A Look Inside Historic Vasai Fort Near Mumbai (2023)

About 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Mumbai in Maharashtra, the nostalgic ruins of Vasai Fort tell the tale of what was the headquarters of prosperous Portuguese rule in the 16th and 17th centuries. More than just a fort, Vasai Fort was once a living city that was, astonishingly, of greater size and importance than Mumbai (Bombay).

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An Impenetrable Fort City

A Look Inside Historic Vasai Fort Near Mumbai (1)

Vasai, calledBaçaim by the Portuguese (and later renamed Bajipur by the Marathas and Bassien by the British), came into Portuguese possession after it was surrendered by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in 1534. Mumbai, which was merely a group of islands inhabited by villages of indigenous koli fishermen, was also handed over to the Portuguese at the time.

The Portuguese used Vasai as their commercial and military base. It became their capital in the north Konkan region and their second most important location after Goa. They strengthened and developed the preexisting fort structure, naming it the Fortaleza de São Sebastião de Baçaim (the Fort of Saint Sebastian of Vasai). Inside were the glorious mansions ofPortuguese noblemen, seven churches, convents, temples, hospitals, colleges, and administrative centers. The Portuguese governor also used the fort as his official residence when he visited the area.

The sprawling fort, with its indomitable stone wall and 11 bastions, covers nearly 110 acres. It has a very strategic position surrounded by sea on three sides. The Portuguese were renowned for their naval power and fiercely guarded it with a fleet of armed ships, making it impenetrable.

Apparently, the Marathas tried for two years to capture Vasai Fort during Portuguese rule but couldn't gain access. Their attacks only made minor dents, some of which can be seen, on the fort's wall. In they end, they managed to weaken the Portuguese by cutting off their food and trade supplies after conquering Arnala Fort to the north of Vasai.

Upon finally winning the war, the Marathas took possession of Vasai on May 12, 1739. It was a momentous occasion that severely diminished Portuguese influence and restricted their reign of the coastal region to Goa, Daman and Diu. If the King of Portugal hadn't already given the Mumbai islands away to the British as part of a marriage dowry in 1661, the outcome (for Mumbai and the Portuguese) could've been very different!

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Vasai Fort Today

A Look Inside Historic Vasai Fort Near Mumbai (2)

The fort's refinement and splendor has gone, its overgrown ruins are used as a backdrop for selfies and Bollywood movies, and children play cricket on the expanse inside its citadel. Yet, a little imagination and a good guide will magically bring the past stories and sagas of Vasai Fort to life. As you explore it, you'll be transported back to a defining period in India's history and the location of the spirited battle between the Portuguese, Marathas, and British.

These days, the fort falls under the auspices of the Archaeological Survey of India as a national protected monument. However, sadly, little money or effort has been put towards maintaining and conserving it.

One person who has taken an interest in fort is Vasai local Leroy D'Mello, who runs Amaze Tours. He aims to showcase the fort's heritage, while promoting the history and culture of Vasai. I spent a couple of hours exploring Vasai Fort with him as part of his insightful Cultural and Heritage Tour of Vasai. We were accompanied by three very knowledgeable gentlemen who provided an outstanding narrative of the fort, including many little-known facts. They were local collector of old coins and archaeologist Mr. Pascal Roque Lopes, architect Mr. C. B. Gavankar, and Mr. Vijay Pereira who has been studying the Vasai war for a decade.

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Churches Inside the Fort

A Look Inside Historic Vasai Fort Near Mumbai (3)

Among the most prominent remnants in Vasai Fort are three churches -- the Holy Name of Jesus Church (also known as the Jesuit Church), Saint Joseph's Church, and the Franciscan Church of Saint Anthony.

If you've seen the churches of Old Goa, it's likely that the remains of the Holy Name of Jesus Church will look familiar to you. Its facade strikingly blends the architecture of two renowned Jesuit churches there, the churches of Saint Paul and Bom Jesus. It's one of the most noteworthy examples of Catholic architecture in India.

The Church's construction took place over many years from 1549. According to reports, this wealthy church had three altars that were, along with the triumphal arch, lined with gold!

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Nowadays, it's the only church in the fort that continues to be used for worship. The annual Feast of Saint Gonsalo Garcia (the first Indian to saint, who was born a Vasai village) is still held there.

