Battle of Vasai

Last updated

Battle of Baçaim
Date17 February 1739 – 16 May 1739
(2 months, 4 weeks and 1 day)
Vasai and surrounding area

19°19′50.4″N72°48′50.8″E / 19.330667°N 72.814111°E / 19.330667; 72.814111
Result Decisive Maratha Victory* Portuguese Army and Administration pulled out of Baçaim on 23 May 1739.

Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Maratha Empire

Flag Portugal (1707).svg Portuguese Empire
Commanders and leaders
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Chimaji Appa
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Ranojirao Shinde
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Janojirao
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Girmaji Kanitkar
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Naro Shankar Dani
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Manaji Angre
Flag of the Maratha Empire.svg Malhar Rao Holkar
Flag Portugal (1707).svg Captain Caetano de Souza Pereira  White flag icon.svg
Flag Portugal (1707).svg Captain João Xavier Pinto
Flag Portugal (1707).svg General Martinho da Silveyra
Flag Portugal (1707).svg General Pedro de Mello
Flag Portugal (1707).svg Colonel Joã Malhão
100,000 [1]
Casualties and losses
Unknown Wounded [2] 800 killed
Unknown Wounded [3]

The Battle of Vasai was fought between the Marathas and the Portuguese rulers of Vasai (Portuguese, Baçaim; English, Bassein), a town lying near Mumbai (Bombay) in the present-day state of Maharashtra, India. The Marathas were led by Chimaji Appa, a brother of Peshwa Baji Rao I. Maratha victory in this war was a major achievement of Baji Rao I's reign. [4]

Portuguese Empire global empire centered in Portugal

The Portuguese Empire, also known as the Portuguese Overseas or the Portuguese Colonial Empire, was one of the largest and longest-lived empires in world history. It existed for almost six centuries, from the capture of Ceuta in 1415, to the handover of Portuguese Macau to China in 1999. The empire began in the 15th century, and from the early 16th century it stretched across the globe, with bases in North and South America, Africa, and various regions of Asia and Oceania. The Portuguese Empire has been described as the first global empire in history, a description also given to the Spanish Empire.

Vasai Town in Maharashtra, India

Vasai, historically known as Bassein or Baçaim, is a historical suburban town in the Palghar district of Maharashtra state in the Konkan division in India. It forms a part of Vasai-Virar city. Vasai was in the Thane district prior to 2014.

Portuguese language Romance language that originated in Portugal

Portuguese is a Western Romance language originating in the Iberian Peninsula. It is the sole official language of Portugal, Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, and São Tomé and Príncipe. It also has co-official language status in East Timor, Equatorial Guinea and Macau in China. As the result of expansion during colonial times, a cultural presence of Portuguese and Portuguese creole speakers are also found in Goa, Daman and Diu in India; in Batticaloa on the east coast of Sri Lanka; in the Indonesian island of Flores; in the Malacca state of Malaysia; and the ABC islands in the Caribbean where Papiamento is spoken, while Cape Verdean Creole is the most widely spoken Portuguese-based Creole. Reintegrationists maintain that Galician is not a separate language, but a dialect of Portuguese. A Portuguese-speaking person or nation is referred to as "Lusophone" (Lusófono).



The Baçaim (now known as Vasai) region ruled by Portuguese in not just Baçaim but included areas far away as Bombay, Thane, Kalyan, Chaul and Revdanda. It is located about 50 Kilometers North of Bombay, on the Arabian Sea. Baçaim, was important trading center, its sources of wealth and trade were horses, fish, salt, timber, basalt and granite and shipbuilding. It was a significant trading center long before the Portuguese arrived. (Ancient Sopara was an important port in trade with the Arabs and Greeks, Romans and Persians.). It was also a wealthy agricultural region with rice, betel nut, cotton, and sugar-cane as some of the crops. [5]

History of Bombay under Portuguese rule (1534–1661)

