PLACES OF INTEREST
Bassein, or VASA'I, that is the settlement, [The Musalmans called it Basai and the Portuguese Bacaim.] in north latitude
19° 20' and east longitude 72° 51', on the coast about thirty miles north of Bombay, on the right or north bank of the Thana creek, is a municipal town, the head-quarters of a sub-division, and, according to the 1881 census, had a population of 10,356 souls, 6850 of them Hindus, 2623 Christians, 835 Musalmans, twenty-nine wild tribes, fourteen Parsis, and five Jews. The houses of the present town lie about half a mile inland and to the north of the walls of the old fort. A good metalled road 4¼ miles long leads to Bassein Road station on the Baroda railway. The Portuguese ruins, which are nearly hid by palm groves and brushwood, stand about fifteen feet above high water level on a low flat plot of land, the south-west point of the rich and well-wooded tract, which, being out off from the mainland by the Gokhirva or Sopara creek, was formerly known as Bassein island. Off Bassein fort, about 100 yards from the shore, is a dangerous rock which is visible only at low tide.[Assistant Collector, Thana Files, General Condition, 1843 -1853.]
As Bassein lies only six miles south of Sopara it can hardly
have been a place of consequence so long as Sopara (A.D. 1100) remained a centre of trade. [The mention of Vasai or Bassein in one of the Kanheri cave writings seems according to the latest translations to be a mistake. Pandit Bhagvanlal Indraji.] A doubtful reference makes Bassein the head of a district under the Devgiri Yadavs (1200?-1290). There is no certain notice till 1507, when Mahmud Begada of Gujarat (1459-1513) is said to have effected his designs against the towns of Bassein and Bombay. [Bird's Mirat-i-Ahmadi, 214. The uncertain reference is in Jervis' Konkan, 81.] A few years later Barbosa (1514) describes it under the name Baxay, as a town of Moors and Gentiles, a good seaport belonging to the king of Gujarat. Much merchandise was exchanged, and there was a great movement of shipping from all parts and many boats came from Malabar laden with arecas, cocoa, and spices. [Stanley's Barbosa, 68.] In 1526 the Portuguese established a factory at Bassein, and in 1529 and again in 1531, in revenge for the hostility of the Gujarat kings, laid waste the Bassein coast. [In 1529 Hector de Sylveira, who had been left with a force of twenty-two row boats to act against the pirates of the north, entered the Bassein river by night, attacked the town, and defeating the Gujarat general Ali Shah (Alexiath), plundered and burnt the place. Faria in Kerr, VI. 210.] In 1532, to put a stop to these raids and prevent the Portuguese from spreading further north, Bahadur Shah ordered Malik Tokan, Governor of Diu, to fortify
Bassein. A citadel was built, both the creek and the sea sides were strengthened with ramparts surrounded by a ditch full of salt water, and the whole was garrisoned by a force of 15,000 cavalry and infantry. Against this new fort Nuno da Cunha, the Portuguese General, advanced with a fleet of 150 sail manned by 4000 men, half Europeans half Goanese. Seeing their strength Malik Tokan made overtures for peace. But Da Cunha's terms were so hard that he was forced to refuse them. On this the Portuguese landed a little to the north of the citadel, and the van, led by Diogo de Sylveira and Manuel de Macedo, scaled the ramparts, and, in spite of their small number, dashed on the enemy and put them to flight. The Muhammadans fled leaving large stores of provisions and ammunition, and the Portuguese secured the island with the loss of only two persons of mark and a few soldiers. On account of its nearness to their new fort of Chaul, and because they could ill spare a garrison, the Portuguese razed the citadel to the ground, and retired to Goa with 400 captured pieces of artillery. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 135; Baldeus in Churchill's Voyage, III. 530. Of the capture of Bassein Camoens (1534) wrote: Chaul's high towers Cunha shall rear on high, And Diu tremble at his very name; Bassein, though so strong in verity. Shall yield thy guns to him through smoke and flame. Compare Da Cunha's Bassein, 138 footnote.]
About this time Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat, proud of his success in the Deccan and in Malwa, brought on himself the wrath of the Emperor Humayun. Both parties were anxious to gain the Portuguese as allies. With this object Bahadur, in 1533, agreed to cede Bassein and its dependencies to the Portuguese, gave them the right of levying duties on the Red Sea trade, and arranged that his vessels should call at Bassein and take a Portuguese passport. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 136.] In the following year the Emperor tried to tempt the Portuguese to an alliance. But they continued firm friends to the king of Gujarat, and in reward were allowed to build a fortress at Diu. The Portuguese established a factory at Bassein, but did so little to strengthen it, that in 1536 on the advance of a body of Moghals the commandant thought of abandoning the place. This was opposed by Antonio Galvao, and the Moghals, finding the garrison ready to resist, withdrew without firing a shot. Shortly after Nuno da Cunha the Portuguese Viceroy arrived, and dug the foundations of a new citadel, honouring Galvao by asking him to lay the corner stone of the fort. About the same time certain Musalman mosques were pulled down and in their place a cathedral of St. Joseph was built. In 1539 Bassein was besieged by a Gujarat force, but the attack was repulsed. [Faria in Briggs' Ferishta, III. 516.] Towards the close of the century (1583) it is mentioned as one of the places of most trade in corn and rice on the coast. [Ralph Fitch in Harris, I. 207. In Gujarat Musalman histories Bassein is spoken of as one of the European ports that paid tribute to the Gujarat king (Bird's Mirat-i-Ahmadi, 129). Perhaps the tribute was revenue raised from Gujarat merchants who traded with Bassein.] About the same time (1585) it is said to have
