Shirgaon [Sirgão/Sirigão/Seridão/Sirgaon], Maharashtra, India

Military Architecture

The Shirgaon fortification is one of the most notable examples of fortified manor houses in the onetime Província do Norte of the Estado da Índia. Located about 3 km south of Tarapur Fort, the village of Shirgaon was incorporated into the Portuguese crown in 1559 along with the dependent territory of Daman. It was conquered by the Marathas in 1739. As in Ghodbandar or Mumbai Island, the noble chartered landowners of Shirgaon village developed a true feudal emporium and built up a defensive position of strategic value for the whole territory, whose costs were exclusively borne by their personal fortunes. These powerful nobles were generally exempted from some duties, such as the obligation to regularly assist the strongholds of Daman or Vasai, but did have to keep a fixed number of horses, rifles or even artillery pieces to defend the fortified manor houses. These private defensive positions frequently contained structures that were more opulent and solid than those that developed from captain’s houses paid for by the crown. They represented the investment of generations based on domination and exploitation of the land, as well as the need to defend positions more exposed to enemy attacks. These manors usually comprised extensive residential areas, a walled enclosure with redoubts or bastions with artillery, a dock area and a well inside the premises. The Shirgaon Fort has a quadrangular plan oriented according to the cardinal points. A creek originally ran along the west side. This side has a gate, now blocked, and various annexes which apparently formed the main part of the fortification’s residential area, along with a bastion in the southwest corner. The west side was supported by several abutments. The round bastion in the northwest corner and the north and east wings reveal Maratha interventions in the post-1739 period. The north wing has a monumental gate and overlooking tower of clearly Indian design. The parapets of the walls in this area and of the east and south walls can be accessed by staircases that also seem to be of Maratha origin. The type of stone and its preparation clearly distinguish two periods in the fortification’s architecture. A well and possibly a cistern were located in the interior open ground. Also noteworthy are the fragments of a wrought gravestone, apparently dated 1714, on the west inside face of the monumental entrance. Shirgaon was besieged by Maratha forces from October 1737 to January 1738 and conquered by them a year later. It was occupied by the English around 1818.

Sidh Losa Mendiratta