It was the monsoon of 2009 and it was raining heavily. The last lecture for the day (Statistics, I think) had ended and I was walking towards Dadar station to catch the train home but instead I found myself at the ticket counter buying a ticket to Vasai road. A train departing for Virar from platform 5 was waiting for me. I boarded it. I had heard about Vasai fort a few years ago, so armed with some basic directions (courtesy: Sharvari, my classmate and a local of Vasai) I had decided to visit it that day. On the train journey, I met an old school teacher (most of my school teachers were locals of Virar-Vasai region) who heard my plan and guided me to the fort. I bid him goodbye and alighted at Vasai Road.
At the auto stand, I bargained hard and took an auto to the fort. The ride was not long but very pleasing. Overcast skies, wide green fields, stretches of mangrove, old houses and villas and the silent surroundings impressed me. And soon, I found myself entering through the big walls of the fort and the autowallah deposited me at one structure that resembled a church. It was still raining and puddles of water had formed everywhere. I waded through the water to find myself at Cathedral of St. Joseph and further on as I walked I reached the sea gate.
Apart from a few toddy tappers, I was the only one and strangely I wasn’t bothered by this isolated fort. It seemed very appealing to me, I climbed up on the ramparts (careful to dodge any snakes that I might step on) and took in a breathtaking view of the Vasai creek. I traced my steps back and found myself walking through a thicket. No one knew of my whereabouts and if I were to be bitten by a snake/attacked, my college id would help in identification. I reached the Citadel (as I was to find out later) and then walked along to find my self in what looked like a church but with many graves. Over a hundred graves were spread all across, the rain had washed the gravestones clean and I could make out the inscriptions on it but couldn’t decipher them. I should’ve been spooked but again, this was a beautiful site. And I wandered around for long. By then, the rain had stopped and I felt that a connection with the fort had been established.
From then on, I have made countless trips to the fort and this year, we had the privilege of going on a guided tour of the entire complex. The walk was led by Archaeologist Andre Baptista who traces his roots to Bassein. The fascinating architecture and the story of Bassein came alive as we walked through the ruins. On this trip, three eminent bloggers had accompanied us and each one has written a superb post on their experience. Below are excerpts from their posts and a link to their original posts. Enjoy reading!
Excerpt from her post on Bassein.
From Vasai to Baxay to Baçaim to Bajipura to Bassein to Vasai, the Vasai Fort is romantic, inspiring and shrouded in history, some factual, others – legendary.
Te Fidalgos are gone. The churches forgotten. The fort taken over by overgrown wilderness… I walked through the old city through passing showers and blistering heat. Its sheer enormity, whispering through the centuries, slowly enveloping me. If you can, take the walk too someday, and discover a layer unpeeled of Mumbai.
Read the full post here.
Excerpt from her post
There is an uneasy calm at the break of dawn on 17th February 1739 at Baçaim, an island off the west coast of India. In the fortified part of Baçaim, the Portuguese Commandant, Sylveira de Menezes, who has been tossing and turning the entire night, finally gives up on trying to sleep and prepares to carry out his first inspection of the day.
As Menezes is leaving his quarters, he gets a message from the Captain of the night watch requesting him to make haste to the easternmost rampart of the fort. Menezes rushes to the spot to find the Captain and a sombre group of soldiers waiting for him. Without saying anything, the Captain leads Menezes to a spot from where he can look over the ramparts.
Read the full post here.
Anuradha Shankar is a full time travel writer and a full time mom. Her travels take her across India and she balances school vacations with her trips to fascinating places that she writes about. She blogs at http://anushankarn.blogspot.in/
Excerpt from her post
Vasai has a history which is way older than Mumbai. While Bombay was still a marshy island, Vasai or Bassein was a thriving port, having seen rulers come and go. Vasai is an island too, situated at the confluence of the Vaitarna river with the sea, and cut off from the mainland by rivulets. Puranic legends attribute the creation of the island to a demon, and the purification of the land by Parasurama.
Today, we know Vasai more for the fresh vegetables that are grown there and brought to Mumbai, than for its interesting history. Not really surprising, considering that there is little here to remind us of it. The only connection left to its glorious heritage is the fort, and even this only tells us of the Portuguese part of Vasai’s history – of a time when it was known as Baçaim. A walk through the crumbling edifices of the erstwhile fort, gives us a glimpse into the prosperous city this was, in its heyday.
Read the complete post here
Note: It was’t a free/promotional walk and all participants paid the full fees to attend it.
Keep yourself posted on our walks to Bassein: @breakfreej