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Vasai Fort

About 60 kilometres north of Mumbai in Maharashtra, the nostalgic ruins of the Vasai Fort disclose a story of what used to be the headquarters of prosperous Portuguese rule in the 16th and 17th centuries. More than just a stronghold, the Vasai Fort was once a living city, larger and more important than Mumbai (Bombay) itself.

History of Vasai Fort

Greek merchant Cosma Indicopleustes is known to have visited the areas around Vasai in the 6th century, to be later followed by Chinese traveller Xuanzang in June or July 640. According to historian José Gerson da Cunha, at this time, Vasai and its surroundings were allegedly ruled by the Chalukya dynasty of Karnataka. From early 2nd century BC, a trading outpost fortress in several forms has been located in the area. By the 11th century, several Arabian geographers had referred to towns nearby Vasai, like Thane and Nala Sopara, but no references to Vasai had been made. Vasai was later ruled by the Silhara dynasty of Konkan and eventually passed to the Seuna Yadava dynasty of Devgiri. It was the district capital under the Seuna (1184-1318), later conquered by the Gujarat Sultanate. A few years later, Barbosa (1514) described it under the name Baxay (pronounced Basai) as a town with a good seaport belonging to the king of Gujarat. (more in the History section)

The Fort as we see it today

The fort is a major tourist attraction in the region. The ramparts overlook what is alternatively called the Vasai Creek and the Bhayandar Creek and are almost intact, though overgrown by vegetation. Several watch-towers still stand, with safe staircases leading up. The buildings inside the fort premises are in ruins, although there are enough standing walls to give a good idea of the floor plans of these structures. Some have well-preserved facades. In particular, many of the arches have weathered the years remarkably well. They are decorated with carved stones, some weathered beyond recognition, others still displaying sharp chisel marks. Three chapels inside the stronghold are still recognizable. They have facades typical of 17th-century churches. The southernmost of these has a well-preserved barrel-vaulted ceiling. Besides all the structures, tourists often also observe the nature that has taken over much of the fort. The keep is also a popular shooting location for Bollywood movies and songs.

Tourist Information

To visit the Vasai Fort, take a Western Railways train bound to Virar from Churchgate in Mumbai and alight at the Vasai Road Railway Station. If you are departing from the Central Railway or Central Railway Harbour Line, then you have to switch to the Western Railway line at either Dadar, Bandra or Andheri. Another railway line connects the Central and the Western Railways lines from Vasai Road Railway Station to Diva, a stop just beyond Thane city on the Central Railway line. Vasai station is connected by regular bus services with the Fort.

The fort complex is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. all days of the week.

Text by Sammik C Basuu