Bombay, now called Mumbai, Bombaim in Portuguese, is the financial and commercial capital of India and one of the most populous cities in the world. At the time of arrival of the Portuguese, current Bombay was an archipelago of seven islands. Between the third century BCE and 1348, the islands came under the control of successive Hindu dynasties. The Muslim rulers of Gujarat, who had been ruling current Thane and Vasai for a few decades, annexed the islands in 1348, that were later governed by the Gujarat Sultanate from 1391 to 1534. Growing apprehensive of the power of the Mughal emperor Humayun, Sultan Bahadur Shah of the Gujarat Sultanate was obliged to sign the Treaty of Bassein with the Portuguese Empire on 23 December 1534. According to the treaty, the seven islands of Bombay, the nearby strategic town of Bassein and its dependencies were offered to the Portuguese. The territories were later surrendered on 25 October 1535.

Thane City in Maharashtra, India

Thane, colloquially called Thana, is a metropolitan city in India. Thane city coincides entirely within Thane taluka, one of the seven talukas of Thane district; also, it is the headquarter of the namesake district. With a population of 1,841,488 distributed over a land area of about 147 square kilometres (57 sq mi), Thane city is the 16th most populated city in India with a population of 1890,000 according to the 2011 census. The city is also called "City of Lakes" as the city is surrounded by 35 lakes.

Kalyan City in Maharashtra, India

Kalyan is a city in the Thane District of Maharashtra state in Konkan division and a part of Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR). It is a neighbour city of Mumbai and is governed by Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation.

16th Century

In 1530 António da Silveira burnt the city of Bassein and continued the burning and looting to nearby Bombay, when the King of Thana surrendered islands of Mahim and Bombay. Subsequently, the towns of Thana, Bandora, Mahim and Mombaim (Bombay) were brought under Portuguese control. [6] In 1531, António de Saldanha while returning from Gujarat to Goa, set fire to Bassein again - to punish Bahadur Shah of Gujrat for not ceding Diu.

Mahim Neighbourhood in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Mahim is a neighbourhood in Mumbai, India. The Mahim railway station is in the Mahim area, on the Mumbai suburban railway on the Western Railway line. Mahim is often considered as the heart of Mumbai. Mahim upholds the values of secularism and diversity. In fact one finds a temple, church, mosque and firetemple existing with few meters of each other

Bandra City/Suburb in Mumbai Suburban, Maharashtra, India

Bandra is a coastal suburb located on Salsette Island in Maharashtra, India. The suburb is located to the immediate north of the Mithi River, which separates Bandra from Mumbai City. It is the third-largest commercial hub in Maharashtra, after Mumbai and Pune, primarily aided by the Bandra-Kurla Complex. Additionally, many personalities who are active in Bollywood, cricket, and politics reside in the city.

António de Saldanha was a Castilian-Portuguese 16th-century captain. He was the first European to set anchor in what is now called Table Bay, South Africa, and made the first recorded ascent of Table Mountain.

Plant of the Bacaim Fortress (1635) Fortaleza de bacaim.jpg
Plant of the Baçaim Fortress (1635)

In 1533 Diogo (Heytor) de Sylveira, burnt the entire sea coast from Bandora, Thana, city of Bassein and areas up to Surat. Diogo de Sylveira returned to Goa with 4000 slaves and spoils of pillaging. [7] For the Portuguese, Diu was an important island to protect their trade, which they had to capture. While devising the means to capture Diu, Portuguese General Nano da Cunha, found out that the governor of Diu was Malik Ayaz whose son Malik Tokan was fortifying Bassein with 14,000 men.

Surat Metropolis in Gujarat, India

Surat is a city in the Indian state of Gujarat. It used to be a large seaport and is now a center for diamond cutting and polishing. It is the eighth largest city and ninth largest urban agglomeration in India. It is the administrative capital of the Surat district. The city is located 284 kilometres (176 mi) south of the state capital, Gandhinagar; 265 kilometres (165 mi) south of Ahmedabad; and 289 kilometres (180 mi) north of Mumbai. The city centre is located on the Tapti River, close to Arabian Sea.