a trade in rice, corn, and timber for ship building, but to be a filthy place compared with Daman. [Caesar Frederick(1563-1585) in Hakluyt,II. 344.] Abul Fazl (1586) calls its Bussy, a city and an emporium like Daman, Sanjan, Mahim and Tarapur, all five of them being in the possession of the Europeans through the negligence of the Moghal officers. [Gladwin's Ain-i-Akbari, II.66.] Shortly after (1590) new fortifications were begun and finished about the close of the century. [De Couto, XIV. 65 in Nairne's Konkan, 46.] They are described as a strong stone wall with eleven bastions mounting ninety pieces of artillery twenty-seven of them bronze, and seventy mortars seven of them bronze. The fort was defended by twenty-one gunboats, each of them carrying from sixteen to eighteen guns.[O Chronista de Tissuary III. 250; Da Cunha's Bassein, 16.] Bassein, though never so busy a trade centre as Chaul, was famous for its ship building, and had the advantage of being the head-quarters of a rich tract of country, [The district of Bassein stretched about ten miles north to the river Agacim, east about twenty-four miles to Asserim and Manora, and about forty miles south to Karanja. This was divided into the Saybana of Bassein, the Kasba of Thana, the isle of Salsette, the isle of Caranja, the isle of Bellaflor, the sub-division of Manora, and the sub-division of Asserim. Da Cunha's Bassein, 140, 157.] held by large Portuguese proprietors, whose wealth and the retinue and the court of the Captain of the North greatly enriched the city. [There were more than 100 families of the highest in India and proverbially rich. At the close of the sixteenth century the ladies of a few of the highest Bassein families showed their wealth and public spirit by subscribing £10,000 (200,000 xeraphins) to build a nunnery at Goa. Da Cunha's Bassein, 246.] The space within the walls was kept entirely for the higher class of Portuguese who tolerated no artisan or native among them. With straight streets, large squares, stately two-storied dwellings graced with covered balconies and large windows, and many rich and magnificent churches, Bassein was next to Goa the largest and richest of the Portuguese settlements. [See Fryer (1674-75) and other authorities quoted by Da Cunha, 140, 141. Of religious buildings it contained, besides the Cathedral, five convents, thirteen churches, an orphanage, and a hospital. Da Cunha's Bassein, 139.] Under the General of the North, it was governed by a Captain, with an establishment of sixteen messengers, four torch-bearers and three water and one umbrella carriers. [The total cost amounted to £147 6s. (686,400 reis). The details were: Captain £128 14s. (600,000 reis), naik and fifteen peons £3 2s. (14,400 reis); four torch-bearers £3 2s. (14,400 reis), oil £9 5s. (43,200 reis), carriers £3 2s. (14,400 reis). In 1634 there were one naik, eighteen peons, four torch bearers, three carriers, one door-keeper, one watchman, and one translator. The total yearly cost was £128 (3420 pardaos). Da Cunha's Bassein, 218. At least in later times (1675) the Captain was always chosen from certain families. He had a term of three years of office. Fryer's New Account, 73.] With him, at least in the seventeenth century, certain of the chief townsmen seem to have been associated as aldermen, vereadores, whom the governor called every morning and consulted, all standing, ' the Governor though gouty not being allowed a chair.' [Fryer's New Account, 74; and Inscription below, p. 40.] Next to the Captain came the factor on £43 (200,000 reis) a year, with two clerks, two torch-bearers, and two messengers. Order was kept by a constable of the fort on £8 6s. (38,920 reis) a year, with twelve bombardiers each paid 1s. (3 tangas) a month; a chief
constable, thanadar, on £43 (200,000 reis) a year living outside of the walls in Upper Bassein, Bacain de Cima, with twenty constables on 1s. 6d. (5 tangas) a month, four musketeers on 2s. 3d. (7 tangas), a sergeant, naik, on 1s. 6d. (2 pardaos), one private or nafar, a clerk with a sergeant and four privates, a translator, a Parbhu, a cooper, and a boatswain. Justice was administered by a police magistrate, meirinho, on £21 10s. (100,000 reis) with ten messengers; a judge, ouvidor, on £21 10s. (100,000 reis) with five messengers; and an appellate judge, vedor, a doctor of laws, who heard appeals from all the judges of the north coast. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 218-221.] Of miscellaneous officers there was a sea bailiff, alcaide do mar, on £2 10s. (12,000 reis) ; a customs storekeeper, almoxarife dos almazens, on £2 8s. (30,000 reis) ; a king's advocate on £4 6s. (20,000 reis); an administrator of intestates on £3 16s. (18,000 reis); a chief of the night watch on £5 8s. (25,200 reis) ; and a master builder on £3 16s. (18,000 reis).
In the beginning of the seventeenth century (1607) Bassein was a great place for ship-building and had a large trade in timber and building stone, which was as fine and hard as granite, and was used in all the Goa churches and palaces. [Pyrard de Laval, II. 226 in Da Cunha's Bassein, 140. In 1595 the commandant of Asheri was ordered to furnish a galley every year built at Bassein (Arch. Port. Orient. Fasc. III. pt. I. p. 510). Bassein would seem to have shared in the great leather trade and manufacture of slippers, for which, as far back as the tenth century (Macudi, I. 254) Cambay, Sanjan, and Sopara were famous. One of the churches is said to have been built by a man who had made a fortune in the slipper trade. Heber's Narrative, II. 188.] In 1612 it was besieged by the Musalmans but apparently without success. [De Barros, VII. 217.]
In 1618 Bassein suffered from a succession of disasters. First it was stricken by a terrible disease which few escaped though most recovered. All the Jesuit fathers at the college sickened, but only one father, Emanuel Acosta, the Superior of the College, died. Before his death he foretold that the city was about to be visited with a grievous punishment. Scarcely was he dead (May 15) when the sky clouded, thunder burst, and a mighty wind rose. Towards nightfall a whirlwind raised the waves so high that the people, half dead from fear, thought that their city would be swallowed up. Many provision boats, which were lying at anchor off the shore, were dashed to pieces. In the city and in the villages houses were thrown down or made unfit to live in. The monasteries and convents of the Franciscans and Augustinians were utterly ruined. The three largest churches in the city and both the house and the church of the Jesuits were unroofed and gaped in clefts almost past repair. Nothing was more hideous than the destruction of the palm groves. Thousands of palms were torn out by the roots, and some the wind lifted through the air like feathers and carried great distances. The whole was like the ruin at the end of all things. [Cordara's History of the Jesuits, VI. 162. Faria-y-Souza (Portuguese Asia, III.) thus describes this storm: "In May 1618, six years after the settlement of the English at Surat, ' a general and diabolical storm' occurred in the neighbourhood of Bombaim. It began at Bacaim on the 15th of that month and continued with such violence that the people hid themselves in cellars, in continual dread lest their dwellings should be levelled with the earth; and at 2 A.M. an earthquake destroyed many houses. The sea was brought into the city by the wind; the waves roared fearfully; the tops of the churches were blown off, and immense stones were driven to vast distances; two thousand persons were killed; the fish died in the ponds, and most of the churches, as the tempest advanced, were utterly destroyed. Many vessels were lost in the port At Bombaimsixty sail of vessels, with their cargoes and some of their crews, foundered. Madras Journal, V. 175.]
