Vasai or Bassein Fort is a large fort in Vasai village, in the Vasai taluka (county) of the District of Thane, Konkan Division, MaharashtraState, Republic of India. The name “Bassein” is the English version of the Portuguese “Baçaim” (with the “ç” spoken as “s” and with the “m” silent), itself a version of an apparently native name that may have a connection to the Vasa Konkani tribals of the North Konkan region, extending from Mumbai into “South Gujarat.” The Marathi name of the place is Vasai.
The complete form of the Portuguese name is “Fortaleza de São Sebastião de Baçaim” or the Fort of St. Sebastian of Vasai. The Vasai fort is a monument of national importance and is protected by the Archaeological Survey of India.
The fort and the village are accessible most easily through the Vasai Road Railway Station, which itself is in Manikpur-Navghar, a part of the newly raised City of Vasai-Virar (See “Vasai-Virar Municipal Corporation”), and lies to the immediate north of the cities of Mumbai and Mira Road-Bhayander. The “Vasai Road” Railway Station is on the Western Railway line (formerly the Bombay, Baroda & Central India Railways) in the direction of Virar Railway Station.
Portuguese mariners exploring the north Konkan Coast, discovered the Arab Sultanate of Khambat or Cambay, building or renovating or expanding the fort in the early 1400s and attacked it in a failed effort to seize it. Later, after more systematic efforts, the Sultanate of Cambay ceded the fort to Portugal by the Treaty of Saint Matthew signed on the Portuguese brig Sao Matteus anchored in the Bhayander Creek or Vasai Harbor.
Under Portugal, the fort was the Northern Court or “Corte da Norte,” second only to the City of Goa, functioning as the headquarters of the Captain of the North. For 150 odd years, the presence of the Portuguese made the surrounding area a vibrant and opulent city. As such it was the capital of Portuguese possessions on the coast north of Goa, over places such as Chaul-Revdanda, Karanja Island, the Bombay Archipelago, Bandra Island, Juhu Island, Salsette Island including the City of Thane, Dharavi Island, the Vasai archipelago itself, Daman, Diu, and other Portuguese holdings extending up the coasts to Pakistan, Oman, the UAE, Iran, and other parts of the Persian Gulf.
The ethnic community locally known in the Bombay region as the “East Indians” (sic) were called “Norteiro” (Northernmen) after the Court of the North functioning out of the fort.