History of Vasai

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  • Topic: Mumbai, Maratha Empire, Peshwa
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  • Published : August 26, 2011
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Today's Vasai-Virar area has rapidly changed and starting in the 1980's, the change is brought about by a large influx of people due to availability of more affordable housing than in Mumbai (Bombay). History of Vasai dates back to Puranic ages. The present day name of Vasai originates from Sanskrit, Sanskrit word "waas" meaning dwelling or residence.  The name was changed to Basai by Muslims who occupied Vasai before the Portuguese. The Portuguese named it Baçaim. The Marathas renamed it Bajipur. The British named it Bassein and today it is called Vasai. The most significant past in Vasai's history is the rein of the Portuguese, since they largely influenced or changed to what Vasai-Virar area is today. Historically, the entire region has attracted traders and merchants from Rome, Greece and Middle East. In 1295 AD the famous Marco Polo visited Thana/Vasai area.

The Bassein region ruled by Portuguese in not just Bassein but included areas far away as Bombay, Thane, Kalyan and Chaul (Revdanda) (Chaul Fort Photo). It is located about 50 Kilometers North of Bombay, on the Arabian Sea, at approximately (19°20'N - 72°49'E). Bassein, was important trading center, it's sources of wealth and trade were horses, fish, salt, timber, stone quarry (basalt and granite) and shipbuilding. It was a significant trading center long before the Portuguese arrived. (Ancient Sopara was a important port in trade with the Arabs and Greeks, Romans and Persians.). It was also a wealthy agricultural region with rice, betel nut, cotton, and sugar-cane as some of the crops. The Portuguese with their naval power and their crusading valor were unquestioned masters of the Indian Ocean. When the Portuguese arrived, Bassein was under the rule of Bahadur Shah, the Sultan of Gujarat.

In 1530 Antonio de  Sylveria burnt the city of Bassein and continued the burning and looting to nearby Bombay, when the King of Thana surrendered islands of Mahim and Bombay. Subsequently, the towns of Thana, Bandora (Bandra Photo), Mahim (Mahim-Mumbai fort photo) and Mombaim (Bombay) were brought under Portuguese control. In 1531, Antonio de Saldahna while returning from Gujarat  to Goa, set fire to Bassein again - to punish Bahadur Shah of Gujrat for not ceding Diu. In 1533 Diogo (Heytor) de Sylveira, burnt the entire sea coast from Bandora, Thana, city of Bassein and areas up to Surat. Diogo de Sylveira returned to Goa with 4000 slaves and spoils of pillaging.

For the Portuguese, Diu was an important island to protect their trade, which they had to capture. While devising the means to capture Diu, Portuguese General Nuno da Cunha, found out that the governor of Diu was Malik Ayaz whose son Malik Tokan was fortifying Bassein with 14,000 men. Nano da Cunha saw this fortification as a threat. He assembled a fleet of 150 ships with 4000 men and sailed to Bassein. Upon seeing such a formidable naval power, Malik Tokan made overtures of peace to Nano da Cunha. The peace overtures were rejected. Malik Tokan had no option but to fight the Portuguese. The Portuguese landed north of the Bassein and invaded the fortification. Even though the Portuguese were numerically insignificant, they fought with skill and valor killing off most of the enemy soldiers but lost only a handful of their own.

On 23 December 1534, the Sultan of Gujarat, signed a treaty with the Portuguese and ceded Bassein with its dependencies of Salsette, Mombaim (Bombay), Parel, Vadala, Siao (Sion), Vorli (Worli) (Worli fort photo), Mazagao (Mazgao), Thana, Bandra, Mahim, Caranja (Uran). In 1536, Nuno da Cunha appointed his brother-in-law  Garcia de Sá as the first Captain/Governor of Bassein. The first corner stone for the Fort was laid by Antonio Galvao. In 1548 the Governorship of Bassein was passed on to Jorge Cabral.

Map of Vasai/Baçaim Fort

In the second half of 16th century the Portuguese built a new fortress enclosing a whole town with in the fort walls. The fort included 10 bastions, of...
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