PLACES OF INTEREST
Mandapeshvar in Salsette, called Montpezier or Monpacer by the Portuguese, is about eight miles south of Bassein and from Borivli station is two miles north in a straight line, and, probably, about three miles by the rough winding cart track. For miles round, it is easily known by a high whitewashed watch-tower that crowns a wooded knoll. About 100 yards to the north of the watch-tower, on what was apparently a great isolated block of trap rock, are the remains of a Portuguese Cathedral and college. The buildings are of surprising size, covering a very large area, and, especially the Cathedral, with very high walls and high pitched roof. The eastern half of the Cathedral has lately been roofed and repaired, and is now used as a church. The east face of the great mass of rock on which the buildings stand, has been cut into several large Brahmanic caves. Beginning from the north end of the east side, a door opens into a long cave, about sixty-six feet by forty and about twelve feet high. [In a recess on the left, as one enters, Lord Valentia in 1804 and Mr. Salt in 1805 noticed the painting of a saint ' still fresh on the wall.' Trans. Bom, Lit. Soc. I, 48.] On the right hand, before entering, is a life-size defaced figure cut in the rock. The cave has been fitted as a Portuguese church, with a plain altar and seated wooden image of the Virgin Mary at the south end, and a pulpit about the middle of the west wall. The temple or church consists of a central hall, two irregular aisles, and a vestibule or portico at the north end. The east aisle, originally a veranda, has a front wall built by the Portuguese with central arched door and two square side windows. Inside of the east veranda or aisle, which is about nine feet broad, is a line of four pillars and two pilasters about twelve feet high. The pillars are plain and rather slim as if a surface of figured ornaments had been chiselled away. In the pilasters the ornament has been hidden with mud and mortar, and small figures of Parvati and Shiv with attendants may still be seen. Much unharmed tracery covers the shafts of the pilasters, and they end in fluted cushion-like capitals like the Elephanta pillars. The central hall is about twenty-three feet broad and fifty long, a chancel
fifteen feet deep, being cut off at the south end by a wooden railing. The altar
is plain and square with a wooden seated figure of the Virgin Mary about life-size and a cross above.
The west aisle is very irregular and is little more than a passage from two to four feet broad. The west wall originally opened into three chambers. The southern chamber is entered by two steps and a threshold through a plain opening about six feet broad and eight high. The chamber inside is about nine feet square and seven high, with a rock bench along the south wall about three feet broad. The back wall has been filled with rough masonry by the Portuguese. There was formerly a square pillar with rounded capital, and the original cave went in about nine feet further. There seem to be the remains of a figure cut in the back wall.
The back wall, opposite the central door, has been filled with Portuguese masonry. A. square opening, about five and a half feet with plain wooden door posts, gives entrance to a chamber about fifteen feet square and eight feet high, with some remains of carving on the back wall. On the floor are some well-carved Portuguese beams. Further north a door in the back wall leads into a chamber fourteen feet by nine. The back wall, which has been filled by the Portuguese, was originally two plain square pillars and two square pilasters. A hole in the Portuguese masonry gives entrance to a chamber fifteen into six and nine feet high, and, from this, to the north runs an inner chamber roughly fifteen feet into eight and five high. Both chambers are plain. The vestibule or portico, to the north of the hall, measures about eighteen feet into twelve and is about ten feet high. A plain rock-seat runs round three sides. In the east side of the north wall is an empty recess, about eight feet by five, with holes in the wall as if for closing it off. Before the church was repaired this cave temple was, for many years, used as a Christian place of worship. It is now unused.
Passing south, outside of the church cave, behind the altar, cut off by a rough wall, is a cave twenty feet into fourteen. The front is about half-built. Passing through an opening, left by the Portuguese as a window, is a cave twenty feet into fourteen. In the back wall is a defaced statue of Shiv dancing the tandav or frantic dance. [Except that it is somewhat larger, this representation of the tandav dance
is much like that on the right hand side of the main entrance at Elephanta.] Above, on the visitor's right, is Vishnu on his bird-carrier or Garud with attendants, and below are three worshippers, two women and a man. Above, on the visitor's left, are angels and a three-headed Brahma, and below a Ganpati. Above is Indra on his elephants, and below are seers and a male figure, perhaps the man who gave the money for cutting the group. Outside, to the left,
is an old cistern with a cross above, apparently cut out of an image of Shiv. The floating angel-like figures in the corner have been left untouched. Further along, an opening with two pillars and two pilasters with rounded capitals, gives entrance to a chamber eighteen feet by six. A door in this chamber leads into a long plain hall, forty-six feet into seventeen and nine high, much filled with earth.