This storm was followed by so complete a failure of rain that, in a few months there was so grave a scarcity that children were openly sold by their parents to Musalman brokers. The practice was stopped by the Jesuits, partly by saving from their own scanty allowances partly by gifts from the rich. When the fear of famine was still pressing, orders were issued that all should meet in the church of the Jesuits for prayer. One of the fathers so reproved the people for their sins that they threw themselves on the ground and filled the church with their groans. Their prayers were not unheard. The sky was soon covered with clouds, and next day rain fell so freely that the withered crops revived. [Cordara's History of the Jesuits, VI. 206. In 1623 Piettro della Valle (Viaggi, III 131) noticed that many buildings were in ruins from the great hurricane of a few year's before, and in 1670 Ogilby (Atlas, V. 214) speaks of an earthquake, which, in the beginning of the century, had swallowed many houses, in the room of which none had been built.]
The European travellers of the seventeenth century describe Bassein as a handsome well fortified town with a convenient harbour, in a country growing much rice, pulse, and other grains, oil, and cocoanuts. [See Mandelslo's Voyages (1638), 233; Thevenot (1666), V. 248; and Ogilby's At (1670), V. 214. Tavernier (1651) notices that the Indians worshipped the Virgin Mary as a representation of Sita, pulling off their shoes, making many reverences, putting oil into the lamp, and casting money into the box. If the Portuguese had allowed them they would have anointed the image and offered it fruit. Harris, II. 379.] The city wall was of stone three miles round with three gates, two main gateways one to the east the other to the west, and a smaller portal to the south, and eight bastions, some of them unfinished. On the south or sea-side, where there was little risk of an attack there was only a single wall. The garrison was (1634) 2400 strong, 400 Europeans, 200 Native Christians, and 1800 slaves. [O Chron de Tis. III. 243; Da Cunha's Bassein, 209.] The city was set apart for the better class of Christians, neither craftsmen nor Hindus were allowed to live within the walls. It had wide straight streets and good buildings round a great square or market. The nobles lived in stately mansions, and there were six churches four convents, and two colleges, one belonging to the Franciscans the other to the Jesuits. The Jesuit college had five square cloisters with cells on two sides, a spacious refectory, a goodly church, and a fine library of commentaries and works on history and morals.[ Fryer's (1675) New Account, 74,75; Gemelli Careri (1695) in Churchill's Voyages, IV. 191, quoted in Da Cunha's Bassein, 141.] The hospitality of these monasteries was famous, and made public places of entertainment unnecessary.
In the decay of Portuguese power towards the close of the seventeenth century Bassein suffered considerably. In 1674, 600 Arab pirates from Maskat landed at Bassein, and, unopposed by the panic-struck garrison, plundered all the churches outside of the walls, refraining from no cruelty or violation. [Orme's Historical Fragments, 46. Fryer notices these Arab incursions. New Account, 75.] In the same year More
Pandit established himself in Kalyan, and forced the Portuguese to pay him one-fourth of the Bassein revenues. [Orme's Historical Fragments, 45; Da Cunha's Bassein, 143.] Two years later (1676), Shivaji advanced near Bassein, and, in spite of ' some slender hostility,' fortified a place called Sibon (probably Saiwan), [Orme's Historical Fragments, 54.] and in 1690 the Marathas, though unsuccessfully, invested Bassein. [Orme's Historical Fragments, 142.] The city which had for some time been suffering from the dishonesty of its governors, the immorality of its upper classes, the interference of the clergy, and the ill feeling shown to unconverted natives, [In 1587 king Philip II. of Spain (1556-1598) complained of the dishonesty of the captains who let their forts fall into disrepair. Da Cunha's Bassein, 144. He also wrote that offenders against public morals should be punished (Ditto). The rules against unconverted natives were most strict. No heathen might be employed except as a groom, and to none might any friendship or kindness be shown. No infidel could serve in a public office, and all, every Sunday afternoon, were forced to attend a lecture by a priest, or, if they staidaway, had to pay a fine of from 4d. to about 1s. (1-3 tangas). Da Cunha's Bassein, 144. According to Goez (1603) the persecution of the Portuguese made many Hindus, Musalmans and Parsis leave their homes and live in the dominions of Shah Jahan where they had liberty of conscience. He adds, ' Between Bassein and Daman there are few natives and the greater part of the village lands lie untilled.' Da Cunha's Bassein, 143. Of the interference of the clergy Hamilton (1720) says, 'The church superintends the General of the North, which makes his government both uneasy and precarious.' New Account, I. 180.] was about 1690 stricken by a pestilential fever or plague, ' exactly like a bubo,' which, continuing at intervals for several years, robbed the city of about one-third of its people. [Gemelli Careri in Churchill's Voyages, IV. 191. This outbreak, apparently the true plague, taun and waba, raged for several years over a great part of western India. At Ahmedabad, where it lasted for seven or eight years, its visible marks were swellings as big as a grape or banana behind the ears, under the arms and in the groin, and redness round the pupils of the eyes. In 1689 it broke out with great violence at Bijapur 'all attacked with it gave up hope.' It had been in the Deccan for several years (Muntakhabu-l-Lubab: Elliot, VII. 337). Near Goa in 1684 it attacked Sultan Mosam's army and carried off 500 men a day (Orme's Hist. Frag. 142); raged in Surat for six years (1684-1690) (Ovington's Voyage to Surat, 347); reduced (1690) the Bombay garrison to 35 English soldiers (Bruce's Annals, III. 94); was so violent that it not only took away all means of preparing for a good end, but in a few hours in Surat, Daman and Thana, carried off whole cityfuls of people (Churchill, IV. 191); and at Tatta in Sind (1696) killed 80,000 souls (Hamilton's New Account, I. 123),] In the beginning of the eighteenth century the population was returned at 60,499 souls, of whom 58,131 were Native Christians and 2368 Europeans. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 145.] About the same time it is described as a place of small trade and a harbour for small vessels. According to Hamilton most of its riches lay buried in the hands of lazy country gentlemen, who loitered their days in ease, luxury and pride, without the least sense of their country's ruin. [Hamilton's New Account, I. 180.] In 1728 a Portuguese officer, sent from Goa to examine the fortifications, found most of the outposts in a wretched state; the forts and stockades ill-placed and in bad repair; the garrison short of their proper strength, and the few soldiers untaught and undrilled, useless except as robbers.[O Chron. de Tis. I. 31, 32, Of artillery Bassein had ninety pieces from three to twenty-four pounders 27 of them bronze, 70 mortars 7 of them bronze, and a garrison of 80 infantry and 12 artillery. In Bassein port were 21 armed boats each with 16 to 18 pieces of ordnance. Bassein, 209. In spite of this weakness the Bassein revenue seems to have increased till as late as 1729. In 1686 it was £8646 (Rs. 86,460), in 1709 £9737 (Rs. 97,370), in 1718 £15,539 (Rs. 1,55,390), and in 1729 £45,706 (Rs. 4,57,060). Da Cunha's Bassein, 145.]