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Saint Joseph's Church

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Saint Joseph's Church was the tallest church in Vasai Fort. It was founded in 1546 but renovated and enlarged in 1601.The winding narrow steps inside its towering remains can be climbed for a magnificent view across the coast.

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Can You See the Faces?

A Look Inside Historic Vasai Fort Near Mumbai (5)

(Video) Historic Vasai Fort near Mumbai #vasaifort #basseinfort #vasai

Another highlight of Saint Joseph's Church can be found in the dome of its baptistery at the front part of the church. Look up and you'll see traces of Portuguese-period paintings of floral motives, and the faces of angels in the background.

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Graves in Saint Anthony's Church

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The Portuguese Franciscans built this imposing church in memory of Saint Anthony, who passed away in 1231. The church dates back to 1557. What's particularly remarkable about it are the tombstones that line its floor. There are about 250 of them, with inscriptions indicating that they belong to Portuguese nobles.

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Vasai Fort Victory Pole

A Look Inside Historic Vasai Fort Near Mumbai (7)

Climb the ramparts from the courtyard inside the fort's western Land Gate (Porta Da Terra), and you'll reach a flat platform bearing a stark flagpole. It's here that the Marathas unfurled their flag after finally capturing the fort in 1739.

The heavily bombarded Land Gate has a sophisticated design with double entrance, which was a common Portuguese defense mechanism. The door of its outer gate was studded with iron spikes to prevent elephants from charging into it. If the enemy did manage to enter the gate, they had to pass through a confusing courtyard and narrow passage to reach the inner gate. The passage, which was open from above, cleverly enabled soldiers on the ramparts to attack the enemy while they were trapped in it.

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How to Visit Vasai Fort

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Getting There

Vasai is cutoff from Mumbai by Vasai Creek (which is one of the main distributary channels of the Ulhas River in Maharashtra). Currently, the only bridge across it is a rail bridge. Hence, Vasai is best reached via the Mumbai local train. Take a Virar-bound train, originating from Churchgate on the Western line, to Vasai Road railway station. (Avoid peak times, as this is a notoriously crowded train!). From the station, take a bus or auto rickshaw to the fort. It's about 20 minutes away.

If driving from Mumbai, the only option is the Western Express Highway (National Highway 8), which is a much longer route.

Tourist Information

The fort is free to enter. Unfortunately, the Archaeological Survey of India hasn't put up any signs, so there's no information about the monuments in the fort. This makes it invaluable to have a good guide if you're keen to learn about the fort and its history. Vasai Fort is covered as part of this full-day Cultural and Heritage Tour of Vasai offered by local guide Leroy D'Mello of Amaze Tours. Local travel company Swadesee also conducts group tours of Vasai Fort, led by Mr. Pascal Roque Lopes. Contact them for upcoming dates.

Do be aware that there are no tourist facilities such as food or water inside the fort.

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See Photos of Vasai Fort on Facebook.

Read More About My Tour of Vasai.

FAQs

Why is Vasai Fort famous? ›

Vasai was the main naval base and sort of ship-building centre of the Portuguese. it was here in 1802 AD, the Peshwa Bajirav signed the infamous 'Treaty of Bassein' which virtually dissolved the Maratha Confederacy. Finally, the fort and the city of Vasai were ceded to the British in 1817 AD.

How much old is Vasai Fort? ›

In its existence of over four centuries, Vasai Fort, as it is better known as today, had seen several rulers. Originally built by the Portuguese in 1536, the 110-acre fort was captured by the Marathas in 1739 and eventually by the British after the First Anglo-Maratha War in 1802.

How would you describe Vasai? ›

Vasai (Konkani and Marathi pronunciation: [ʋəsəi], formerly and alternatively Mahratti; Bajipur, English: Bassein; Portuguese: Baçaim), is a historical place and City near Mumbai (Bombay)'s western suburbs, located in Palghar district which was partitioned from the Thane district in 2014.

Who was the king of Vasai Fort? ›

Vasai was later ruled by the Silhara dynasty of Konkan and eventually passed to the Seuna dynasty. It was head of district under the Seuna (1184-1318).

What is Vasai special? ›

It is famous for the Vasai Fort, which was built by the Portuguese with an intention to keep a watch over the region of Vasai, Thane earlier known as Saashti. The fort witnessed the victory of the Marathas under the leadership of Chimaji Appa from 1737 to 1739, against the Portuguese.

