Vasai, situated about 48 km north of Mumbai across the Ulhas River, was the seat of the Northern Court, capital of the Portuguese possessions extending from Chaul-Revdanda to the south of Mumbai, to Oman in the Persian Gulf. Though the fort is now in ruins, it still speaks of the grandeur of the era. Vasai was also called Bassein. Bassein is the English version of Portuguese Baçaim. Vasai rose to prominence when the ancient harbor of Sopara (now Nalla Sopara) became unfit for use. Vasai boomed as a trade centre for spices, grains, sugar and as a ship building centre. Apart from the fort and other historic monuments, Vasai is also popular for its beaches. The Arnala beach attracts a large number of people looking for something to do over the weekend. The temples of Vajreshwari and Tungareshwar are popular pilgrim centres associated with the avatars of Vishnu.
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The Portuguese received Bombay, Mahim, Daman and Diu, Chaul and Vasai from Gujarat King Bahadur Shah as token of friendship to thwart an invasion by Mughal emperor Humayun. Vasai was called The Province of the North and was governed by the General of the North. Marathas laid siege to the fort for three years. When the Marathas brought down the fort walls on May 14, 1739, the Portuguese thought it wise to surrender. In fact, Vasai was also the epicentre of Christian missionary activities. The Jesuit missionary Francis Xavier of Spain arrived twice in Vasai to train priests in evangelization (converting people to another religion). Vasai diocese gave India it’s first Catholic saint, St. Gonsalo Garcia.
Though hotels and lodges are available in Vasai, tourists prefer to stay in Mumbai and visit Vasai during the day. Vasai and surrounding areas have several resorts in case planning to stay here. There are quite a few restaurants and eateries in Vasai, especially around the beaches. A visit to Vasai is an ideal option for the winters as the weather is usually pleasant from October to March each year.
Photograph courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
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