Round the city thus weakened and decayed the Marathas were gradually closing. In 1738 they seized the small fort of Arnala to the north of Bassein, and soon after, by occupying the islands of Varsova and Dharavi and the creeks between Bassein and the mainland they completely isolated the city. Goa, distressed by the Marathas, could send no help, and the English at Bombay, for years annoyed by the hostility and treachery of the Jesuits of Bandra, refused assistance. On the 17th February 1739 the siege of Bassein was begun, and, under Chimnaji Appa, Bajirav's brother, was pressed with a skill, courage, and perseverance which no other Maratha besieging force has ever shown. In spite of the loss of their commander, Sylveira de Menezes, the garrison defended themselves with the highest courage and constancy. Among them the Europeans fought with the most signal bravery, driving back attacks, and by midnight sallies harassing the Maratha lines. Still the besiegers pressed closer, mine after mine was sprung, and in spite of a constant fire from hand grenades, musketry and mortars, the wall was breached under Sam Sebastian's tower, and, mounting on its ruins, the Marathas gained a position from which they could not be driven. The garrison, blockaded by Angria's fleet and short of food and of powder, with the flower of their officers and men dead or disabled, could hold out no longer. On the 16th May 1739 they offered to capitulate. The terms were honourable. The garrison, auxiliaries as well as regulars, were allowed to march out with the honours of war, and, to such of the people as wished to leave, eight days were given to gather their property. The loss of the Portuguese was about 800; that of the Marathas, in killed and wounded, about 12,000. Thus Bassein fell as falls a stately tree never to rise. No fight had been more glorious to the Portuguese; in none since the days of Albuquerque had they earned more unsullied fame. [Bom, Quar. Rev. IV. 71-87.]
Under the Marathas Bassein, with the name of Bajipur or Bajirav's city, continued a place of importance, the head-quarters of the governor of the country from the Bankot river to Daman. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 149. Du Perron (1760) says, 'Except Goa I have seen no town better placed for trade. The fort, in warlike hands, could offer a strong resistance. It is a regular hexagon. The bastions carry nine guns on each face, and those in the middle have double faces. Many of the curtains are protected by a square bastion, and that near the river by masonry built on the sea. Of the two gates the south one is open, the Marathas have condemned the south-west gate. The walls might, mount forty cannon.' Zend Avesta, I. ccclxxxiv.] To restore a Hindu population grants of rent-free land were offered, and a tax was levied for the support of Brahmans who were brought to purify the Christians and make them fit to take their place in their old castes. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 149.]
In 1767 the Dutch wished to establish a factory at Bassein. [Stavorinus, III. 107.] In 1774 the town was taken by the British but soon after was restored to the Marathas.[Mill, III. 608, 619.] Six years later (1780) Goddard, leading his army by land from Surat, arrived (November 13th) before Bassein. The fortress was a regular polygon without outworks, but so strong as to require regular approaches. On the 28th November the first
battery of six guns and six mortars was opened at a distance of 900 yards, and on December 9th a second battery of nine heavy guns and at the same time a battery of twenty mortars were opened at 500 yards. On the 10th, when a breach was nearly completed, a conditional offer of surrender was made but refused, and next morning the garrison surrendered at discretion. On the British side the loss was small.[ Mill, IV. 299; Thornton, II. 191; Nairne's Konkan, 101.] In 1783, under the terms of the treaty of Salbai (March 1782), Bassein was restored to the Marathas. [Grant Duff, 457, in Nairne's Konkan, 103.] At the close of 1802 (December 17th) Bajirav Peshwa, flying from Yeshvantrav Holkar, reached Bassein from Suvarndurg on the Ratnagiri coast. Here he was met by Colonel Close and Mr. Elphinstone his Assistant, and on December 31st the Treaty of Bassein was concluded. [Treaties, Engagements and Sanads, V. 63 in Nairne, 108.] To ensure the Peshwa's safety a field detachment was sent to Bassein, and to strengthen the passage from the mainland to Bassein island a considerable palm-tree stockade was built at Sopara. [Captain Dickinson's Report in Nairne, 108.] The Peshwa stayed in Bassein till the end of April. [Blue Book (1803), pp. 350-463 in Nairne, 108.]
Under the terms of the treaty of Poona (13th June 1817), which was forced on the British by Bajiravs intrigues and failure to supply his contingent of troops, Bassein with the rest of the north Konkan passed to the British. In 1818, the distance between the main defences and the want of any sufficient ditch made the fort of no military value. The ramparts were overgrown with bushes and scarcely a house was habitable. A small detachment of troops was kept in it for some time.
[Dickinson's Report quoted in Nairne, 116. See also Da Cunha's Bassein, 210] In 1824 it was described as a considerable place surrounded by a regular fortification of ramparts and bastions, but without a glacis which from the marshy state of the surrounding country was not much wanted. A small garrison was stationed in one of the gates, under an English conductor of ordnance, and the place was kept locked. Within it was completely uninhabited. [Hamilton's Gazetteer, I. 145.] In 1825 Bishop Heber found it perfectly uninhabited, a melancholy display of ruined houses and churches covered with a rank growth of trees and brushwood. Bishop Heber describes the ruins as of mean architecture, but striking from their lofty proportions and from the singularity of Christian and European ruins in India. [Narrative, II. 185, 188.] In 1830 an attempt was made to revive industry in Bassein by starting a sugar factory. A mill was built, but the scheme failed from the death of Mr. Lingard the promoter. In 1837 Mr. Vaupell found Bassein the chief market town of a petty division with shops mostly held by Gujarati Vanis and a few poor Musalmans. [Trans. Bom. Geog. Soc. VII. 139.] In 1838 Mrs. Postans described it as long forsaken with no inhabitants except a few fishermen and hunters. [Western India, I. 179.] Since 1838 Bassein fort has remained almost deserted. In 1834 a travellers' bungalow was built at a cost of
£167 (Rs. 1672), and in 1856 a road was carried through the town to the landing place. In 1852 the ruined church of N. S. da Vida was turned into a sugar factory, and for a time the work and the workmen gave some life to the old town. But the factory did not pay, and has been closed, and the old city within the fort is again desolate.