Nuno da Cunha Portuguese colonial administrator

D. Nuno da Cunha was a governor of Portuguese possessions in India from 1528 to 1538. He was the son of Antónia Pais and Tristão da Cunha, the famous Portuguese navigator, admiral and ambassador to Pope Leo X. Nuno da Cunha proved his mettle in battles at Oja and Brava, and at the capture of Panane, under the viceroy Francisco de Almeida. Named by João III ninth governor of Portuguese possessions in India, he served from April 1528 to 1538.

Malik Ayyaz POrtuguese naval officer

Malik Ayyaz, called Meliqueaz by the Portuguese, was a naval officer and governor of the city of Diu, in the mouth of the Gulf of Khambhat (Cambay), circa 1507-1509 under the rule of Gujarat Sultanate. He was one of the most distinguished warriors of his time.

Engraving depicting Antonio Galvano (c.1490-1557) AntonioGalvao.png
Engraving depicting Antonio Galvano (c.1490–1557)

Nano da Cunha saw this fortification as a threat. He assembled a fleet of 150 ships with 4000 men and sailed to Bassein. Upon seeing such a formidable naval power, Malik Tokan made overtures of peace to Nano da Cunha. The peace overtures were rejected. Malik Tokan had no option but to fight the Portuguese. The Portuguese landed north of the Bassein and invaded the fortification. Even though the Portuguese were numerically insignificant, they fought with skill and valor killing off most of the enemy soldiers but lost only a handful of their own. [8]

Portrait of Nuno da Cunha P1170619 Nuno da Cunha cadre rouge.jpg
Portrait of Nuno da Cunha

On 23 December 1534, the Sultan of Gujarat, signed a treaty with the Portuguese and ceded Bassein with its dependencies of Salsette, Mombaim (Bombay), Parel, Vadala, Siao (Sion), Vorli (Worli), Mazagao (Mazgao), Thana, Bandra, Mahim, Caranja (Uran). [9] In 1536, Nuno da Cunha appointed his brother-in-law Garcia de Sá as the first Captain/Governor of Bassein. The first corner stone for the Fort was laid by António Galvão. In 1548 the Governorship of Bassein was passed on to Jorge Cabral. [8]

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. The Mumbai islands which fell under Portuguese control included Colaba, Old Woman's Island, Mumbai, Mazagaon, Worli, Matunga, and Mahim. Salsette, Daman and Diu, Thane, Kalyan, and Chaul were other territories controlled and settled by the Portuguese.

Parel Neighbourhood in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Parel is a neighbourhood of Mumbai. This is different from Lower Parel. Parel is also a Station on Central railway and shares Foot Over Bridge with Elphinstone Road Railway Station on Western Railway.

Wadala Locality in Maharashtra, India

Wadala is a locality in Mumbai. Wadala Road is a station on the Harbour Line of Mumbai's railway network.

Jorge Cabral Faria e Sousa. Asia Portuguesa. Tomo II. p. 247. Jorge Cabral.jpg
Jorge Cabral

In the second half of 16th century the Portuguese built a new fortress enclosing a whole town with in the fort walls. The fort included 10 bastions, of these nine were named as: Cavallerio, Nossa Senhora dos Remedios, Reis Magos Santiago, São Gonçalo, Madre de Deos, São Joaõ, Elefante, Saõ Pedro, São Paulo and São Sebastião, São Sebastião was also called "Potra Pia" or pious door of Bassein. It was through this bastion that the Marathas would enter to defeat the Portuguese. There were two medieval gateways, one on seaside called Porta do Mar with massive teak gates cased with iron spikes and the other one called Porta da Terra. There were ninety pieces of artillery, 27 of which were made of bronze and seventy mortars, 7 of these mortars were made of bronze. The port was defended by 21 gun boats each carrying 16 to 18 guns. This fort stands till today with the outer shell and ruins of churches. [10]

In 1548, St. Francisco Xavier stopped in Bassein, and a portion of the Bassein population was converted to Christianity. In Salsette island, the Portuguese built 9 churches: Nirmal (1557), Remedi (1557), Sandor (1566), Agashi (1568), Nandakhal (1573), Papdi (1574), Pali (1595), Manickpur (1606), Merces (1606). All these beautiful churches are still used by the Christian community of Vasai. In 1573 alone 1600 people were baptized. [7]

