The seas in the 17th century were a place with both danger and opportunity. The coming of colonial navies helped local fishing folk smell wealth and danger. This led to the rise of a new naval power in the Indian waters – the Pirates, or at least that’s what the Europeans called them!
Locals joined the ‘pirates’ not just to escape the prospects of drudgery that the colonists brought in the form of slavery and forced labor but also to earn wealth looting the visitors who came with evil intentions. These simple fisher-folk were organized into a formidable fighting force by Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre. Sarkhel Angre was invincible for almost 30 years until his death in 1729. The large number of naval victories and his bravery had earned him the title of ‘Shivaji of the Sea’. Sarkhel took this route to dominate the waters till his death. You, too, can relive his journey by following this trail.
Sarkhel Angre’s rise to power started from Vijaydurg. He captured the fort of Vijaydurg in 1698. Making it his base he started attacking and looting European ships. In 1702, he abducted a ship with 6 English 6 sailors. In 1707 he attacked Bombay and the British feared that he could take any ship except for the warships. Vijaydurg is a 17 acre fort which was used to harbor and repair Maratha Warships. Vijaydurg is around 500 kms south from Mumbai. There are also stories that Vijaydurg was where Helium was first discovered. A walk along the beach is probably one of the best things you can do on a weekend.
Alibag become like a ‘capital city’ for the pirates. It was established in 1702 after retrieving it from the Siddhis after a battle against them. The fort of Alibag was attacked in 1722 by joint forces of the British and the Portuguese. The English and the Portuguese were decisively defeated. Alibag is around 70 kms from Mumbai. Sarkhel Angre’s samadhi is also in Alibag.
The Khanderi island (officially known as the Kanhoji Angre Island) along with Uderi Island were 2 sister islands where Sarkhel hid his treasure. In 1707 the British sent Manuel De Castro – a dutch sailor, to capture the island from Sarkhel Angre. Manuel de Castro was to be hanged if he didn’t come back victorious. Sarkhel however managed to bring Manuel de Castro to his side. These twin islands are around 20 kms away from Mumbai. This region is currently under the Indian Navy, and has restricted access. You will have to apply for special permissions from the port authorities.