Arnala Fort journey planning started over a chat during office lunch. Gourish & Nitin (my office colleagues & friends) were planning to visit Arnala Fort on any upcoming Sunday. While having a lunch both asked me, "Would you like to come at Arnala Fort?". And, I instantly said, "Yes, let's go". Till that time I had no information about Arnala Fort and No itinerary was decided. Next day, two more guys; Viraj & Prashant (my office colleagues & friends); joined our group to visit Arnala Fort. And then Nitin formed a WhatsApp group of us for the ease of discussion & planning.
Gourish had collected initial info of Arnala Fort and then Viraj fine tuned journey details. Since Viraj is resident of Virar; also a great fan of history of Maharashtra, also expert in finding details of history, and so he became a guide for us for Arnala Fort visit. And then, itinerary was been finalized. A Sunday of 25th March of 2018 was been decided to visit Arnala Fort. It was a Shree Ram Navmi festival on that day. Gourish had digged lot of blogs for betterment and so instructed us to avoid wearing denims & shoes and recommended to wear shorts & sandals (or any rainy wear). We all followed his instructions and that actually helped us so much. Main challenge was to wake up very early in the morning and this was toughest task for me; because Sunday used to be a lazy day for me. Among our group, I am the only person living most far from Virar. So, to get everything on time I woke up at 4.15am and left from home at 4.55am and got into Bandra train of 5.08am from Cotton green station to reach at Bandra. And then, got Virar train of 5.37am from Bandra. Cascadingly, Nitin got into same train at Andheri as per decided itinerary, then Prashant & Gourish got same train at Borivali. Gourish is having famous history of reaching on dot time everywhere. Due to that a tension of boarding train on time by Gourish was there in our mind till Borivali. And, then we felt relaxed when he got into same train. All was going well and as per planned. We wanted reach at fort as early as possible in the morning; because after sunrise there would be heavy heat; and, it would have make us difficult to explore fort nicely. Train took us at Virar at 6.36am. Meanwhile, I was constantly updating our status of train position to Viraj on WhatsApp group. He planned to meet us at Virar station platform. It was pleasure when Viraj told us that he has brought 'Stuffed bread toast'. Since no one had a breakfast, not even tea on that morning; it was obvious that we definitely feel hunger after some time. Though I carried biscuits & water as per Gourish instruction; but stuffed bread toast sounded delightful.
At Virar we all met Viraj and then he guided us very well. We all then got into VVMT (Vasai-Virar Municipal Transport) bus for Arnala Fort. There are ST buses and Rickshaws also available for Arnala Fort from Virar station. And, after some time, bus started moving towards Arnala Fort. Since it was a early morning of Sunday; there was rarely any vehicle on road and hence we were experiencing a super-ride of bus. During bus ride, Viraj was telling me details of every area coming up next; also he spotted some places where we can enjoy some food like Bhujing while returning back. Bhujing is non-veg dish. The chicken for Bhujing is roasted, and some cut potatoes are added to it and then both fried and steamed with onion. Then it's mixed with nylon poha or flattened rice and a special masala mix. Bhujing can be found among many areas of Mumbai; but some areas of Virar like Agashi Bhujing Center are very famous for this dish. And within 10-15 minutes we reached at Arnala Fort bus stop; it's one stop before Arnala beach. Now, we had to reach till Arnala Koliwada beach which is around 10 minutes of walking distance away. While we were walking; we observed many fish godowns and big ice-shops. Lot of vans carrying fish & ice. There is also a large fish market. And then, we reached Arnala Koliwada Beach to get ferry boat.
Arnala island and fort can be seen easily from Koliwada beach. The beach is very bad in condition. Lot of waste material of vegetables, plastic & other stuff is scattered all over beach sand. Sea water at beach has also become dirty & dark. That beach is full of odour. Ignorance towards maintenance of beach can easily be observed.
Soon a ferry boat arrived. Boat is equipped with engine. It can carry around 20-25 people at a time. There is no proper jetty to get on a boat. Getting on & off the boat is quiet difficult. To get on the boat we had to wet our legs till knee length. Nitin had wore sneakers, hence he had to take off that before walk into sea water. And like this, we boarded on to ferry boat. And so on, we started our final journey towards our most awaited destination. We were quite delighted and were eager to step down at island. We were enjoying taking selfies & photos on boat. Within 10 minutes we reached on island.
As soon as we touched our feet on island, first thing we realised was that Arnala island is quiet big when compared with Arnala Fort. Beach at island is beautiful & little bit better than Koliwada beach. A village is been spreaded over Arnala island. Most of the villagers are fishers. Few of them also do farming on island. Then we all marched towards fort through village. And finally we reached at our destination. Time was about 7.30am.
First thing we saw was a huge entrance of Arnala Fort. It is a main entrance of fort and is facing slightly towards north. Arnala fort have 2 more doors. Main entrance is very impressive, beautiful and still standing firm. A flag of swarajya (Bhagva) is placed exactly above main entrance. A strong bulwark (तटबंदी), having height of around 10 meters can be seen from outside. We started taking selfies, group & solo photos and photos of fort. A beautiful sculpture design can be seen on the arc (कमान) of main entrance. A symbols of Elephant and Tiger are sculptured on both sides of main entrance. There is a petrograph (शिलालेख) written main entrance. As per that inscription (शिलालेख); Bajirao Peshva had reconstructed Arnala Fort. And, then we entered inside fort.