17th Century

Map of Bassein from Portuguese Atlas Map of Bassein from Portuguese Atlas (1630).jpg
Map of Bassein from Portuguese Atlas

As Bassein prospered under the Portuguese, it came to be known as "a Corte do Norte" or "Court of the North", it became a resort to "fidalgos" or noblemen and richest merchants of Portuguese India. Bassein became so famous that a great Portuguese man would be called "Fidalgo ou Cavalheiro de Baçaim" or Nobleman of Bassein. [11] Bassein during the Portuguese period was known for the refinement and wealth and splendor of its buildings, palaces and for the beauty of its churches. This Northern Province, included a territory which extended as far as 100 kilometers along the coast, between Damao (Daman) and Mombaim (Bombay), and in some places extended for 30-50 kilometers inland. It was the most productive Indian area under Portuguese rule. [12]

In 1618 Bassein suffered from a succession of disasters. First it was struck by a disease then on May 15, the city was struck by a deadly hurricane/cyclone. It caused considerable damage to the boats, houses and thousands of the coconut trees were uprooted and flattened. The winds pushed sea water into the city. The monasteries and convents of the Franciscans and Augustinians were ruined. The roofs on three largest churches in the city and both the house and the church of the Jesuits were ripped off and ruined almost beyond repair. This storm was followed by so complete a failure of rains which resulted in near famine conditions. In a few months the situation grew so precarious that parents were openly selling their children to Muslim brokers into slavery rather than to starve them to death. The practice was stopped by the Jesuits, partly by saving from their own scanty allowances partly by gifts from the rich. [13] In 1634, Bassein numbered a population of 400 Portuguese families, 200 Christian Indians families and 1800 slaves (possibly from its African colonies). In 1674, Bassein had 2 colleges, 4 convents and 6 churches. [14]

St. James Church Agashi St. James Church Agashi.jpg
St. James Church Agashi

In 1674, 600 Arab pirates from Muscat landed at Bassein. The fort garrison panicked and was too scared to oppose the pirates outside the fort walls. The pirates plundered all the churches outside of the fort walls and spared no violence and cruelty towards people of Bassein. [15] In 1674, More Pundit stationed himself in Kalyan, and forced the Portuguese to pay him one-fourth of the Bassein revenues. Two years later Shivaji advanced near Saivan. [16] As the Portuguese power waned towards the end of the seventeenth century Bassein suffered considerably. The importance of Bassein was reduced by transfer of neighboring Bombay island to the British in 1665 (It was a wedding dowry from Catherine Braganza of Portugal to Charles the Second of England). The British had coveted and eyed Bombay for many years before it came into their possession under the terms of the marriage treaty. They had ventured to seize it by force in 1626 and had urged the Directors of the East India Company to purchase it in 1652. [17] The intolerance of the Portuguese to other religions seriously hindered the growth of Bassein or Bombay as a prosperous settlement. Their colonization efforts were not successful because they had gradually divided the lands into estates or fiefs, which were granted as rewards to deserving individuals or to religious orders on a system known as “aforamento“ whereby the grantees were bound to furnish military aid to the king of Portugal or where military service was not deemed necessary, to pay a certain rent. [18] The efficiency of the Portuguese administration was weakened by frequent transfers of officers, and by the practice of allowing the great nobles to remain at court and administer their provinces. They soon became a corrupt and luxurious society based upon slave labor. The cruelties of the Inquisition (from 1560) alienated the native population and the union of Portugal with Spain (1580) deprived the Indian settlements of care of the home government. The Portuguese trade monopoly with Europe could henceforth last only so long as no European rival came upon the scene. [19]

