Korlai and Revdanda – Remnants of Portuguese Culture in Konkan
Maharashtra’s history is incomplete without the mention of forts. Forts were pillars of Maratha rule under Shivaji Maharaj. There are around 400 forts in Maharashtra built and refortified in different times. Most of these forts are in decaying state because they were destroyed by the Moghuls or British or just because of passage of time! But some of their walls and bastions have withstood the test of time and are standing tall to proudly tell the stories of bravery, politics, arts, culture and history.
Forts in Sahyadris are the most popular ones in Mahashtra. Tall cliffs and peaks of waterfall studded Sahyadri invites us on its arduous trekking paths. Among its 400 or so forts some are hill forts others are land fort and 20 or so are sea forts. Janjira is one of the most talked about sea forts of Maharashtra which has ever so remained unconquered. Near to this legendary sea fort and in close proximity of pristine beach of Kashid two unique forts Korlai and Revdanda, of Portuguese heritage, present a unique cultural standoff. Probably the only Portuguese presence in the whole of Konkan.
Off all the beaches in Alibaug, Revdanda beach must be the least popular one. It is the most isolated and if you happen to pass it by you would not even know such a fort and an adjoining beach exists. Revdanda fort also known as Revdanda Agarkot, is located on the Alibaug-Murud road. In fact, it passes through the fort.
Revdandad is a beach facing fort with expanse of about 5 kms. It was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese to protect its trading interests near the mouth of the Kundalika river. During that time, it was called Santa Maria de Castelo. The adjoining area around the fort was called Chaul (Chenwal in Konkani language). Most of the fort now remains in dilapidated state with local population encroaching in its premises. What remains is a wall facing the beach, a couple of bastions, a bell tower in ruins, few Portuguese scriptures, some canons and palm betel nut trees.
While approaching the fort it is difficult to spot the turn on the Alibaug-Murud way. Look out for sign and take a right. Passing through the green palms you will reach a small gate and you can enter the remains of the fort. When you enter you will see a wall along the beach and the sea opens of from the broken wall. Sand on the beach is distinct black in colour which adds different flavour to this deserted beach. There are no water sports here, no food vendors, no shacks or any other usual disturbances on the beach. Just you the Seas and the wall behind you. One can experience calm and serenity with almost no human presence whatsoever.
Korlai is small fishing hamlet located on the Alibaug-Murud highway. After crossing the Revdanda fort and a bridge on the Kundlika river when you see the first instance of a church take a right. After crossing the small difficult to manoeuvre gullies of Korlai you reach the outskirts of village. A small not fully constructed road offering mesmerising views of the Arabian sea on one side a cliff on the other will take you to Korlai fort. A very small trek with some stairs will take you to top of the fort.
Korlai fort is atop a small hill some 300 ft above sea level. Build in 1500s by the Portuguese Korlai was important stronghold of their empire in Maharashtra which stretched from Daman till Korlai. The primary motive of the building a fort at this specific location was to protect Revdanda creek. Korlai is a huge fort and during its mighty days it could house around 7000 men and similar number of horses. It had huge gates and was on a hill and that is why was difficult to infiltrate.
After five centuries what survives is an outer wall of the forts, few bastions, canons and remnants of church in the fort. But it still offers that spectacular view of the Arabian sea from the top. There is also a functional lighthouse here. From one side you would be able to spot the Revdanda fort and the beach. This will give you an idea of how these twin forts created a strong defence on the sea.
Lost in time and less frequented by tourists these forts offer you a solitary experience of history and breath-taking view of the sea. One from the beach and the other from the top. Both forts look at each other from far away as if sharing stories from the past. Of the battles won and battles lost, of the countless ships they protected, of the times of splendour and the times of plunder. Between all these, one thing has remained constant the sea waves have come roaring always come and stopped at their feet.