There are steps to climb till top of bulwark exactly behind main entrance. We all then stepped up on bulwark. A bulwark is almost square and is still in strong condition. Anyone can walk on bulwark while enjoying scenic beauty around fort. We all also went same way. Before walking around the fort; I expressed my thought to reach till flag (स्वराज्याचा भगवा). And, we all started to find safe way climb till flag. Construction around flag is quiet damaged now. But still we succeed to find good portion of that damaged construction. And we all climbed up till flag; taken lot of selfies and photos with flag. We were very delighted. Anyone can see entire fort in a single eye-sight by standing at flag. Almost 20-30 minutes we were enjoying clicks of camera and then we all realised that still entire fort is remaining to be explored. And, we all then marched around the fort by walking on bulwark. Viraj, our guide, was telling us some interesting details about the fort. Arnala fort have total 14 bastions. Some of them are little damaged; but few are still firm & strong. No mortars were found on fort; but the openings on bastions for mortars to lean out are still intact. Architecture of Fort is so beautiful and thoughtfully designed. Below some bastions, there are room like structures; which may had been used for soldiers' rest areas or for storage of ammunition. A rectangular opening on bastions surface lead to such room like structures. But not every rectangular opening lead to rooms; some lead to hidden spiral ways which takes hidden exits from fort. Viraj, Prashant and me went through one of those hidden way. After reaching at exit, we again came on the fort through same spiral way; also, tried to make video, but the darkness inside was so intensive that your mobile torch light is not sufficient. After that, we all walked further on bulwark and at one bastion we took a halt to eat 'Stuffed bread toast'. It was really tasty. And, many thanks to Viraj for this. Meanwhile, we also had a discussion on bad condition of Arnala Fort as well. If government & civic bodies give some attention towards maintenance of Arnala Fort then it can become one of tourist attractions. Some rotten minded people also visit to Arnala Fort to drink beer, alcohol and leave empty bottles on fort. Some love animals also visit Arnala Fort and write their names on walls of fort. Also, some tourist leave their plastic wrappers and waste materials on fort and make fort as dirty as their behavior. Such people are hazardous species for historical places. They don't seem to have any respect towards great warriors of history and for creators of Swarajya. This was something disappointing to see there.
After finishing our small bites; we kept our wrappers in our backpacks and walked further on bulwark to complete our round. We were also enjoying some awesome clicks by digital camera brought by Nitin. And then again, we reached at Flag. Time was about 9.15am. Sun had risen very well up now and we started feeling quiet heat. We decided to wind up and return back now. Before returning back, I and Prashant decided to visit a temple of Tryambkeshwar Mahadev and Bhavani Mata; which is on fort. A dargah is also there on fort beside temple. People celebrate festivals at temple and do regular worship. There are two fresh water wells inside fort. One of it is octagonal and situated in front of temple. Another well is round shaped and is situated little away from temple. Villagers used to wash clothes at round shaped well & use its water for washing purposes.
Then we all left from fort at around 9.45am. Outside fort, there is also a Kalika Mata Mandir which can be noticed while coming towards or going away from main entrance of fort. Then, again we all reached at sea beach of island by walking through village. When looked at fort from sea beach, a bastion situated very far from Arnala Fort can be noticed. It has a small door to enter inside. But, we had not gone to visit that bastion.
Now, we were making hurry to reach Virar railway station; because there was megablock due to technical work on western line between Borivali & Bhayandar. Very soon, a ferry boat arrived and we all got on that boat. While returning back, ferry boat was little crowded. Soon we got down at Koliwada beach and then we reached at Arnala Fort bus stand. Instantly, we got the bus for Virar station and within 15 minutes we reached at Virar. Then Gourish, Nitin, Prashant and Me took farewell from Viraj and then we boarded train going towards Churchgate of 10.52am. Train was quiet late and heavily crowded. Viraj then left towards his home from Virar station. And then cascadingly, Gourish & Prashant alighted from train at Borivali, then Nitin alighted at Andheri and at the last I alighted at Bandra to get my next train towards CST. The time was around 12.15pm and temperature was feeling so hot. And then, I reached my home around at 12.50pm. As I said in the beginning, in our group I was the only person living most far from Virar; hence I also became the person who reached last at home. When I checked temperature in news; it was recorded as 42°C on that day. And like this we all successfully completed our trek to Arnala Fort. Hurray :)
Next day, we all met at our office. And started planning for next trip for Murud-Janjira Fort.
How to reach:
- Reach Virar station (western railway) via Mumbai local train
- Reach at Arnala Fort bus stop by VVMT (Vasai-Virar Municipal Transport) bus
- Walk little bit till Arnala koliwada beach for ferry boat
- Reach at Arnala Fort by ferry boat
- By road: By car or bike till Arnala beach.
- Walk till Koliwada beach for ferry boat
- Reach at Arnala Fort by ferry boat
No accommodation, food and drinking water available on fort.
Pic Credits: Nitin Kargutkar