Mumbai’s Portuguese connection

A colonial arch from Fort Mumbai
Image courtesy: Bodhisattva Sen Roy

In this excerpt from Short Escapes from Mumbai, journalist and publisher, Frederick Noronha explores the Portuguese remains of Mumbai and its surroundings.


The areas in Mumbai and its surrounds were ruled by the Portuguese from 1534 to 1739. Bacaim (today’s Vasai) was part of the ‘Provinces of the North’ of the tiny but crucial region called ‘Portuguese India’. Look hard enough and you’ll find diverse and charming remnants of the culture the Portuguese left behind while travelling outside Mumbai too. The East Indian community, scattered around areas of Mumbai and Revdanda, Thane and Gorai, follows some Portuguese customs and keeps the Roman Catholic faith alive in this region and the churches in these areas still draw the faithful.

Vasai Fort and the Fort of St Sebastian of Vasai, located in the northern court, are prominent Portuguese monuments. The Portuguese ruled over pockets of Chaul–Revdanda, Karanja Island and the Bombay archipelago, Dharavi Island, Daman and Diu.

Daman has a cluster of citadels, churches and forts that are a reminder of its Portuguese history dating back to the 16th century. Though some are in ruins, their faded grandeur is still arresting to behold.

Churches at Manori and the neighbouring village of Gorai and Erangal reflect their Catholic heritage. The church of St Bonaventure, located near the Erangal Beach, was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese. Its annual feast day of St Bonaventure held in January is popular even today.

The 16th century forts at Korlai and Revdanda maybe in a dilapidated state but these ruins still stand out against the backdrop of the sea, their silent stones speaking of their Portuguese builders and rulers.