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Bandra Fort

In Bandra, Mumbai, 1 km away from Mount Mary Church and 17 km away from Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, one can find Castella de Aguada, an ancient fort located at Land's End. Castella de Aguada (Portuguese: Fort of the Waterpoint) is also known as the Bandra Fort. Castella is a misspelling of the Portuguese word castelo (castle). Properly, it should be called Castelo da Aguada, although it seems its Portuguese builders actually called it Forte de Bandorá (or Bandra Fort). The name indicates its origin as a place where fresh water could be obtained from a fountain (aguada) by crews of Portuguese ships cruising the coasts in the initial period of the Portuguese presence. The fort elevation ranges over two dozen metres, from the sea level to the altitude of 24 metres (79 ft) a.s.l.

History of Badra Fort

The Portuguese, who had established a base in the area in 1534 after defeating Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, built several sea forts along the western Indian coastline. Castella de Aguada was one such strategically located strongholds overlooking the Mahim Bay to the south, the Arabian Sea to the west, the islands of Worli to the south and the town of Mahim to the south west. The fort also guarded the northern sea route into the Mumbai Harbour. This sea route, a large estuary, was later reclaimed from the sea in the nineteenth century. It was erected by the Portuguese in 1640 as a watchtower on the site of an old fortress built on the hillock overlooking the sea, which probably dates back to the times of Chalukyas and Seuna Yadava Kingdoms. These were mainly built as trading outpost fortresses for the fisherman community and the local landlords. The fort gained a more significant role in 1661, after the Portuguese ceded the seven islands of Bombay, found to the immediate south of Bandra, to the English. During the Portuguese rule, the keep was armed with seven cannons and other smaller guns to ensure defence. A freshwater spring in the vicinity supplied potable water to passing ships, thus lending the fort its name. (more in the History section)

The Fort as we see it today

The elevation of the fort ranges from the sea level to the altitude of 24 m (79 feet) above the sea level. Castella de Aguada was featured in several Hindi films, such as Dil Chahta Hai and Buddha Mil Gaya. This place offers a beautiful sea view especially during sunset. Many locals and tourists come here to spend some quality time.

In 2003, a conservation program was started by Bandra Band Stand Residents’ Trust to save the fort. It was spearheaded by a local Member of Parliament (MP) Shabana Azmi, who covered part of the expenses from her allotted funds. Renovation works conducted as part of this initiative involved repair of a brick arch of one of the gateways, which was on the verge of collapsing, and fixing foundation masonry of a fort wall that was exposed to tidal erosion. The nearby Taj Land's End Hotel is responsible for the fort maintenance, having inherited it from the previous owners.

The fort is owned by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The fort has underwent significant renovation work. Its natural rock formations were preserved to this day; some pathways were added, and an amphitheatre was built. The architect for these endeavours was P.K. Das, who had earlier redesigned the Carter Road area.

Tourist Information

The fort is connected by road with Bandra Train Station which is a big hub on the western line of the suburban railway in the city of Mumbai. It is located within the perimeter of the main city; nonetheless, it remains isolated due to one end of the land bordering on the bay. The fort is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. all days of the week, with no ticket system for visiting tourists. It is regularly used for cultural programs as well as events, especially in the winter season.

Text Sammik C Basuu