In 1864 a municipality was established, [Gov. Res. 521, 15th March 1864.] including besides the old fort and most of the modern town which stand in the village of Malonde, the survey villages of Dhauli, Sandore and Mulgaon, and many gardens and fields between Bassein and Papdi, about a mile and a half to the east. Though the old city within the fort is desolate, the modern municipal town is busy and prosperous. In 1880-81 the municipal income, collected from octroi, house and privy taxes and tolls and market fees, amounted to £714 (Rs. 7141). The expenditure in the same year was £664 (Rs. 6637), of which £117 were spent on scavenging, £46 on lighting, and £77 on roads.
The Balvantrav Hari Naik dispensary, aided by a Government grant of £173 (Rs. 1730), a municipal grant of £170 (Rs. 1700), and a local funds grant of £60 (Rs. 600) was established in 1872 in a house given by Yashvantrav Balvant Naik, whose father's name the dispensary bears. There is an assistant surgeon in charge, and the attendance in 1880-81 was 18,824 out-patients and 43 in-patients. There are six vernacular schools, the chief of which, with room for 150 pupils, is held in a school-house which was built in 1878 at a cost of £560 (Rs. 5601).
The mamlatdar's office, which is built on the standard plan, was completed in 1869 at a cost of £3553 (Rs. 35,530). The subordinate judge's court is held in what was formerly a private dwelling. Close to the new school-house is a public garden which was granted to the municipality by Government in 1877.[Gov. Res. 1265, 26th February 1877.] Opposite the garden stand the Robertson vegetable and fruit markets, with an upper story which is used as the municipal office. [The markets are called after Mr. James Walker Robertson, Collector of Thana, 1867-1875.]
Bassein has a good landing place and a custom house. The returns for the five years ending 1878-79 show an average export trade of £51,414 (Rs. 5,14,140) and an import trade of £22,520 (Rs. 2,25,200). Exports varied from £20,710 (Rs. 2,07,100) in 1876-77 to £97,480 (Rs. 9,74,800) in 1875-76, and imports from £17,295 (Rs. 1,72,950) in 1876-77 to £33,547 (Rs. 3,35,470) in 1877-78.[The details are: Exports, 1874-75 £78,004 (Rs. 7,80,040), 1875-76 £97,480 (Rs. 9,74,800), 1876-77 £20,710 (Rs. 2,07,100), 1877-78 £33,868 (Rs. 3,38,680), 1878-79 £27,007 (Rs. 2,70,070); Imports 1874-75 £19,225 (Rs. 1,92,250), 1875-76 £19,176 (Rs. 1,91,760), 1876-77 £17,295 (Rs. 1,72,950), 1877-78 £33,547 (Rs. 3,35,470), 1878-79 £23,355 (Rs. 2,33,550).] The railway returns show an increase in passengers from 86,473 in 1873 to 140,837 in 1880, and a fall in goods from 5292 tons to 3278 tons.
There are six modern Catholic churches in and near Bassein. The
church of Our Blessed Lady of Mercy, about two miles north of the mamlatdar's office, has a congregation of 974. It was built by private subscription and measures ninety-five feet long by fifteen broad and thirteen high. The vicar has a house and draws a monthly stipend of £1 14s. (Rs. 17) from the Portuguese government. A music master -plays the violin in church. The Dhauli church, about two miles north of Bassein, is dedicated to Our Blessed Lady of Remedies, and has a congregation of 3238. It was built in 1821 at a cost of £1860 (Rs. 18,600), of which £1800 (Rs. 18,000) were collected by private subscription and £60 (Rs. 600) were granted by Government. It measures 108 feet long by thirty-three broad and twenty-three high. The vicar has a house and a monthly Government stipend of £1 9s. (Rs. 14-8). There is a parish school attended by about fifteen pupils. The Manikpur church, four miles north-east of Bassein, is dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, and has a congregation of 800. It was re-built in 1851 at a cost of £1500 (Rs. 15,000) which was raised by private subscription. It is in good order and measures 120 feet long by twenty-nine wide and thirty-six high. The vicar has a house and a monthly Government stipend of £1 9s. (Rs. 14-8). A music master plays the violin in church; there is no parish school. The Sandore church, three miles north of Bassein, is dedicated to St. Thomas the Apostle, and has a congregation of 1725. The side walls were built in the sixteenth century, the chapel in 1838, and the frontispiece in 1858. The chapel measures twenty-five feet long by twenty broad and twenty high, and the body of the church seventy-six feet long by thirty wide and twenty-five high. The vicar has a house and a monthly Government stipend of £1 9s. (Rs. 14-8). There is also a vestry-keeper who gives religious instruction, and a music master who plays the violin in church. There is no parish school. The Pali church, about three miles east of Bassein, is dedicated to Our Blessed Lady the Mother of God, and has a congregation of 900. It was built in 1840 at a cost of £1500 (Rs. 15,000) and measures seventy-five feet long by twenty-three broad and eighteen high. The vicar has a house and a monthly Government stipend of £1 9s. (Rs. 14-8). There is a music master who plays the violin in church and a parish school with about thirty pupils. The Papdi church, about two miles north-east of Bassein, is dedicated to Our Blessed Lady of Grace and has a congregation of 1294. It measures about 102 feet long by forty-five high and 37 broad, and was built in 1865 at a cost of £1800 (Rs. 18,000) collected by private subscription. The vicar has a house and a monthly Government stipend of £1 9s. (Rs. 14-8). There is a violin master and a parish school supported by Government and attended by fifty-six pupils.
