Vengurla is a small town situated in the Konkan stretch of Maharashtra, which is renowned for its rich history, beautiful beaches, and efficient waste management program. It has a population of approximately 15,000 people and serves as an entry point to North Goa from the Konkan belt.
The town has a long and interesting history, dating back to ancient times when it was a significant port and trading center. Many foreign powers, including the Bijapur Sultanate in the 16th century, had control of the town. During this period, Vengurla was used as a hideout by pirates. The sultunate bestowed Vengurla to the Dutch to counter Portuguese power in Goa. A group of Dutch merchants, led by Leendart Janszoons, constructed a factory in 1639, which served as a storehouse. The factory was completed in 1655 and had fort-like walls, bastions, and guards armed with cannons and guns. The fort boosted trade in Vengurla, and the town began to receive trading ships from various countries.
The Dutch and Portuguese fought over trade and territorial control in Goa, using Vengurla as a base for supplies. However, over time, the Dutch lost control due to the increasing trade capacities of the British and the navy of Shivaji Maharaj. The Dutch colony of Batavia (present-day Indonesia) did not support the Vengurla colony, leading to the Dutch leaving the town in 1682. The town subsequently came under the control of Khem Sawant of Sawantwadi and later the British. The fort went into neglect, and the wooden structures and their parts were stolen over time. In 1974, the site was officially transferred to the Archaeological Survey of India. Some work was started during the rule of Indira Gandhi to restore the site with the help of the Dutch government, but it was not pursued further, and the site is now in ruins.
Aside from its rich history, Vengurla is also known for its picturesque beaches, including Sagartirtha, Mochemad, and Vayangani. These beaches are located on either side of Vengurla town and offer stunning views of the coastline. Vayangani is a small beach located 7 km from Vengurla, accessed via shady paths that wind through Vayangani Gaon. Mochemad, located 9 km from Vengurla, is considered the most scenic beach on this stretch, with a backdrop of towering hills, a little blue-and-white church reminiscent of Goa’s churches, overlooking green fields.
Vengurla is also known for its effective waste management program, which was adopted in 2015. Today, the town has achieved more than 95 percent segregation by adopting waste segregation at source. Additionally, it is one of the only towns in the country generating revenue out of waste. The town’s local body processes 7 tonnes of waste generated per day, earning Rs 1.5 lakh per month.
Vengurla is home to the Fruit Research Centre, which conducts agricultural research on mango, cashew, and other fruits indigenous to the region to study the effects of pests and fertilizers.
The houses in Vengurla have a unique style in their space division and roof formation. The house type demonstrates the typology with respect to the scale of the house. Some houses have framing executed out of coconut trees, where the trunk is chiseled vertically into two half-circles and placed as the main rafter with curvature facing up, similar to the contemporary technology of Post Tension Beams.
In recent years, the entire Sindhudurg region, including Vengurla, has undergone rapid transformation, leading to new “nowhere architecture.” This transformation may be due to the flow of capital working against the restrained imagination by economic circumstances, or architecture losing its relevance as an important binder artifact of the region. Nonetheless, Vengurla remains a fascinating destination for tourists interested in history, culture, and nature.