Builtheritage in context of modern burgeoning cities in India is a growing concern forfaculties of heritage conservation and urban development, which unless seen inunison cannot do justice to city’s past and history. The historic city ofMumbai, a city made up of seven island, is one such complex historic urbanlandscape witnessing vast development fluxes in its urban fabric. The city,once a major port and important site for commerce, is a palimpsest of empires andinvasions and boasts a huge repository of built heritage in the form ofmilitary architecture. The extents of Mumbai and Greater Mumbai togetherconsists of 25 historical military fortifications, some of which are stillintact baring few that were razed in conquests. Though many efforts have beendirected towards preserving the city’s past by government organisations andnon- profit organisations, a large chunk of built heritage still lies neglected,undervalued and redundant and is facing extinction.
This research is dedicatedtowards understanding the history of Mumbai city and study of few prominentmilitary fortifications within diverse contexts in Mumbai city and aims at understandingits historic and cultural values and analyse factors of vulnerabilities andthreats in today’s context. This article will provide perspectives on moderncities to inform historical and archaeological practices and potentials tomaximize the city’s limited open space opportunities to respond to the city’sdense, urban context. Historyof Mumbai city through ages:Theislands of Mumbai were incorporated into the Maurya Empire under Emperor Ashokaof Magadha in the third century BCE. The empire’s patronage made the islands acentre of Hindu and Buddhist religion and cultureiand 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 theinfluence of Portuguese power in 1534 through the Treaty of Bassien.
Mumbai or Bombaim (Good Bay), as it was called bythe Portuguese due to its excellence as a natural harbour and when thePortuguese arrived, Mumbai was an archipelago of seven islands and later wasconstructed and fortified for defence and trade purposes. In 1661, as part ofthe marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Portugal placedseven islands Bombay in British possession as a part of Catherine’s dowry toCharlesii.The Company shifted its main holdings from Surat to Bombay, which had becomethe 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 fortificationswere constructed in Mumbai by the Portuguese and British forts. Around theseven islands of Mumbai, other island were strongholds of powers: To the North,Surat to Bassein was under the control of Mughals, Bassien was under thePortuguese, Bombay islands were under the British, Khanderi was with theMarathas and Underi was with Siddis. The coastline to the South from Kulaba upto 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 underPortuguese dominions in the 17th Centuryiv.Mumbai emerged as a major trade centre during the 18th Century owingto the strategic location of creeks and landmass.
In 1739, the Marathasconquered Salsette and Vasai forts from the Portuguese and expanded theirkingdom up to the edge of island of Bombay. In 1774, after the fall of the Marathasand the Peshwas, these island were conquered by the British. The success of theBritish campaign in the Deccan witnessed the freedom of Bombay from all attacksby native powers.i Ring, Trudy;Robert M. Salkin, Sharon La Boda (1994).
International Dictionary of HistoricPlaces: Asia and Oceania. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 978-1-884964-04-6.Retrieved 10 February 2014.ii MurraysHandbook to Portugal. 1875 3rd Edition.
Neale.iii R. K. Kochhar(25 June 1994). “Shipbuilding at Bombay” (PDF, 297 KB).
CurrentScience. 12. Indian Academy of Sciences. 66.
Retrieved 9 November 2008.iv MMR HeritageConservation Society (2003) ‘Study of forts:Within Mumbai Metropolitan Region Vol 1’ Prepared by Academy of Architecture,Mumbai