Diwali Killa (Mud Fort)

Diwali has a lot of mythological references behind the celebration. However, some aspects of Diwali also have a historical significance behind them. One of such traditions is Fort making in Diwali. Fort making is a peculiar tradition in Maharashtra state. Children make small mud forts during Diwali, place small figurines on them and light oil lamps. Maharashtra has more than 350 forts and they are a glorious heritage of the Maratha empire.  These forts are associated with Shivaji Maharaj, the great Maratha king.

During my childhood though I had played a part here or there, but I had never built one from scratch. Last year my folks had sent me the figurines post Diwali season, so this year I had to build one. Googled for some options on how to go about building one but I hardly found anything for DIY-first-timers like me.

I finally came up with a plan to build a moat around the fort, a main entrance door and the fort in the center of the moat. I tried to build a steam boat for the moat, but I wasn’t successful. So when everything fails, China to the rescue! Ordered one on Amazon. Next started making a frame for the fort, essentially the moat.

Bought a plywood  from home depot, similar to the one I had bought for the beer bottle caps decor project and cut a circular shape. Then used the left-over wood pallets from my previous project (Fire Pit) and started building an edge around the circular base.

Cut small pieces and nailed them around the circumference. This would be the inner edge of the moat.

Next built a flat ring around this which would be the bottom of the moat. With my skills, tools and all of the above this step took forever.

I used screws/glue to fix the ring to the base frame. Next started building the outer wall of the moat. This was fairly easy. Screwed/glue these to the frame.

So basic frame was now ready.

Now I had to water-proof the moat. Spent a lot of time filling in the gaps with wood dust/fillings and glue.

I sprayed the moat with Plasti Dip which I purchased from home depot. This product creates a plastic like film over wood thus making  it water-proof. I needed two cans. I was looking for blue color, but all they had was black or white so ended up picking the white one.

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Next built the entrance frame. Leveraged the natural shape of the wooden pallet legs. I put two screws from the bottom up to hold the entrance frame in place. Cut a small grove and placed the bridge over the moat. Drilled two small holes and strung  the jute rope that I had purchased when I built the Maui hook. Rolled the other end of the rope on a left-over dowel that I had purchased while building the coffee table.

Next used the left-over pieces of wood to build a basic structure of the fort. This was done by my wife. Applied glue wherever possible to kind of hold everything in place. Next adventure was to search for dirt/mud. Plan B was to use stuff from the backyard but I was looking for good options for plan A. Searched online and most of the results pointed me in the direction of sculpting or potter’s clay and the likes but I didn’t want that. The stuff available online isn’t cheap either.

The quest to find the correct mud led us to the construction site next to the home depot that I generally shop at. They had nice brown clay. My wife did manage to talk to the workers there to get about two 5 gallon buckets of clay for free but when we ended up there to pick up the clay no one was around and we did not feel comfortable to pick up the stuff, so that kind of did not materialize. Finally picked a bag of top soil from home depot and in the end that worked pretty good.

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Covered the moat area with paper and attached painter’s tape to keep that in place. Did not want the soil to run down into the moat. Some eventually did. Spray painted the entrance, bridge and the ropes.

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Then my wife another brilliant idea to spray some rangoli (colored sand) to create the effect of greenery.

Started placing the figurines at various strategic places. Now was the moment of truth, will the moat hold up.

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Added blue food color to the water (another brilliant suggestion from the wifey). Made orange flags and hoisted them – 2 on the entrance, 2 on the fort and one behind Shivaji. Moat does have a few holes and water did leak, and believe it or not we literally used band-aid to tape the holes in the excitement. It worked! Later on used some plumber’s putty to fix the holes.

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Added the boat and project Diwali Killa is complete!

This build is dedicated to my childhood friends Devdas and his nephew Sunil – unsung engineers.

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