Maharashtra has a legacy of forts. It is home to over 300 forts on land and in sea. Once Maharashtra’s glory today these forts lie in ruins. Some of the reasons behind this downfall being unawareness amongst tourist, low revenue generation, illegal camping activities, etc. All of these have turned the majestic forts in to nothing but mere jungles encroached by wild life and animals. The project aims at showcasing the coming generation the lost legacy of Swarajya, to promote fort architecture, restoring and conserving our heritage, providing local employment and increasing revenue generation for the forts.
Project Name: Suvarnadurga – experiencing the golden era of Maratha empire
By: Anushka Jadhav
Due to their state of ruins it is difficult to study much about fort architecture and planning. However, if observed carefully even these ruins speak a lot about the ingenious architecture these forts had been built with. The three forts taken up for case study were, Janjira- the sea fort that was never conquered, Raigad- the capital of Swarajya and Sindhudurga- another sea fort that still has a living settlement inside its boundaries.
Forts in India are classified as class A (looked after by the national government) and class B type (looked after by the state government). The government of Maharashtra has initiated a policy to transform these class B forts into heritage hotels and museums, to conserve them and promote revenue generation.
The project site, Suvarnadurga is one such class B types fort situated in the Arabian sea off the coasts of Harne-Dapoli in Ratnagiri district. It is a ‘durga’ meaning a sea fort. It is looked over by 3 forts- Kanakdurga, Fatehgad and Goa fort, originally built for its security. Today access to Suvarnadurga is through boats leaving from Kanakdurga. Fatehgad holds a koli settlement while goa fort stands in ruins.
The site has strengths and opportunities such as existing fortification wall which protects the site form strong sea waves, natural flora and fauna, strong historical context, existing fresh water sources inside site boundaries, scenic views on all sides, etc. Similarly, it also has some weakness and threats like access, isolation form the outer world, lack or service provision like electricity, dilapidated fort condition, etc.
The crowd coming to the fort can be broadly classified into two categories- for educational purpose and for leisure. Based on this, the site is roughly divided into two parts- the southern side for the day tourist which act as an interpretation centre giving the essence of that era and the northern side which focuses on leisure.
Towards the southern side organic forms are used which provide a flow and continuity in the circulation without breaking vision or any sharp edges to avoid obstacle. On the contrary, the north eastern side has linear geometric forms with sharp edges that provide the privacy needed for activities planned there.
The column design is inspired by surrounding natural elements where the base depicts the stone platform in the sea on which the fort stands strong, the carvings inspired by the flora and fauna and the vertical pillar which depicts the upward growth of the Maratha empire which the fort witnessed.
Taking into consideration all the factors, the design process starts with a simple idea of reinterpretation of fort architecture. Reinterpretation means action of interpreting something in a new light, studying the ideology of fort planning and architecture and reinterpreting it to suit todays time and functionality.
A few ideologies of fort planning which are reinterpreted are identifying a principal axis and placing structures of greater importance, here open gathering spaces and primary activities along the axis. Reinterpretation of the placing the darbar (space of primary activity) or the bale killa (king’s residence) at the highest point on the site, reinterpreting the glory, splendour as well as the greatness of that era in the form of a grand entrance plaza. Planning of settlements along water bodies has been reinterpreted by placing the villas along already existing or artificially created water bodies, Functionality has changed from satiating daily need to providing appealing vistas. Inward looking courtyard planning has been reinterpreted by providing inward looking open space surrounded by built forms.
The journey begins at the drop off point by boats. One can opt to trek the 50 something steps or take the lift hidden inside the pseudo buruj to reach to the top. The existing mahadarwaja and entrance have been restored and the entrance extended to accommodate the coming tourists. The dilapidated fortification wall has been restored wherever necessary by creating view pockets at specific intervals. Water bodies have been used as focal point while designing, some are existing while some artificially created.
One enters the fort to be welcomed by the padmini talav (lotus lake) which acts as a central court (the chowk) to the entire site- a place to sit and relax after the trek or just to enjoy. The navka talav is the focal point to the southern wing of the site overlooking the holicha maal (ground). The third water body- the kund- acts as the focal point to the northeaster side which is inspired by the stepped well seen all over India.
The journey to the interpretation centre begins with a shivkalin khedegao (the village) which showcases the village life during swarajya. It continues through the vishramgruha (the food court) which is a pause point to refresh and offers a viewing frame to the sea outside. Further, the journey offers a hands on experience into the cultural activities like sword fighting, archery, povada, killa making, warli painting through spaces such as workshop gallery, rangamancha (open air amphitheatre). The experience ends at the mudpakkhana (Maratha theme restaurant) offering traditional Maharashtrian delicacies.
The north eastern wing offers three types of cottages for stay each with a different theme and the spa and other activities which focuses mainly on leisure and promoting revenue generation. The project as aptly titled aims at bringing back glory to our forts, to review and rejuvenate them.