These forts tell story of Thane’s glorious past
Recently, the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) sought relocation of the Thane Central Jail, which currently houses around 3,000 inmates, to convert the heritage structure into a tourist spot. The corporation has allocated a budget of Rs1 crore for it and for the jail fort to be restored.
The move has highlighted the need to preserve the other forts in Thane and Kalyan.
Thane, now known for its realty boom, has a rich history.
The city is situated on the western banks of the Thane creek with Parsik Hills on the east and the Yeoor Hills on the west. The greenery provides protection to the city, which has also facilitated transport of big and small ships since ancient times.
These ships were mainly used for trade purposes and forts were built by the Portuguese near these ports. Some of the forts are under the control of the Archaeological Survey of India and measures to revive these forts are being implemented.
One among them is the Nagla Fort, which is now in a shambles.
“Excessive mining has led to the continuous destruction of the fort. Earlier, there were two arches and a small room, but with lack of attention by the government and corporation, the fort is slowly disappearing,” said Sadashiv Tetwilkar, a historian from Thane.
Repeated complaints and warnings from historians have gone unheard as the quarrying activities continue at the fort, Tetwilkar said.
Looking at the state of the forts in the city, historians are not keen in restoring the jail fort.
“Any historical site needs to be restored. However, the government does not take proper measures for it. The Rs1crore budget for the Jail Fort should be put to right use or its fate will be like the Nagla Fort. At present, atleast the jail authorities are maintaining the premises of the fort,” said Ravindra Lad, historian and vice- president of the Konkan Itihaas Parishad, an organisation that focuses on the Konkan areas of Maharashtra and its preservation.
Shiv Sena corporator Naresh Mhaske said they have suggested that the jail be shifted out of its present location as it is situated in the central part of the city.
Read more: Exploring the forts of Thane
“Relocating the jail to a far-off area will help us develop the fort into a tourist spot, including a recreation area and a museum that will highlight its historical importance,” Mhaske said.
In March, a similar initiative was taken by residents to instil the importance of history and conserve the Ghodbunder Fort.
Various organisations came together to conduct the Ghodbunder Festival, which involved a heritage tour, lectures on conservation and folk events.
“Residents are not aware of the rich history and heritage that the city possesses. It is essential to bring this to the forefront, especially among children,” said Shripad Bhalerao, co-founder of Swatva, one of the organisers of the festival.
Though the authorities are not taking much effort for its conservation, it is frequented by trekkers.
“It is an appropriate location for an adventurous trek and hence, we sometimes conduct cleanliness drives. However, after long weekends, we often find alcohol bottles strewn around. It is essential to alert citizens about protecting historical monuments like these,” said Vikas Chauhan, an avid trekker and founder of the Nisarga Chitra, a trek group.
One of the most frequently visited forts by locals is the Durgadi fort. Time and again, measures to are taken to restore it.
“There is a dargah within the premises and communal tensions have erupted in this region. Hence, there is police protection round the clock. Local residents often visit this fort and it has become a picnic spot now,” said MS Shaikh, an archaeologist from Thane.
For its preservation, the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) has constructed a new gate and laid out a garden around the fort, which gives visitors a beautiful view of Retibunder, the Thane creek, the Bhiwandi bridge and the mangroves, said Shaikh.