The Lost City in Vasai.

The Lost City of Vasai
[The interiors of one the many ruined churches in Bassein - shot as megan takes a picture - probably of me]

The silence rings through the waist high weeds-green, dense and prickly. As you walk through the ruined remains of fortress city encapsulated from the world under a umbrella of creepers, weeds and overgrown banyans. A bulbul watches us from her ivory tower in the mango tree laughing at our endeavor to fight nature’s wall of green

Lost City of Vasai - Mumbai - India.

The first Europeans to discover a sea-route to India as your history text-books will rightfully point out was the Portuguese Vasco de Gama, but his ambition for the subcontinent apparently extended no further than his avowed aim, buscar Christaos e especiaria – to seek Christian and spices. The first Portuguese landing in Bombay in 1509, was a rapacious foray, not untypical – they used the elephanta caves as target practice for their canons, captured cows and behaved like their conquistador counterparts in the Americas. Bombay was at the time the property of then king of Gujarat Sultan Muhamed Shah Begada, who initially repulsed the foreign invaders; then gradually worn-out by the repeated assaults he was forced to consolidate his holdings in western India.

Lost City of Vasai - Mumbai - India.

By the year 1534 the King of Portugal held the seven islands plus Bassein, which was a chunk of mainland territory north of Bombay also known as Salsette but now as Vasai. Here at Bassein the Portuguese built themselves a walled city overlooking the sea, which remains to this day. Its chancels, creepers smother the gravestones of the some Bombay’s earliest colonialists; it seems to have remained untouched, like Sleeping Beauty’s citadel, since the day the Portuguese were forced to vacate hastily by a local Mahratha army. It is a poignant reminder of what was, and of what Bombay itself might have been today had history taken another turn.

Lost City of Vasai - Mumbai - India.
[Pieces of Portuguese pottery at Bassein, Vasai]

Trees and bushes block every trail. The ruins you can see are draped in moss and creepers, their walls dangerously pregnant with pepal shoots. There are other ruins the forest has swallowed whole. The state transport bus from Vasai Road station dropped me close to a ruin where fishermen were mending nets. Only the walls and a vaulted roof, at the far end of the building, remain. Two raised platforms under the vaulted portion suggest this was a church. The walls have slits like windows that make you imagine them as stained glass windows.

As you walk through the ruins the columns, arches and stairways nonetheless speak of a grand assembly hall or possibly a monastery . Walking around it, you can hear the drone of an organ, the rustle of skirts and polite clinks of glass. A hand catches me around the shoulder. A fisher boy, about 15, had joined me. He wanted to show me a mandir further inside. "It is modelled on Goye ka Safri," he offered by way of inducement. It took a while, but I finally figured out he meant St Francis Xavier's church in Goa. My guide said parts of Josh and Kambakht Ishq were shot in this church. The past and present coalesce.

Children at Naigaon - the fishing village at Bassein's north gate.

The Blue Checkered Shirts Three

It must be summer

Summer Yellow

Getting there -
Bassein or Vasai is a suburb of Mumbai and getting there is easy.Its connected by the western line - a Vihar Fast will get you there from all stations on the line. You can take an auto or a state transport bus from the station to the fort.

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Anonymous said...

Love the documentary, superb narration and of course the images are beautiful. You will be on my watch list once i move back to Bombay ;-)

djsunshine said...

You take Virar fast local train to Vasai Road train station.Rs. 20 tip to local rickshaw an go long way.The best thing to notce is local culture and values.Hard working hospitable people with pleasent nature.Local melodies are worth loocing in to.

Alien said...

Loved it..

Sandeep Meher said...

Great photos esp. Children at Naigaon.

Deepika Patil said...

Beautiful piece!!!
Did not know that something like that existed in Vasai.

Melody said...

Ah Akshay! Every Church I see fascinates me - as does Christian Art. Thank you, loved this post!

final_transit said...

So close to Mumbai, yet seems too far.

Malaveeka said...


Anonymous said...

Yes, I have been here and it is marvellous..

Anonymous said...

really good article..loved the pictures!

Vineeta said...

beautiful pictures. engaging narrative. Im glad i saw your blog :)

Unknown said...

so much need to be explored....a lot of work has to be done. I wish there were more people like you. I am from Vasai and know that Vasai history needs to be told.If we can find more of theses places in concrete jungle of Mumbai....

Karthik said...

State transport buses go there too ...

There is another tower to the side of the rampart not visible in your photo.
In this tower a winding staircase led to a terrace, which faced the sea.
... awesome view.

Hope you got a chance to see it.

Nice writing!

Anonymous said...

I think you are wrong at one place : Pieces of Portuguese pottery at Bassein.
Those are definitely not pottery artifacts, but artifacts of the statue's, worshiped by locals.
Please do not call them pots.


Rujuta Diwekar said...

Vasai has a very place in my heart. My ancestral home (now in ruins) is at Par naka,Vasai. Its a great blog! brought back all my childhood memories. Thanks:)