There are two modern Hindu temples inside the fort, one to Hanuman close to the sea gateway and the other to Trivikram. Trivikram's temple enjoys a yearly Government allowance of £106 (Rs. 1061). There are two travellers' rest-houses built by Parsis, one by Mr. Lavji Sorabji Lakdavala in 1780 and the other by Mr. Dadabhai and Mancherji Pestanji Wadia in 1836.
In 1860 the interior of the fort was leased for thirty years to
Major Littlewood, whose widow now holds the lease, her son cultivating the fields inside. The grant of this lease has made the proper preservation of the ruins almost impossible. [Mr. W. B. Mulock, C. S. 24th January 1882.] Except two openings for the landing-place road, and one or two breaches along the sea face, the old city walls are in fair repair. They are about one and a half miles round, and in shape an irregular decagon, built of stone from thirty to thirty-five feet high, and, except on the west where they are as much as forty-five, not more than five feet thick. At each of the ten corners is a four-sided bastion, [Their names are Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, Reis Magos, Sam Thiago, Sam Goncalo, Madre de Deos, Sam Joao, Elephante, Sam Pedro, Sam Paulo, and Sam Sebastian.] and in the whole circumference are three entrances, two main double gateways, and a postern. Of the two main gateways the Sea Gate, Porta do Mar, with massive teak doors cased with iron bars and spikes, is in good repair, but the woodwork of the Land Gate, Porta do Campo, is broken. The postern behind the cloisters of the Franciscan church was thought unsafe, and was closed by the bastion of Sam Sebastian.
Within the walls are some fenced fields, and the lines of some of the old streets may be traced. With these exceptions the space is overgrown with palms and brushwood. On the land side are few signs of old buildings, but near the middle of the space are the ruins of the citadel or round central tower, and close together, towards the sea, are the remains of six churches and other religious buildings. Of these some are perfect except that their roofs have gone, of others only the towers are left. The site of others is marked by broken pillars, porches, and cornices, and some are shapeless mounds of ruin. All are overgrown with grass, wall trees, and thick hanging festoons of climbing plants. Of the absence of ruins on the land side two explanations may be offered, that, as the part most likely to suffer from a land attack, it was never built but kept for the growth of grain, or that it was once peopled and fell to ruin during the ravages of the plague at the close of the seventeenth century.
Beginning from the seaside the first object of interest is the massive double sea gateway with its well preserved teak and iron doors, on one of which, partly hid by an iron bar, are the words ' The 20th November 1720.' Within the gate, on the left, is a small temple of Hanuman. On the same side, the building with massive high tower and tree-covered walls is the Cathedral, or Matriz, of St. Joseph. Over the door these words are cut in stone:
' In the year 1601, when the most illustrious Sr. Dom Frei Aleixo de Menezes was Archbishop Primate and the Revd. Pedro Galvao Pereira was Vicar, this Cathedral was rebuilt.' ['The Portugese runs, No ANNO DE 1601, SENDO ARCEBISPO PRIMAZ O
ILL MO SR. DOM FREI ALEIXO DE MENEZES, E VIGARIO O PE PEDRO GALVAO PEREIRA, SE REFORMOU ESTA MATRIZ. Da Cunha's Bassein, 214.]
The towered front and the side walls with arched doorways and lancet windows are in fair repair, but the roof is gone and the steps
up the tower are decayed. On a black oblong tombstone in the chancel, to the right of the main altar, are these words:
' To this grave are transferred the bones of Pedro Galvao, a servant in the Lord, who managed and enlarged this temple. He died at Goa on the 19th March 1618. [The Latin runs, 'PETRI GALVANI TEMPLUM HOC QUI REXIT ET AUXIT HOC TRANSLATA
JACENT FAMULI INDOX OSSA SEPULCHRO. OBIIT GOAE 19 MARTII ANNO 1618.']
At the west end of the nave, a half-buried tomb bears the name ' Antonio de Almeida de Sampaio e Su.' The present building seems to stand on the site of the church of St. Joseph, which was built in 1546 by the Viceroy Dom Joao de Castro under the orders of Dom Joao III. of Portugal. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 215. The king allowed the Viceroy to support the vicar and his assistants, from a sum of £112 (3000 pardaos) formerly spent on Musalman mosques. In 1634 the church staff was a vicar, four canons, two choir
boys, a treasurer, four singers, and one player. The yearly cost was, for establishment £25 (666 pardaos); for ornament, cloth, palm leaves, and flowers £2 5s. (60 pardaos); and for candles £3 7s. (90 pardaos).] A plain arched passage between the cathedral and a private house to the right is perhaps a relic of the dislike the wives of the old Bassein nobles had, to be stared at on their way to church. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 246.]
Facing the sea, the open space at the end of the street, to the left
of the sea gate, is the great square or market. Round it are the
remains of what were once fine buildings. One of the chief of
these was the State House, where in 1675 'the Governor convocated
the nobles every morning upon consultation, in which they all stood,
a chair not being allowed the Governor though gouty, and where
towards evening they met to game.' [Fryer's New Account, 74.] The ruined doorway beyond
the market belongs to the castle or round citadel. On either side
of the door were two pillars of which only the Corinthian capitals
are left. Above, are a Maltese cross, a coat of arms, a sphere, and
the date 1606. Inside of the gate the whole space is strewed with
ruins. To the left, along a path choked with shrubs and fallen
stones, are the ruins of a bastion with the oldest inscription in
' The first Captain who built this fortress was Garcia de Sa, by command of the Governor Nuno da Cunha in the year 1536. [The Portuguese runs, ' Ho PRIMEIRO CAPITAM QUE EDIFICOU ESTA FORTALEZA FOI
GARCIA DE SA POR MANDADO DO GOVERNADOR NUNO DA CUNHA ERA DE 1536.' Da Cunha's Bassein, 217.]