In front are two great pillars about four feet square. There are two niches in the south wall, and, to the east, is a six feet deep veranda the mouth nearly filled with earth. From the rock, in whose east front these caves are cut, rises a great mass of Portuguese buildings. These buildings consist of three parts: In the south is the great Cathedral which runs east and west, to the north of the Cathedral is a large central hall surrounded by aisles, and behind the hall is a great pile of buildings, dwellings for priests and students, and on the west a large enclosed quadrangle. [Vaupell (1839), Trans. Bom. Geog. Soc. VII. 146. About 1835 a Mr. J. Forbes of Bombay, with the help of a pipal tree root, climbed to the top of the wall. He sat for a while, and then slipping or losing his hold, fell sixty or seventy feet into the court of the temple. He was carried to Bombay senseless and died that evening. Ditto.] To the west is a fine cross and the ragged remains of a mango-tree avenue. The nave of the Cathedral, which is without aisles, is about seventy-five feet long by thirty-six wide. The side walls are about sixty feet high. The inner part of the nave has lately been covered with an open very high-pitched tiled roof supported on massive teak timbers. Across the nave, about fifteen feet from the west door, two pillars, with plain round shafts about four feet high, support, on plain square capitals, an arch of about thirty-four feet span which rises in the centre to about twenty-five feet. About thirty feet up the side walls are big square clerestory windows, and, in the centre of the north wall, is a pulpit. At the east end of the nave is a transept about eighteen feet broad and fifty-four long, and beyond the transept is the chancel about thirty feet square and with a domed roof about fifty feet high. The whole is plain and simple, but clean and in good order. The funds for repairing the church have been given by the native Christians of Mandapeshvar and the surrounding villages.
To the north of the Cathedral is another large building apparently a college hall. Inside of a row of cloisters, about nine feet broad and ninety feet long is a central hall, forty-five feet square, with four arches on each side. North of this hall and cloisters is another much-ruined pile of buildings, and, on the west, a great enclosed quadrangle.
At the foot of the west wall are two stones with Portuguese writing, one a dedication stone apparently dated 1623; [The writing states that the college was built in 1623 (1643?) as an appendage to the church by order of the Infant Dom John III. of Portugal (King Dora Joao IV?). Da Cunha's Bassein, 195; Trans. Bom Geog. Soc, VII, 147.] the other a tomb stone.
On the eighth of December, the festival of the Mandapeshvar Virgin, Sahibin Kosehsang (N. S. da Conceicao, Our Lady of Conception), a fair is held, which, among Christian festivals, comes next in popularity to 'the fair of Mount Mary in Bandra. Numbers of childless people, Parsis, Hindus, and Musalmans as well as Christians, come and make vows. A large bell, said to have cost £25 (Rs. 250), was given to the church by a man whose prayer for a son was heard.
About a hundred yards south of the Cathedral and college ruins,
on a brushwood covered knoll about 150 feet high, stands a high-domed whitewashed tower, ending in what looks like a belfry. The tower, which is about forty-six feet high, stands on a plinth about fifty feet in diameter. Except to the east, where is a square outwork with stairs which lead to the upper story, the tower is round with a veranda about nine feet deep, and, to the north, west, and south, are seven round vaulted guard-chambers about six feet in diameter and ten feet high. At a height of about fourteen feet the wall is surrounded by battlements about two feet high. Inside of the battlements, runs a parapet paved with rough cement about eight feet broad, and from the centre rises a dome about fifteen feet in diameter and with stone side-walls about fifteen feet high. From the stone walls rises a brick dome about six feet from the lip to the crest, and, on the outside over the dome, is a small building in shape like a belfry.
This tower, which is very notable for miles round, is generally known as the High Priest's Dwelling, the Sir-Padri's Bungalow, but it was probably a watch-tower. The upper platform commands a wide view. To the east, beyond a broad stretch of brushwood and brab-palm forest, rise the wooded slopes of the Kanheri and Tulsi hills. To the south, over a rich well-wooded stretch of rice fields and mango gardens, are the cocoa palm groves that fringe the sea near Andheri. To the west, across a tract of mangoes and brushwood, is a broad belt of salt waste and the long level of the Gorai island. To the north-west are the ruins of Bassein, the Bassein creek to the north, and, beyond the creek, the flat back of Tungar and the finely rounded peak of Kamandurg.