Who destroyed Vasai Fort? ›

Chimaji Appa began the siege on 1 May 1739 by laying 10 mines next to the walls near the tower of Remedios. Maratha soldiers charged into the breach caused by exploding four of them. Almost immediately, they came under fire from Portuguese guns and muskets.

Is Vasai posh area? ›

Vasai is very posh locality with all amenities nearby such as D mart, mall, multiplex, temple, club house, hospital all just within 1 kilometer distance. Vasai. Vasai is a very prime residential locality and well connected with the other parts of the city.

Is the oldest surviving fort in India? ›

Qila Mubarak, Bathinda

Built between 90-110 CE by Raja Dab of the Kushana dynasty, it is believed to be the oldest surviving fort of India.

Is Vasai a good place to live? ›

It has good connectivity to schools, colleges, hospitals, markets, malls, temples, parks, banks and ATMs. Vasai West is a good locality.

Is Vasai a town or city? ›

Vasai-Virar, formerly Bassein or Vasai, city (municipal corporation), western Maharashtra state, western India. It lies on the Arabian Sea coast north of Mumbai (Bombay).

Is Vasai beach clean? ›

This is an environment-friendly and clean beach. Located in Vasai Nagar, Suruchi Beach is a perfect choice for beach lovers who love to spend time away from the daily hustle bustle of life.

Who won the battle of Vasai? ›

Battle of Vasai 1739 CE. The Portuguese fort of Bassein (Vasai) was attacked and defeated by the Maratha armies of Peshwa Baji Rao, led by his brother Chimaji Appa. The bloody battled finally culminated in a Portuguese surrender. 14.

Is photography allowed in Vasai Fort? ›

There is no restriction on photography here as long as you do not cause a public obstruction.

How many churches are there in Vasai Fort? ›

Churches Inside the Fort

Among the most prominent remnants in Vasai Fort are three churches -- the Holy Name of Jesus Church (also known as the Jesuit Church), Saint Joseph's Church, and the Franciscan Church of Saint Anthony.

How big is Vasai? ›

Why is Virar famous? ›

Virar is famous for Jivdani Temple (Virar East) and Arnala Fort and Arnala Beach in the west in the northern coastal area of konkan region. As per provisional reports if Census of India, population of Virar in 2011 is 1,222,390; of which male and female are 648,172 and 574,218 respectively.

Who founded Vasai? ›

Vasai Fort was constructed in 1533 AD by Malik Tughan, the commander of Bahadur Shah, Sultan of Gujarat. In 1534 AD, the Portuguese forced Bahadur Shah to cede Vasai forever. Over the next 150 years Vasai enjoyed opulence and prosperity under the Portuguese.

Why was Mumbai fort destroyed? ›

The Fort wall were destroyed

Due to increase in trade the population was increasing. So as per city expansion plan, the fort wallls were destroyed by the Governor Sir Bartle Frere (Governor from 1862 to 1867).

How far is Vasai Road from International Airport? ›

49 km. Mumbai Airport To Vasai Road Distance & Time : Mumbai Airport to Vasai Road approximate distance is 49 Kms and takes approximately by road.

Will Metro come to Vasai? ›

The state government is planning to extend the Metro line to satellite townships of Vasai and Virar, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said at the Loksatta Real Estate Conclave 2018 on Tuesday. While the proposed Metro line is coming up on a stretch of 276 km, the plan is to extend it to 300 km, he added.

How many beaches does Vasai-Virar have? ›

Rajodi Beach is located at Vasai Virar coastal belt, far North Suburb of Mumbai at Thane / Palghar District on western railway route. Mostly frequented by locals, this beach is cleaner and is one of the 4 connected beaches with Arnala, Kalamb and Navapur.

Which part of Mumbai is richest? ›

Malabar Hill is not only Mumbai's most affluent neighbourhood, but also India's most exclusive residential address, with the majority of residents being billionaires and millionaires. Aside from opulent condos and penthouses, the hillock area is home to a few marquee properties worth Rs 300 crores and above.

Is Vasai costly? ›

The average cost of living in Vasai is $393, which is in the top 5% of the least expensive cities in the world, ranked 8792nd out of 9294 in our global list, 38th out of 220 in India, and 7th out of 21 in Maharashtra.

