Sanksi Fort [The name Sankshi is said to have been derived from a chief named Sank who is traditionally believed to have been the lord of the fort. See below.] (T. Pen) also known as Badr-ud-din, or Darghaca Killa from a tomb or dargah of the saint Badr-ud-din at its foot, lies within the limits of Nidivali village about five miles north-east of Pen. [The description is by Mr. H. Kennedy, and the archaeological notes by Mr. W, F. Sinclair, C. S.]
From the tomb or dargah the way to the fort runs, for about 300 yards along the eastern face of the hill. It then turns sharp to the right or south when the ascent begins through what must be the site of an old town. From here to the bottom of the scarp is a steady climb of about a quarter of a mile over loose stone boulders. At the foot of the scarp, a little to the left of the path-way about 240 feet above the tomb, comes the first of eight cisterns. It is an irregularly shaped excavation under the over-hanging scrap about 25′ long by 10′ broad at the mouth and widen-ing inwards. Facing this cistern is the tomb of a Musalman saint named Gajishah. Forty feet above the first cistern and to the right of the way up, which here becomes very steep and difficult, is another cistern called datri (12’x 5′ and 6′ deep). On the same level, and further to the right or north of the second cistern, is a third cistern called Pairi, very difficult of access. It is about 40′ square, and with two pillars supporting the roof. Higher up, about twenty feet above these cisterns, is, to the right, a fourth large irregular cistern dry and about twelve feet deep. Above this cistern is a niche cut in the wall with an image locally worshipped as Vajrai or Jagmata, believed to be the daughter of Raja Sank, the founder of the fort, who is said to have killed herself on this spot when her father was engaged in a battle with the chief of Karnala fort, eight miles to the north. From this point the top of the fort, which is about a hundred feet higher, is reached by steep rough steps or niches cut in the rock. Above, twenty feet higher than the Jagmata cistern, and on the right side going up, is a fifth cistern called after Gajishah. On the same level and a little further to the north, are two more large cisterns opening into one another. Like the Gajishah cistern their roof is support-ed on square pillars. The most northerly of these two is the most important cistern in the fort. It is called Govandi because of a partition wall that divides the cistern into two parts. It has a doorway about 2′ 6″ square, with on each jamb a rampant chimaera. The chimaeras have been deliberately smashed. Above the door is the lintel with a scroll of foliage. Mr. Sinclair believes that this excavation was nothing more than a water cistern. Had it had any religious character there would probably have been the figure of a god on the lintel. Besides, the whole form of the cave is suited for holding water and for no other use. [The triple niche in the rock over the fourth cistern looks much like a miniature group of religious caver., and seems to be intended for use as a shrine. A similar, but less complicated and more accessible niche close by is so used at present. Mr. W, F. Sinclair, C. S.] To the east of these cisterns is an eighth excavation, very difficult to get at.
Passing round to the north face of the fort, about eighty feet below its crest, after leaving the Govandi cistern, is a rock-cut granary (about 10’x5’x5′ deep). Further on going round the north and north-west front of the fort, is another small granary, and, a few paces beyond the second granary, on the south-west face of the fort, is a large cistern (about 45′ x 35′ x 3′ deep), with two square pillars in front and two pilasters behind. In front of the cistern is a cutting or sluice.
Returning and climbing to the top of the fort by a rugged, almost inaccessible pathway, the first objects of interest are two more granaries, one in the north-west and the other in the west face of the fort. In the south side of the fort are two more granaries which were evidently roofed in. About fifty feet below this point is an underground passage which is visible only on working round to the narrow ridge to the south-east of the fort which connects the fort with the rest of the range of hills. This hidden passage is called the Secret Granary or Cor Tak. It is said to be very large and it can be, reached only from below. [A local story states that this cave was occupied by a thief and his family and contained all his hoarded treasure. One day, as the thief was throwing some water out of a golden basin from the mouth of the cave, the sun flashed upon the golden vessel, and the flash was seen at Sagargad, about twenty miles to the south-east. The Sagargad chief sent men after the thief who was arrested and taken to Sagargad] The rock-cut cisterns and the granaries are in bad repair and are not in use since there is no habitation on the fort.