About the middle of the sixteenth century (1556) the Franciscans changed the cave-temple into a Catholic chapel. They built a wall in front of the cave and screened off or covered with plaster most of the Shaiv sculpture; in some places care seems to have been taken not to damage them. [De Couto states (Da Asia, VII. 245) that, when in 1538 the Franciscans received charge of the Kanheri and Mandapeshvar caves, and expelled the Yogis, they did their best to destroy the sculptures. But, as has been noticed under Kanheri, this seems hardly correct.] In connection with the large monastery founded at that time by the great Franciscan missionary, P. Antonio de Porto, a church and college were built on the site of the cave, the cave forming a crypt. The church was dedicated to Nostra Senhora da Conceicao and the college was meant for the education of 100 orphans. Round the hill there was a colony of 200 converts. In the height of its prosperity Dr. Garcia d'Orta (1530-1572) describes it as Maljaz, a very big house made inside the rock. Within were many wonderful temples which struck all who saw them with awe. [Coll. dos Ind. (Ed. 1872), 42.] About forty years later (1603) Couto wrote: 'In the island of Salsette was another pagoda called Manazaper, which is also cut out of solid rocks in which lived a Yogi, very famous among them called Ratemnar, who had with him fifty Jogis, whom the inhabitants of those villages maintained. The priest Fre Antonio de Porto being told of this, went to him. But the Yogis of that island had so
great a fear of him that no sooner did they see him, than they left the temple and went away. Only divine power, says De Couto, could have made these fifty men leave their temples and their lands, and fly before two poor sackclothed friars. The priests entered the cave and turned it into a temple dedicated to N. S. de Piedade. The Franciscans afterwards established a royal college for the island of Salsette, for the education of the children of all converted to Christianity. King D. Joao granted this college all the revenue and property that had belonged to the pagoda. [Jour. B. B. R. A. S. I. 38. De Couto notices that, on his death, the chief monk of Kanheri left to Mandapeshvar all the lands with which he had been presented, when he became a Christian.]
In 1695 Gemelli Careri described it as Monopesser, an under
ground church once a rock-temple, on which had been built a
Franciscan college and monastery. It was 100 spans long and
thirty broad. The front was built, but the side walls were of rock;
close by was another rock-cut pagoda. Five religious men lived
there, receiving from the king of Portugal 130,000 pounds (5000
paras) of rice a year, which, except what they ate themselves they
distributed to the poor. [Gemelli Careri in Churchill, IV. 198.] In 1760, after the Maratha conquest, Du
Perron found the Mandapeshvar churches and buildings abandoned.
A church to the left of the caves had a Portuguese writing dated 1590.
The Marathas had destroyed the place and carried the timber to
Thana. [Zend Avesta, I. cccxc.] In 1804 (November) Lord Valentia found the ruins of a
very handsome church and monastery. [Lord Valentia says, probably Jesuits; Du Perron is right. Da Cunha's Bassein,
193.] The church was originally lined with richly carved wood panelling. In the centre was the head of a saint tolerably executed and surrounded with wreaths of flowers. The other sculpture was in excellent taste. The whole was in ruins, the roof fallen in. Under the church was a small rock-cut temple square and flat-roofed with a few deities and other figures in bas-relief. The priests had covered the sculptures with plaster and turned the cave into a chapel. But the original owners were uncovered and again worshipped. [Voyages, II. 195. Malte Brunn (1822, Univ. Geog. III. 161) says, 'The Portuguese utterly effaced many figures of an ugliness incorrigibly heathen. Others, not having coolness enough to allow them to stand as simple monuments of art and antiquated opinions, they converted into Christian emblems, painted them red, and with pious zeal cherished them as valuable proselytes.' Du Perron (Zend Avesta, I. ccccxxii.) states that when the Marathas took Mandapeshvar and Elephanta, they did much harm to the sculptures by firing cannon in the caves to loosen the mortar with which the Portuguese had hid the figures.
This can hardly have been done at Elephanta; it may be true of Mandapeshvar. See above, p, 87.] In 1850 Dr. Wilson found the cave-temple used by the Roman Catholic inhabitants of the neighbourhood as a church instead of their built church which had fallen into decay. [Jour. B. B. R. A. S. III. 41.]