Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A Landscape Of The Old & Forgotten - Bassein Fort 2015

It was a sunny weekday afternoon, and I was wrapped up with work like every other day. I then began to look at options that I could bagpack to in quick time, in and around Mumbai. It’s hard sometimes to keep up with the weekly “Go to a new place” routine, when your work schedule doesn’t permit you to travel too far or invest too much time (Note to self: Need to travel full time, to keep up with this.) But then again, If I don’t get out and travel I’d probably feel gloomy for the entire week ahead, so not doing it was really not an option.

So Bassein Fort (Vasai Fort) is a fort that I have heard a whole lot about since my childhood, but have never visited or been to. I have heard stories about how big and mighty it use to be and is, about the churches and sea facing walls, the Portuguese and their mighty rein during the historical times and of the founding and building of the fort. Since this wasn’t that far me in terms of distance and I could cover most of it in nearly half a day (As per what Sheldon said), I decided to pack my bags one weekday and go. Me and Sheldon head out to explore and cover the Vasai Fort, one of the most unvalued and tucked away Forts of Maharashtra (And oh so beautiful.).

If I often wake up early, especially If I'm really excited to head out trekking or have work to do. However because of working late the previous night, I kinda met Sheldon an hour later than what we had planned (Sorry man!). And during summers, since the heat picks up really quickly an hour is really expensive to lose on. Luckily we did reach there soon, after taking a fast train. We first took a rickshaw midway and then changed rickshaws again. The rickshaw driver soon left us at the entrance at the fort, as to my luck and since Sheldon had been to the fort before he knew his way around and we needed to do next. We soon began to walk deep inside the green bushes and forest like paths taking us deeper into the fort. There were ruins all around us, and birds, trees and a feeling of being close to history and the past. We walked closer to the shore, as we came across large doors and damaged towers. Some say the weather got to it, others say with time the walls began to perish. However, it did look like it was depleting. We soon reached the shore (Oh, going to any kind of water body during the summer is bliss!). We could see boats, crabs and fishes all around. I even picked up a small pot I found on the shore. We were then told that we can’t take pictures. That’s right a beautiful sea view and you can’t even take pictures because of security reasons yes (Merchant trading rules). We were a little bummed out, but I still did manage to sneak around and take a few pictures anyway (Such a criminal I am nah? I know.).

We also saw a small Hanuman temple, it's tiny and you wont miss it on your way to the shore. It was closed when we met. But it seemed beautiful right in the middle of the forest and fort to find a temple. We then climbed up a small path, and could see the sea view from the high facing fort walls. We continued to trail around on the walls. Then we climbed up to what seemed to be a watch tower or bell tower of sorts. It was beautiful carved. And I believe the Archaeology Preservation Community are trying and doing a great job by restructuring and cementing the walls (Trying too hard at some places, but it's surely give and take. And I am happy to see we are trying to preserve and safeguard these places.). We spotted a few love birds around (Couples, yes) whom Sheldon did try to scare away. But we just pretended that they weren’t there and kept exploring. We soon started discovering the various churches (There are 7 apparently in the fort.)

According to Historian Joseph Gerson Da Cunha, during this time, Bassein and its surrounding areas appeared to have been ruled by the Chalukya dynasty of Karnataka. Until the 11th century, several Arabian geographers had mentioned references to towns nearby Bassein, like Thana and Sopara, but no references had been made to Bassein. Bassein was later ruled by the Silhara dynasty of Konkan, and eventually passed to the Yadavas of Devagiri, before being conquered by the Muslim rulers of Gujarat. The Treaty of Bassein was signed by Sultan Bahadur of Gujarat and the Kingdom of Portugal on 23 December 1534 while on board the galleon São Mateus. Based on the terms of the agreement, the Portuguese Empire gained control of the city of Bassein, as well as its territories, islands, and seas. At the time, the cession of Mumbai (or Bombay) was of minor importance - but retroactively it gained a crucial importance when the place passed from the Portuguese to the English in 1661 as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza, and became a major trade center - making this the treaty's most important long-range result.

We saw a chimney tower, that was used for cooking a couple of water storage spots. And also there was another temple (This one was open!) that I stepped into quickly, explore and took some blessings from. We soon met a few locals climbing trees and grabbing some mangoes, they were kind enough to give me two, and tell us a bit about the fort and about themselves and their village (The Vasai Village). He happened to live close to my place earlier (Mt. Mary’s) when he was a kid (Raju). He told us even a day wasn’t enough to see all of the fort. That’s when I said my goodbyes and got really anxious to cover as much of the fort as i could. We soon saw another Church that was left in ruins that we were told Sunday masses still happened at (A Jesuit church, could say so with the IHS logo at the front and because I was schooled at a Jesuit school of St. Stanislaus). We explored (I lied down) the church for a bit. Was very beautiful and peaceful. Was very well crafted. We then explored the compounds and could see graves of various soldiers, and other people around the church. I met a really adorable doggy too, who was hurt and been taken care of by the villagers, I could see his wounds were being medicated by them. We soon head towards the last church on our path.

Sheldon’s trip was made. As I have mentioned on my previous posts, the man loves birds and is always looking around to click and see a new bird on his trips. Guess who we met? A Kingfisher. Yes a beautiful, peaceful calm and colorful Kingfisher. He sat down all quiet, all ready to be taken pictures off. We looked at his beautiful wings and eyes, it was surely a treat. We then explored then next church it had a huge compound and well crafted interiors. I never felt like leaving, even for a single moment, but we had too so that we could come again and relish the beautiful fort and all its might. Its huge, it keeps going on and on. Raju was right, it is a magical fort that is long forgotten by many, yet for those who have visited it will always hold a special place of importance in their lives.

The trip then came to an end. Its good to do trips and alone, and with 2 or 3 people sometimes. Exploring with Sheldon was fun like always. Enjoying conversations, and sharing travelling experiences. (And me bugging him cause I wanted to go and see more places, or spend more time at places.) Can’t wait for the next trip. Surely am looking forward to it.

Pictures of the Fort & Temple (Bassein Fort 2015) :

This is Mr. Happy (Or you can call me Al) signing off, until next time.
Have a great day, and an adventurous weekend! :)                        
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Alvin Anthony

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