A blend of rural and urban style of living. Discover this land of modern day contrasts. While there are roads filled with traffic, bridges and buildings, you will also find lanes with no vehicles, absolute silence, salt pans and paddy fields. That’s Vasai for you – a charming village on the northern periphery of Mumbai’s western suburbs. Vasai is a part of the Konkan division of India, located in the Palghar district.
Unlike other urban hubs of Mumbai, the region is less polluted and even less populated. Vasai might not always get the love it deserves from Mumbaikars. Especially considering how its beauty and historical significance is criminally underrated. Most people aren’t even aware of it, for that matter.
History of Vasai
Vasai derived its name from the Sanskrit word ‘Vaas’, which means dwelling/residence. However, this is not the only name the region had. Each ruler that dominated the place changed the name. The Portuguese named it Baçaim. The Marathas named it Bajipur. The Muslim rulers named it Basai. Later it was renamed as Bassein and now Vasai.
Vasai is located right next to Arabian sea, and hence it served as a good trading centre in the colonial days. The Portuguese were the ones who discovered that the land here is extremely fertile and ideal for growing rice, cotton, sugarcane and betel nuts. That’s when they realised this specific region could be very beneficial.
To establish their power over the region, they built the Bassein fort in 1536, which stood to show the naval strength of the Portuguese rule. It was the commercial, political and military base for the Portuguese. As the Portuguese ruled this region for 205 years, there’s bound to be lots of their legacy left behind. Such as the community known as the East Indian Catholics, who form a small minority of the population here. They are a true legacy of the Portuguese colonialism.
The Portuguese lost their power and left Vasai in 1739. Then, the fort was taken over by the Maratha Army after the Battle of Baçaim. After a couple of years, the British took over the territory in 1780. The fact that Vasai had so many names shows that each time the name changed, the place had a new ruler. From the hands of the Gujarat Sultan to the Portuguese and then the Marathas and the British, Vasai has seen it all. But as it was ruled by the Portuguese for the longest, its influence is more prevalent.
Vasai was once a jewel of the Portuguese empire and the Vasai fort was where all the administrative work took place. Features of Portuguese architecture are still visible on houses, churches and wells. If you explore Vasai with these historical facts in mind, you’d easily be able to re-imagine its colonial past.
This lake is easily accessible by road and is just the perfect spot to sit, unwind and just let time pass you by. There’s a huge paddy field and just this lake in the middle. No sign of buildings at all in this region. It is around 6 kms away from the main city. If you want to experience peace, this is as good a place as any.
Beaches in Vasai are just relaxing and fun, because the people keep the beach active. People play football or cricket on the beaches and it’s just fun to watch people here. But the backdrop of palm trees decked on the beach is what makes this place all the more gorgeous. This huge stretch of naked beach is famous among locals, but still majorly untouched.
Vasai still has churches that could be more than 400 years old. The churches here just have a mesmerizing old-world charm to it. St. Thomas Church, St. Francis Xavier Giriz and St. Michael Manickpur are few of the best churches to visit in Vasai. There are approximately 40 churches in the area. Each, a testament to the village’s heritage and culture.
Bawkhal of Vasai (Traditional Water wells)
These are traditional lakes and ponds found in villages of Vasai. A Bawkhal plays a very important role for maintaining groundwater levels in the region. In the years of the past, it was used for irrigation purposes by farmers. This well system is said to be 200 years old, so if you spot one, consider yourself lucky. It is undoubtedly a really interesting sight to come across.
Shramik Mahila Mandal
This is a food center in Vasai run entirely by women employees. The food prepared here is authentic and affordable too. The restaurant has a story behind it which is extremely inspiring. The place was set up by a local teacher named Mrs Indumathy Vishnu Barve. Her inspiration to do was so she could help women in need of employment. Today, the place is run by 250 women and the profit is shared by all. This place is perfect not only to get a unique experience but also to enjoy delicious local cuisine. –
If you’re in Vasai, do not take a local train back home without trying some of the food served at this bakery. Bombay Bakery is a supremely iconic place which is just around 15 minutes away from the railway station. A must-try is chicken russian cutlet, chicken puffs and chicken rolls. To end your trip here on a sweet end, try this bakery cake! It’s simply delicious.
What Makes Vasai Special?
The first thing you’d notice about the region is that there are very few towering buildings and you’d see rows of Bungalows instead. There are parts of the place that look completely like a city but then there’s also places where you’ll pass paddy fields, beaches, wells, ponds, huge banyan trees and lots of gardens! It has a very enticing countryside charm to it.
Many people in Vasai have the luxury of having their own backyard space, where they grow their own fruits and vegetables. You would see small shrubs, papaya and banana plantations as well. This is something not commonly found in the city of Mumbai, which makes Vasai extremely unique.
The communities here are small and live in close proximity, which means everyone knows everybody. It’s common that people live in joint families and houses have been passed on from generations in the blood line. The atmosphere is extremely welcoming and green. The beaches here are also compared to Goa. As the place is close to the coast, you must try the fish delicacies of Vasai before you leave the place.