18th Century & Maratha Invasion

In 1720, one of the ports of Bassein, Kalyan, was conquered by the Marathas and in 1737, they took possession of Thane including all the forts in Salsette island and the forts of Parsica, Trangipara, Saibana (Present - Saivan, south bank of the Tansa river), Ilha das Vaccas - (Island of Arnala), Manora (Manor), Sabajo (Sambayo/Shabaz near Belapur) - present day Belapur fort) the hills of Santa Cruz and Santa Maria. [20] The only places in the Northern Provinces that now remained with the Portuguese were Chaul (Revdanda), Caranja, Bandra, Versova, Bassein, Mahim, Quelme (Kelve) -(Kelve/Mahim), Sirgão (Present day Shirgao), Dahanu Sao Gens (Sanjan), Asserim (Asheri/Asherigad), Tarapor (Tarapur) and Daman. [21] By 1736 the Portuguese had been at work for 4 years constructing the fortress of Thana, and aside from the long delays, the workers were unpaid and unfed. [22] The people were tired of the oppression, finally invited the Marathas to take possession of the island of Salsette, preferring their rule to the oppression of the Portuguese. These were some of the factors that weakened Bassein and set stage for attack by Marathas.

Siege of Baçaim

The Siege of Baçaim began on 17 February 1739. [23] All the Portuguese outposts around the major fort at Vasai had been taken. Their supply routes from the north and south had been blocked and with the Angres manning the seas, even that route was unreliable . Chimaji Appa arrived at Bhadrapur near Vasai in February 1739. According to a Portuguese account, his forces numbered 40,000 infantry, 25,000 cavalry, and around 4,000 soldiers trained in laying mines. Plus he had 5,000 camels, 50 elephants etc. More joined from Sashti in the following days, putting the total Maratha troops amassed to take Vasai at close to 100,000. The Portuguese, alarmed at this threat, decided to vacate Bandra, Versova and Dongri so as to better defend Vasai. As per orders of the Portuguese Governor, only Vasai, Daman, Diu and Karanja (Uran) were to be defended. These were duly fortified. In March 1739, Manaji Angre attacked Uran and captured it from the Portuguese. This was followed by easy Maratha victories at Bandra, Versova and Dharavi which the Portuguese garrison had vacated. Manaji Angre joined Chimaji Appa at Vasai after this. Thus by April 1739, the noose around Vasai had further tightened.

Malhar Rao Holkar I Malhar Rao Holkar I.jpg
Malhar Rao Holkar I

The capture of Thane and Dharavi meant that even small boats could not reach Vasai without being fired upon by Maratha cannons. Still, General Martinho De Silva wanted to fight a losing battle. Chimaji Appa now decided to bring down the fort of Vasai itself. [24] All except Vasai in Maratha hands, including the forts at Bandra, Versova, Dongri and Uran. [25] The fort at Vasai is situated on land with the Arabian sea on one side, the Vasai creek on another two sides. [26]

A painting of Chimaji Ballal Peshwa near Parvati temple in Pune Chimaji Appa Peshwa.jpg
A painting of Chimaji Ballal Peshwa near Parvati temple in Pune

The village of Vasai itself and the large Maratha camp at Bhadrapur were to the north. [27] Within the fort itself, the towers of San Sebastion and Remedios faced the Marathas at Bhadrapur. The barracks and everything else was inside, with the main gate facing the Vasai creek. Chimaji Appa began the siege on the 1st of 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 immedietly they came under fire from Portuguese guns and muskets. Chimaji Appa, Malhar Rao Holkar, Ranoji Shinde and Manaji Angre goaded their contingents to scale the walls throughout the day. Next day on the 2nd of May, the tower of San Sebastion and Remedios were repeatedly attacked. More mines were set off during the day, causing large breaches in the walls, between the two towers. Around 4,000 Maratha soldiers tried to pour into the fort, but the Portuguese opposition was fierce. They also managed to defend the two towers by lighting firewood etc. On the 3rd, the tower of San Sebastian was demolished by a Maratha mine. Maratha armies could now easily march into the fort, without the fear of being fired upon from the tower. The encirclement and defeat of the Portuguese was complete. Chimaji Appa decided to settle the war at this point by sending an envoy to the Portuguese. In his letter, he warned them that the entire garrison would be slaughtered and the fort levelleved if the war continued. The Portuguese commander in charge of the fort duly surrendered on the 5th of May 17. [28] [29] On the 23rd of May 1739, the saffron flag flew atop Vasai. [30]

See also

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Coordinates: 19°28′N72°48′E / 19.467°N 72.800°E / 19.467; 72.800