated to be constructed in 1140-1240, is owned by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and Mahikawati (now, Mahim) was once the capital of the then King Bhimdev in the 12th-13th centuries.

363 years ago when the present-day Mumbai was just a group of tiny isles, the Mahim Fort, along with the Mahim island, other territories making up the erstwhile Bombay, was given away as part of the dowry of the King of Portugal’s daughter, Princess Catherine of Braganza to her husband, King Charles II of England, in May 1661.

After witnessing those days of glory, the Mahim Fort witnessed many wars and bloodshed, but post-Independence it was reduced to a sorry state with over 500 slums slowly encroaching inside the historical royal domain.

Almost all the shanties were shunted out of Mahim Fort in the past couple of years, the dwellers were given alternative accommodation, and now the BMC plans to start the fort’s renovation.

“We shall repair the broken parts of the fort, restore and strengthen the weakened walls and ceilings, the internal pathways, the bastions and other structures inside. The sediment on the footsteps of the fort, old broken tiles and the cracking plaster shall be removed before the beautification works are taken up,” said a BMC official.

The 130-metre long and 3-feet high protective wall built here to protect the beach and surroundings from the lashing sea-waves shall be repaired and strengthened wherever required, and beautified on three sides with lighting, seating areas, greenery, walkways plus public amenities like drinking water and toilets for the visitors.

The Sea Food Plaza created adjacent to the 130-metre-long and 10-metre-wide esplanade area will also be revamped, and since the Koli fisherfolk living nearby cannot venture into the Arabian Sea during the monsoon, arrangements shall be made to moor their fishing boats at the promenade.

The BMC has appointed an expert Vastu consultant to design the project and implement it, though the officials did not indicate a specific time-frame or the estimated costing for the same.

The official claimed that the Mahim Fort would be the first systematic restoration-cum-beautification project for any such ancient fortified structure taken up in the city, which offers a magnificent view of the Bandra Worli Sea Link and the upcoming Mumbai Coastal Road.

After this project, other forts dotting the country’s commercial capital – each of which offers commanding views of the sea and hills – could follow suit.

Besides Mahim Fort, Mumbai has other imposing old citadels like the Fort George, Mazagaon Fort, Riwa Fort, Worli Fort, Sewri Fort, and Bandra Fort, dating to different glorious eras, but now most are in various stages of neglect and decay.

There are another dozen-odd big and small forts in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) areas, within a couple of hours’ road journey, which are frequented by fort-lovers, trekkers and a few tourists.

(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at: q.najmi@ians.in)

–IANS

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