These ruins are said to have been older than the Portuguese, and to have been the ' place of residence of the Moors to whom it belonged.' [Bocarro (1634) in O Chron. de Tis. III. 243.] Further back heaps of rubbish and one or two doored and windowed walls are all that remain of the palaces of the General of the North and of the Captain of Bassein.[Da Cunha's Bassein, 218. Of the jail that once stood near the Captain's palace nothing is left but a slab with a worn writing to be seen near the travellers' bungalow outside of the fort. The writing runs, ' Pero da Silva being Viceroy and Rui dias da Cunha Captain of this fortress, the city of Bassein, Dom Luiz d'Athaide, Francisco Pereira, and Alvaro Coelho caused this jail to be built, which was completed while Andre Salema was Captain and Antonio Teles, Tristam....... Aldermen. The date is gone. It must have been between 1635 and 1639, Da Cunha's Bassein, 236.] A little behind the gate of the round citadel, and near the end of the street that leads from the sea-gate along the wall, are the ruins of
a very large building supposed to be the house of the Captain or the Court of Justice, but more probably the Church and Convent of the Augustinians.
The portico, which is approached by a flight of five deep steps, is supported by four pillars which divide the entrance into three arches leading into the vestibule. In the background are the Portuguese royal arms and some worn devices. Two inscribed stones have fallen, one from the architrave the other from the tympanum. The writing on the architrave runs,
' This portal was built during the government of the Viceroy Dom Miguel de Noronha, Count of Linhares, and on it St. Francis Xavier was placed as patron of the city. The 10th May 1631.' [The Portuguese runs, ' GOVERNANDO O ESTADO DA INDIA O VICE-REI DOM MIGUEL
DE NORONHA CONDE DE LiNHARES, SE FEZ ESTE PORTAL, EM O QUAL SE POZ FOR
PADROEIRO D'ESTA CIDADE A SAM FRANCISCO XAVIER. A DES DE MAIO 1631.]
The writing on the tympanum runs,
' When Gaspar de Mello de Miranda was Captain of the city, and Goncalo Coelho da Silva, Pero Ferreira, and Joao Boto Machado and other officers were aldermen, this portal, which took St. Xavier as its patron, was built in the year 1631. [The Portuguese runs, ' SENDO CAPITAO D'ESTA CIDADE GASPAR DE MELLO
DE MIRANDA, E VEREADORES GONCALO COELHO DA SILVA, PERO FERREIRA, E JOAO BOTO MACHADO COM OS MAIS OFFICIAES SE POZ N'ESTE (PORTAL?) A SAM XAVIER, QUE
TOMARAO POR SEU PATRO NONO ANNO DE 1631.]
Next to the palace are the ruins of the factory, the residence of the factor who was second in rank to the Captain. Close by are the ruins of a very large building apparently a granary. Separated from the palace of the General of the North by the large oblong space of the old palace garden, are the Church and Hospital of Pity. The Hospital, which faces the wall on the river side, is a long massive pile with a large square courtyard surrounded by a beautiful cloistered arcade. The church though small had a handsome front of finely dressed stone and delicately wrought pillars. Above the door is a stone escutcheon with a beautiful Maltese cross in the centre, and, on either side, a dragon with a roll in its mouth. Inside the church are two tombstones, a large one with the words, 'The grave of Po. Cabral de Navais and of his son P. Hieronimo Po. Cabral and his heirs.[The Portuguese runs, ' SEPULTURA DE PO., CABRAL DE NAVAIS E DE SEU FO. P. HIERONIMO PO., CABRALE SEUS HERDEIROS. Da Cunha's Bassein, 226.] The other stone has only a few letters. [The letters are SA. DA. L. H. EO. DO. E.] The Bassein hospital, a very old institution, was endowed by the Portuguese government with a monthly allowance of £5 4s. (140 pardaos) and a grant of £17 (79,200 reis) to buy rice for the poor. Not far from the entrance of this church is a modern Hindu temple of Mahadev. Parallel to this is the church of Nossa Senhora da Vida. It is one of the oldest churches in Bassein, and in 1695 was mentioned by Gemelli Careri as adorned with three good altars. The modern building in the nave of the church is the sugar refinery, which after a few years of ill success was closed in 1874. In a grave opened when digging the foundations of the sugar refinery were found the bones of a man and horse evidently buried together. [A case of burying a horse with his dead master occurred as late as 1781 at Treves in Germany. The practice of leading his charger after an officer's bier is probably a relic of the older custom. See Tylor's Primitive Culture, I. 428.]
To the right of the church of Nossa Senhora da Vida, the chapel which was lately used as a sugar warehouse, is probably the church and monastery of the Hospitallers, a poor and modern (1681) order which never rose to wealth or power in Bassein. [It is (1695) so poor that it can maintain but three friars. Gemelli Careri in Churchill, IV. 192.]
A little beyond, in front of the square, are the ruins of the Church and Monastery of the Jesuits. The church front is the handsomest piece of architecture in Bassein, It has a noble arch, columns with fluted shafts and Corinthian capitals, and the monogram I.H.S. and a cross sculptured on the lintel and above the pillars. Attached to the church are the ruins of the college overgrown with climbing plants and wall trees, but still firm and in good order. The date over the door (1636) must refer to repairs. The foundation of the Church and Monastery were laid in 1548 by Fr. Malchior Gonsalves, a close friend of St. Xavier, by whom the Jesuits had, in the year before, been established at Bassein. Between 1573 and 1588 great numbers were converted, a and in the latter year no fewer than 9400 Hindus were baptised in Bassein church. After 1560 there was a commissary of the inquisition at Bassein. In the seventeenth century the Jesuit buildings were the finest in Bassein. Pietro della Valle, in passing down the coast (March 1623),[Viaggi, III. 131.] supped with the Jesuits from whom he received much courtesy. Fryer (1675) speaks of a goodly church, a spacious refectory, and a college of polite structure, with fine square cloisters and side cells above stairs as well as below, in the portico was a copy of Michael Angelo's picture of the Resurrection. [Fryer's New Account, 74.] Twenty years later the church and the three chapels are described as richly gilt. Their garden had some European fruits, among them figs and grapes that ripened in December and March. [Gemelli Careri in Churchill, IV. 192.]
In the nave of the church near the chancel are two grave stones, one with the Portuguese inscription, ' The grave of Isabel de Aguiar, a widow lady, the noble helper of this college. Died on the 24th January 1591.' [The Portuguese runs, ' SEPULTURA DE ISABEL DE AGUIAR, DONA VIUVA, INSIGNE
BEMFEITORA DESTE COLLEGIO. FALLECEO A 24 DE JANEIRO ANNO DE 1591.] The other runs, 'The grave of Dona Filipa da Fonseca, a widow lady, the noble helper of this church to which she gave during her lifetime all she possessed. She died on the 20th July 1628.'[The Portuguese is, ' SEPULTURA DE DONA FILIPA DA FONSECA, DONA VIUVA INSIGNE BEMFEITORA DESTA IGREJA, A QUEM EM SUA VIDA DEU TO DO QUANTO TINHA FALECEO A VINTE DE JULHO DA ERA DE 1628.]