Which is the most posh area in India? ›

1. Malabar Hill, Mumbai: Home to various celebrities like Juhi Chawla and Akshaye Khanna, Malabar Hills is one of the costliest residential areas in Mumbai. The Hill gives you the view of Nariman Point, Marine Drive, and Chowpatty. The cost of properties in this area ranges to Rs.

Which is the most beautiful fort in India? ›

Red Fort legitimately tops the list of 10 great forts in India with the fact that this fort has seen Delhi from the time it was Mughal's capital to the day it became the capital of world's largest democracy. Red Fort was built in the 17th century by the mighty Mughal ruler – Shah Jahan.

Why invest in Vasai? ›

Vasai has different kinds of residential properties, including plots, flats, studio apartments, villas, builder floors, and independent homes, in various sizes. Furthermore, the location offers excellent real estate investment opportunities and the potential for price appreciation.

How many villages are there in Vasai? ›

There are 50 villages and 2 towns in Vasai Taluka. As per the Census India 2011, Vasai Taluka has 318180 households, population of 1343402 of which 709771 are males and 633631 are females.

Why Mumbai beach sand is black? ›

The Juhu beach, which is undoubtedly one of the prominent tourist spots in Mumbai, now remains polluted because of the oily stretch. The morning walkers said that the oil in the seawater that flew towards the shore turned the sand to black.

Why Mumbai sea water is black? ›

The biggest reason is Maharashtra has the most black soil in India. The sediments from rivers get deposited near the coasts. This has been happening for centuries. Other small reason is Mumbai was the most industrialised area since the British age.

Who Captured Vasai fort? ›

It was under the control of the Portuguese army till the early 18th century. The Maratha kingdom, under the leadership of Bajirao Peshwa, waged a few battles to claim it for their own. After the initial unsuccessful attempt in 1737 to capture Vasai, the Maratha leader Chimajiappa, was handed over this task.

Who named Vasai? ›

The Marathas named it Bajipur. The Muslim rulers named it Basai. Later it was renamed as Bassein and now Vasai. Unlike Mumbai, which is a formation of seven islands into one single city, Vasai is a part of the mainland India.

Is Vasai Fort safe? ›

There is no proper security, no cleanliness & no guides. Its suppose to be the shine of vasai. Tourist people who visit vasai are here only to visit the Chimmaji Appa fort ( Vasai Fort) .

Is pre-wedding shoot allowed in Vasai fort? ›

Vasai Fort is another popular place for pre-wedding shoots. It is a seaside fort located in Vasai village of Palghar. It is in ruins so expect to exploit that feel in your shoot. The architecture is in the old Portuguese style.

Which is the oldest church in Vasai? ›

That is why the Nandakhal church is the oldest of all the churches in North Vasai and it stands in the original form.

Is helmet compulsory in Vasai? ›

Helmet mandatory for all two wheelers in Palghar district. As per the article, it's only for Govt employees? Govt , municipal and schools only .

What is fort Mumbai famous for? ›

The Fort neighbourhood of Mumbai was the first part to be developed by the British. Then, over the years it stood as a reminder of India's rich colonial history, and today it is sort of a jewel in the crown of the city's cultural scene.

What is special about Dahanu? ›

Dahanu is well known for its famous chikoos, capsicum and coconuts and tadi drink, a juice of palm tree. It is also known for its loving nature environment which has now become a huge tourist places near Mumbai.

Which is famous temple in Virar? ›

Maa Jivdani temple is located on the Jivdani hill in Virar. it is the most significant landmark in Virar located on the mountain. it is famous throughout the country for its only temple of Goddess Jivdani which is located around 1375 steps above the ground level, atop a hill in the eastern part of the city.

Is Virar good for living? ›

Nice Locality. The locality has a nearby Market, main road, auto stand, east-west flyover bridge, star bazaar, and Pizza hut. Nice Locality. Prominent suburbs of Mumbai are close to Virar West and with several schools, hospitals, banks and offices situated in the proximity.

What does Virar mean? ›

[viˈrar ] Full verb table transitive verb. 1. to turn.

Why is palghar famous? ›

Palghar is the education hub of the area, with many students travelling from outside the town. The schools and colleges include: Tarapur Vidya Mandir & Jr.

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