Are you looking for a fort near Mumbai for a weekend trip or one day picnic? History might seem like a boring subject, but not if you know how to share and explore it. Believe it or not, I was never a history person in my school life. I hated history books because it was all about learning dates and events, it was never engaging enough. However, as I grew up I realised that history is a fascinating subject of all because you not only get to know about the past events but also get to learn from it.
In addition, I was fascinated by the true historic events I read about. I wanted to know more about history because I felt there’s so much to learn from it. In my Vasai series, I covered Vasai’s history in which I did cover a little bit about the Vasai fort. However, I am stepping up here and this blog post is entirely about the Vasai Fort. If you are looking for a fort near Mumbai you should certainly not miss this one.
How to Reach Vasai Fort?
If you are not sure how to reach Vasai fort near Mumbai, here’s a simple way. You may take the local train to Virar on the Western Railway line. Get down at Vasai station on the west side. Look for the VVMT bus stop which is just a few minutes walk from the station. Take the bus number 105 which will take you to Killa Bunder. The per ticket cost is Rs. 15/- and it should take you around 25 minutes to reach Vasai Fort. The bus frequency is every 15 minutes. The bus halts outside the Vasai Fort premises for five to ten minutes. So, you can use the bus to return to the Vasai station. I would recommend not to take rickshaws because they might charge you around Rs. 120 to Rs. 150 for a single way trip.
Forts are an integral part of India’s ancient history. Almost every chieftain, dynasty ruler and even colonial empire that ever ruled India created their own fort. In fact, most of these forts are actually castles or fortresses, but it was only after the advent of British that all these structures were commonly catalogued as forts. The Sanskrit word for the fort is ‘durg’, in Hindi it is called ‘Qila’ or ‘gadh’ or ‘garh’.
Vasai lies on the western coast of India and when Portuguese ventured into India they decided to build a fort close to the sea which would strengthen their naval fleet and fortify the city inside the fort wall. If you are passionate about history, Vasai Fort near Mumbai that can offer you an opportunity to step into the past. Let’s go back in time now and explore Vasai Fort history and how it was passed on through several rulers.
Vasai Fort History
While we today know this fort as Vasai Fort or Fort Bassein, the complete name of this fort is ‘Fortaleza de Sao Sebastiao de Bacaim’ which translates ‘The Fort of St. Sebastian of Vasai’. For Portuguese, Bacaim became an important strategic location because it made it easier for them to get connected with global sea routes. The fertile soil of this place was good enough for agriculture, ideal for them to grow produce and export it across the globe.
Hence, when they took over the powers in the area they decided to build a fort (in 1536) which would become a strong naval base for them. The fort provided them with all the safety they needed from foreign attack and it allowed Portuguese to prosper as they ruled a huge portion on the west coast of India. Gradually, Bacaim became an influential city in the North Konkan region as most of the Portuguese high-rank officials settled here.
In the late 1600s, Portuguese found themselves in a tough situation as Arabs and Maratha warriors rise to the occasion. To make it worse, the British were trying to put their foot in the door and get some regions under their supremacy. The locals were fed up with the corruption and oppression of the Portuguese officers and they supported Chimaji Appa, the younger brother of Bajirao Peshwa who attacked Bacaim in February 1739. Fort Bassein was now officially under the rule of the Marathas. The Portuguese left Bacaim after ruling it for more than two centuries (1536 – 1739).
However, Marathas couldn’t hold their dominance on the Vasai Fort for a long time. In 1772, Madhavrao Peshwa, the fourth Peshwa (minister) of the Maratha Empire passed away. Soon, Narayanrao, his brother, succeeded as the Peshwa. Raghunathrao, Narayanrao’s uncle claimed that he was the true successor to the throne. He sought help from the British and signed the Treaty of Surat on March 6, 1775.
According to this treaty, Raghunathrao would cede the territories of Bassein (Vasai), Salsette along with the part of the revenues from Surat and Bharuch districts. In return, the British would provide him with 2500 soldiers. However, the British annulled this treaty a year later. The Marathas attacked the British forces in 1779 violating the treaty.
For British, this defeat was hard to digest. To ensure swift recovery of their interests in the area, General Goddard stormed in with 6000 infantry soldiers and captured Bassein (Vasai) and the Fort Bassein (Vasai Fort) on December 1, 1780. This was probably the beginning of the end of an era of the importance of Fort Bassein. The British lost interest in the region and consequently Bombay became the centre of trade.
See pictures of the Saint Joseph’s Church below: (mouseover for captions)
Vasai Fort today is under the protection of Archaeological Survey of India. However, it receives little attention and is almost deteriorating. Sadly, the fort might be in the state of ruins in the next decade. However, the ruins do tell us how various colonial powers and their contribution to the region. Vasai Fort is a complete city in itself covering a large area. It had colleges, chapels, churches, library, hospital, granary, town hall and a trader’s market. Fort Bassein is an important fort near Mumbai which gives you a glimpse into the history of the region. The architecture reflects the diversity of the people that ruled over it.
Vasai fort near Mumbai has gradually become a place where young couples and college teens hang around. Many couples visit this place to shoot their pre-wedding shoots and to spend some time together. Many birds and nature lovers visit this place explore the area as well. As the sun goes down, a different breed of people visit this place including drunkards and prostitutes. Recently, Coldplay shot their song Hymn for the Weekend here at the Vasai fort that has attracted more people to this place.
Vasai Fort is an iconic fort near Mumbai you should visit at least once. It was the gateway for Portuguese for two centuries and later for the Marathas. This clearly indicates how important this fort has remained to the colonial powers. Today, it stands isolated from the city’s pandemonium guarding the coastal waters as it did in its prime.