A little beyond the ruins of the Jesuit buildings is the Franciscan church of the Invocation of Santo Antonio, the oldest and one of the largest religious buildings in Bassein. The arched ceiling of the chief chapel with elaborate mouldings is still fairly preserved. The great arch near the chapel of the baptismal font is in good order, and the corridor round the cloisters on the four sides of a square courtyard is fairly preserved. Unlike most Bassein
buildings, the Franciscan church is of dressed stone, and has
basalt in its staircases, arches, windows, and door posts. One well-built staircase is still in good order. There was a monastery as
well as a church, and the ruins of both can be traced. This was the
centre church of the great missionary Fr. Antonio de Porto, who
between 1530 and 1540, established many churches in Bassein and
Salsette. About 1550, when the Jesuits first appeared, the power
of the Franciscans was much reduced by dissensions and schisms.
Among the tombstones in the nave and chancel one has the words
' (The tomb of) His Majesty's Councillor, who died on the 24th
August 1558, and of his wife Dona Luiza da Silva, and his heirs.' [The Portuguese is, ' E DO CONSELHO DE SUA MAGESTADE, FALECEU EM 24 DE AGOSTO DE 1558, E DE SUA MOLHER, DONA LUIZA DA SILVA E SEUS ERDEIROS.' Of other epitaphs there are in one of the side chapels to the left of the high altar, ' Here rests Dona Francisca de Miranda, wife of Manoel de Melo Pereira, founder of this chapel, and her daughter Dona Ines de Melo and her grandson Luis de Melo. She died on the 10th November 1606.' Near the centre of the building is another, ' The grave of Dona Giomar d' Aguiar, widow of Alvaro de Lemos, may he be with God! Died on the 4th March of 96. Is hers and her son's.' In a third chapel to the right of the chancel is an inscription, ' This grave stone was placed by Dona Pra de Berredo over the grave of her husband, Antonio Teles de Menezes, who died on the 26th October 1676. This grave was bought by Manoel de Carvalhar Pereira and his heirs. Our Father.' Close by is, 'This grave belongs to Baltazar Freire da Camara, daughter of Dona Simoa Freire. Died on the 1st November 1601.' In the first chapel to the left of the main altar are the words, ' Grave of Bento da Costa and his heirs. Da Cunha's Bassein, 238-240.] In early times the Franciscans had much support from the state, and even as late as 1634 there were thirty Franciscans while there were only fifteen Jesuits, ten Dominicans, and eight Augustins.
It was here that St. Francis Xavier staid during his three short visits, one in 1544 and two in 1548. In 1695 Gemelli Careri noticed that, contrary to the custom of India, the church had many chapels.[Churchill, IV. 192.]
To the right of the Franciscan ruins, almost between them and those of the Jesuits, are the ruins of the Dominican church and monastery built in 1583 under the invocation of Sam Goncalo. Of the church, the walls and tower and a little of the peaked roof near the chancel are still standing, and the chief chapel with its beautiful arch is in good order. On the gospel side of the altar is the ruined tomb of the patron, with a scarcely legible epitaph. In 1695 it had three well-adorned altars opposite the great gate. [Churchill, IV. 192.] The monastery, which was once famous for its dormitory, is now a ruin.
The road between the Dominican and Franciscan ruins and the fort wall leads to the bastion of Sam Sebastian with the blocked postern. The inscription stone lies neglected near the land gateway. It runs,
' During the reign of the most high and most mighty King Dom Joam of Portugal, the third of this name, and when D. Afonso de Noronha, son of the Marquis of Villa Real, was Viceroy, and Francisco de Sa, Captain of the fort and city of Bagai, this bastion, named Sam Sebastian, was built on the 22nd February 1554. [The Portuguese runs, ' REINANDO HO MUIO ALTO E MUITO PODEROSO REI D. JOAM
DE PORTUGAL 3 DESTE NOME, E GOVERNANDO A INDIA O VICE-REI, D. AFONSO DE NORONHA FILHO DO MARQUEZ DE VlLLA REAL, SENDO FRANCISCO DE SA CAPITAO DESTA FORTALEZA E CIDADE DE BACAI, FUNDOU ESTE BALUARTE, PER NOME SAM
SEBASTIAM, AOS 22 DIAS DO MES DE FEVEREIRO ERA 1554 ANNOS.]
It was through this bastion that the Marathas forced their way into the city in 1739. A few yards from the bastion is a modern English tomb with the words, ' Here lies the body of........ Durham, wife of Andrew Durham, Surgeon, who departed this life in...'
On the outer side of the wall leading from the postern are the ruins of the pier. Inside of the wall a passage is said to run to the river. But the air is bad and puts out lights, and the passage has never been explored.
On both sides of an old street, nearly parallel to the new highroad which leads along the middle of the fort to the sea gateway, are the remains of the nobles' mansions. Of the stately dwellings, 'graced with covered balconies and large latticed or oyster-shell windows,' [Fryer (1675), New Account, 74.] only shapeless heaps of brushwood-covered stones and mortar remain. On the Maratha conquest most of the rich families retired to Goa and almost all have since died out. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 149, 224.] The only trace of luxury is an ornamental bath-room of hard cement studded with shells and pieces of porcelain. In this quarter of the town is an inscription too confused to be translated. [The Portuguese words are, ' ESTAS CASAS S | EARA BATRADE |
SAM EAFAOE | SAE... NO ANO DE | 1617. POR MA | DADO DO DOOM | E DO RCLAFL. O | O MAENCOICAE |
DON OLOI..... A |... |... |... | 20... | NIALFEIAC | AIELACDELE | SEESUL OD. | AEN.... SE SE SOMO | DIE CIO AGNEF | CAN PAMIENI | MAAPORMNATNDO | VPORESLPADIAO |.] Near these old mansions, in a square overlooking the road, are the ruins of the Augustin Chapel of Nossa Senhora de Annunciada. The front is double arched, the walls and side windows of the chancel are well preserved, and parts of a vaulted roof with painted mouldings remain. [Da Cunha's Bassein, 247.]