On the narrow ridge to the south-east of the fort are four rock-cut granaries about five feet deep, with small drains all round to let the water off. On the extreme summit of the fort is a level space about 100′ x 50′, with at its north-west point, the remains of a building said to have been used by Raja Sank, the chief of the fort. It is more probable that the building was a temple or guardroom. [Mr. Sinclair thinks that this is the foundation of a small Hemadpanti building. There are many Hemadpanti stones on the way up and about the village.] From what remains the building appears to have been about 25′ 6″ x 23′ and to have had at its south-east end a veranda about 14′ broad. This building has a fine view. To the north-east Manikgad stands out across the valley, about four miles in a direct line. To the north, over Apte, about eight miles off and across a range of hills, appears Karnala fort, and, a little beyond to the right, over the right shoulder of Manikgad is the peak of Tavli with a distant view of the Navra-Navri or Wedding Party hill. Further to the right, to the north-east, is a good view of the tops of Matheran and Prabal with the saddle-back in the foreground. The slow-flowing Bagsai river, winding through the valley at the foot of the hill, and a glimpse of the sea in the dis-tant west and north-west complete the view.
Badr-ud-din’s tomb is in no way remarkable except that it is built on the plinth of an old Hemadpanti temple of Mahadev. There are a number of stones bearing mouldings of Hindu design, and some of the mouldings are of the rare and archaic bead and reel pattern. The men in charge of the tomb say that some of the stones were brought from the Jama mosque some way beyond the tomb, which would seem to show that the Jama mosque it-self was partly built out of an old Hindu temple. [Mr. W. F. Sinclair, C. S.] Badr-ud-din is said to have come from Mecca with some followers about 800 years ago, and to have fought a battle with Raja Sank, the chief of this fort. Sank was Beaten in the battle and the fort fell into the hands of the saint. A little to the east of Badr-ud-din’s tomb are a few Musalman houses. The tomb enjoys a grant of about forty acres of arable land near the tomb itself. This grant is said to have been made by one of the Angres. A second grant to the tomb is of the village of Rode, or as it is some times called Tora, about three miles south-west of Pen and about eight miles south-west of the tomb. The village has 250 acres of rice land and 300 acres of forest and upland. The grant is said to have been made by a Musalman chief and is enjoyed by the Mujavar or beadle of the tomb. The mujavar lives at the village and his duty is to feed all Musalman and Hindu ascetics who come to him for alms, especially at the time of the fair or urus in memory of the saint which is held at the tomb on the full-moon of Paus (December-January) and lasts for eight days. He has to distribute goats, fowls, or grain, or to give an equivalent in money. It is estimated that the fair is attended by 10,000 pilgrims, and, that the mujavar has to spend a few hundred rupees in entertaining them. The Habsi of Janvjira used to send a deputation every year and presented a few rupees and a chudder to be put over the saint’s tomb. The British Government gave Rs. 41 for maintenance, and-a chudder costing Rs. 6. This chudder was hung canopy-like over the tomb and at the end of the year became the property of the mujavar. He was not allowed to sell them and either kept them or gave them to Musalman beggars.
About 150 yards east of Badr-ud-din’s tomb and beyond the Musalman houses is a domed tomb, built by a merchant from the former Janjira territory. It was about 24′ square, of dressed stone, and had some fine tracery and carving round the doors. There was a small Musalman inscription over the southern door-way. It was octagonal inside, with sides of about 5′ 6″ and a total measurement of about 13′ 6″ each way. The domed tomb is much ruined and is not looked after. In front of the tomb, to. the north-east, is an old pond nearly dry. About twenty paces east of the tomb are the faint traces of a Jama mosque. About 300 yards further east of the tomb is another old pond, and still further east a third old pond. About 300 yards from the ponds there are two springs of water.
