In the late 1200s, the Koli or “fisherman kings” built the first fort off the coast of Maharastra on a rocky island in the Arabian Sea. However the island had a hidden advantage, in the middle of the fort was a well which supplied the fort with fresh non-salty drinking water.
With water to drink and fish to eat, the island-fort was extremely difficult to conquer. For over 200 years, the Indian fisherman fought off attacks from invading Muslim armies, until a Trojan Horse-style raid – in which soldiers pretended to be liquor merchants, hid in barrels of booze and got the Koli soldiers drunk before attacking – by the Habashi finally overthrew the fisherman kings.
When the British Empire expanded into India, the English tried to take the fort, but were also unsuccessful. The Brits signed a treaty with the Siddis – a Sufi Muslim group of African descent who received authority of the island from the Habashi – that the fort would remain under local rule, a sole independent outpost in all of colonial India. When India gained independence in 1947, the island was united with the state of Bombay.
Open to tourists, the island is now accessible from either the Rajpuri port or the Murud port by sailboat. On the 22-acre island, the ancient forts and ruined castles can be explored, as can the islands beautiful beach.
According to a recent visitor the well is still filled with “cold and sweet water.”
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