Once pegged as an alternative to Nariman Point, Mumbai’s old commercial centre, Belapur near Vashi, a suburb of Mumbai never quite made the mark, though it is teeming with small businesses. Go there and you will find old buildings vying for space with the new, in an architectural mix up, common to most burgeoning commercial centers in India. But the very name ‘Belapur’ comes from this area’s historic past – and a fort, that few people ever go to.
Zoom in to Google maps, and you shall see that Belapur Fort stands at a very strategic location. In the 16th century CE, Belapur was nothing like what it is today. It was an island surrounded by mangroves, at the mouth of the Panvel creek! What’s more, it was of great strategic importance as it gave access to Panvel and the route to Pune, so anyone who controlled this fort could attack Pune very easily. Around the 1560s, the Siddis who ruled Janjira controlled this area and built a small fort on the island called ‘Shahbaz’ (Falcon) Fort. The Belapur harbour was located right next to the fort, and boats from here sailed up the Panvel creek.
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