The ruins strewn about seem to show that there was a town of some size at the foot of the hill. The town appears to have stretched for about a quarter of a mile from the end of the fort along the east face of the range of hills and ending in the fort. The ruins are overgrown with brush-wood and dense forest trees, chiefly mangoes, some of which are very fine.
About half a mile to the west of the fort is a Katkari hamlet on the Pradhan Mahal, which is a plateau where the battle between Sank and the chief of Karnala is said to have been fought. About 1,000 graves are dotted about between the hamlet and the front of the fort, and beyond a distance of about four miles from the fort, and to the north and north-east of the village of Hamrapur are about 1,000 or 1,500 more graves. Whether these are the graves of men who fell in battle, or whether they are merely village burial grounds cannot be known. They are locally believed to be the graves of Musalmans and Hindus who fell in battle; but Mr. Sinclair is inclined to believe, they are village cemeteries.
From the position of Sahksi and the remains below and in the fort, Mr. Sinclair thinks that the hill of Sanksi was occupied as a fortress by the Hindus before the Musalman invasion and that there was, below it, a stone temple of considerable size and beauty. The fort seems to have afterwards been taken by the Musalmans, the sculpture of the cistern door to have been de-faced, the temple pulled down and a mosque and tomb built with its stone. The fort seems to have been occupied by Musalmans. The small tomb of an unknown Musalman, which is the most noticeable Musalman building now standing, appears to belong to the local Ahmadnagar style. The position of Sanksi must always have made it a useful little post but as it is very small and could be commanded at short range, it could never have stood a serious siege by a force with artillery. [Sankshi like Tala fart in Mangaon and Gaurkmat fort in Kaijat in Kolaba appears to have sufficed for all the needs of local chieftains in the pre-Musalmar besieging armies. Mr. W. F. Sinclair, C.S.]
In 1540, Sahksi fort was taken from a Gujarat garrison by a body of Ahmadnagar troops. The Gujarat commanders came to Bassein and asked the Portuguese to help them in gaining it back. The Portuguese sent 300 Europeans and a party of native troops, and on their approach the Ahmadnagar garrison abandoned the place. The fort was restored to Gujarat and Portuguese garrison was left in it. Shortly after, hearing of the advance of an Ahmadnagar force of about 5,000 men, the Gujarat commander retired to Bassein and made over the fort to the Portuguese. De Menezes, the Captain of Bassein, sent some additional troops for its defence. But the Ahmadnagar force was strengthened by 6,000 men, including 1,000 musketeers and 800 well equipped horses. This great force made two assaults on Sanksi. Menezes came to relieve the fort with 160 Europeans and about 2,000 Indian troops. After a sharp encounter, in which the Portuguese were nearly defeated, the Ahmadnagar troops, according to Portuguese historians, fled leaving the ground strewn with arms and ammunition. The Portuguese lost twenty men and the Ahmadnagar troops 500. During the action a Portuguese soldier of huge strength, named Trancoso, caught a Musalman, and wrapping him in a large veil, carried him on his left arm as though he had been a buckler, and continued to use this strange shield to the end of the battle. [Faria-e-Souza in Kerr’s Voyages, VI. 367-368. The account is exaggerated and there is no other independent supporting evidence available.] Afterwards the Portuguese Viceroy, to gain the friendship of the Ahmadnagar king Burhan Nizam Shah, handed him the fort of Karnala along with 5,000 gold pardaos. [Da Cunha’s Cheul, 42.] About 1,800, according to Marathi records, the Sahksi (Sahgavl) sub-division yielded a revenue of Rs. 26,830 [Waring’s Marathas, 239.] In December 1827 Sanksi was the scene of an action between a detachment of the 4th Rifles and a band of Ramosi dacoits, in which three men of the 4th Rifles were killed. [Historical Records of 4th Rifles, 64.] Sahksi continued to give its name to a sub-division of 198 villages till in 1866 the headquarters were moved to Pen.