heritage in context of modern burgeoning cities in India is a growing concern for
faculties of heritage conservation and urban development, which unless seen in
unison cannot do justice to city’s past and history. The historic city of
Mumbai, a city made up of seven island, is one such complex historic urban
landscape witnessing vast development fluxes in its urban fabric. The city,
once a major port and important site for commerce, is a palimpsest of empires and
invasions and boasts a huge repository of built heritage in the form of
military architecture. The extents of Mumbai and Greater Mumbai together
consists of 25 historical military fortifications, some of which are still
intact baring few that were razed in conquests. Though many efforts have been
directed towards preserving the city’s past by government organisations and
non- profit organisations, a large chunk of built heritage still lies neglected,
undervalued and redundant and is facing extinction. This research is dedicated
towards understanding the history of Mumbai city and study of few prominent
military fortifications within diverse contexts in Mumbai city and aims at understanding
its historic and cultural values and analyse factors of vulnerabilities and
threats in today’s context. This article will provide perspectives on modern
cities to inform historical and archaeological practices and potentials to
maximize the city’s limited open space opportunities to respond to the city’s
dense, urban context.
of Mumbai city through ages:
islands of Mumbai were incorporated into the Maurya Empire under Emperor Ashoka
of Magadha in the third century BCE. The empire’s patronage made the islands a
centre of Hindu and Buddhist religion and culturei
and was controlled by successive indigenous dynasties: Mauryans, Satavahanas,
Abhiras, Vakatakas, Kalachuris, Konkan Mauryas, Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas,
before being ruled by the Silharas from 810 to 1260. Mumbai came under the
influence of Portuguese power in 1534 through the Treaty of Bassien. Mumbai or Bombaim (Good Bay), as it was called by
the Portuguese due to its excellence as a natural harbour and when the
Portuguese arrived, Mumbai was an archipelago of seven islands and later was
constructed and fortified for defence and trade purposes. In 1661, as part of
the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Portugal placed
seven islands Bombay in British possession as a part of Catherine’s dowry to
The Company shifted its main holdings from Surat to Bombay, which had become
the administrative centre of all the west coast settlements theniii.
The Siddis, allies with Mughals, constantly waged wars against the British.
Faced with relentless attacks by the Siddis in 1672, several fortifications
were constructed in Mumbai by the Portuguese and British forts. Around the
seven islands of Mumbai, other island were strongholds of powers: To the North,
Surat to Bassein was under the control of Mughals, Bassien was under the
Portuguese, Bombay islands were under the British, Khanderi was with the
Marathas and Underi was with Siddis. The coastline to the South from Kulaba up
to Chaul was a Maratha territory, Chaul and Revdanda was under the Portuguese,
Janjira with Siddis and up to Goa was with Marathas and Goa was under
Portuguese dominions in the 17th Centuryiv.
Mumbai emerged as a major trade centre during the 18th Century owing
to the strategic location of creeks and landmass. In 1739, the Marathas
conquered Salsette and Vasai forts from the Portuguese and expanded their
kingdom up to the edge of island of Bombay. In 1774, after the fall of the Marathas
and the Peshwas, these island were conquered by the British. The success of the
British campaign in the Deccan witnessed the freedom of Bombay from all attacks
by native powers.
i Ring, Trudy;
Robert M. Salkin, Sharon La Boda (1994). International Dictionary of Historic
Places: Asia and Oceania. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-884964-04-6.
Retrieved 10 February 2014.
Handbook to Portugal. 1875 3rd Edition. Rev.J.M.Neale.
iii R. K. Kochhar
(25 June 1994). “Shipbuilding at Bombay” (PDF, 297 KB). Current
Science. 12. Indian Academy of Sciences. 66. Retrieved 9 November 2008.
iv MMR Heritage
Conservation Society (2003) ‘Study of forts:
Within Mumbai Metropolitan Region Vol 1’ Prepared by Academy of Architecture,