Monday, September 26, 2011

A.D. 1694-DARKEST DAY OF BOMBAY- The 'Unfortunate Isle of the East' was plague-stricken, empty, and ruined. Of 800 Europeans only fifty were left, six civilians, six commissioned officers, and not quite forty English soldiers. There was only one horse fit to ride and one pair of oxen able to draw a coach.



Bombay continued very depressed. In 1694

trade was in a miserable state; the revenue had fallen from £5208 to £1416 (Rs. 52,0S0-Rs. 14,160), the cocoa-palms were almost totally neglected, and there were only a hundred Europeans in the garrison.[Bruce s Annals, III. 164.] 

in 1697, there were only twenty-seven European soldiers. [ Bruce's Annals, III. 215.] In 1701 Mahim and other stations had been strengthened, but the garrison was weak.

The Marathas[SHIVAJI], 

Photo courtesy of Wayne B. Chandler


The town of Muscat


Portuguese soldiers in Asia.

and Portuguese were ready to attack Bombay,

 and if reinforcements were not sent the island must be lost. [Bruce's Annals, III. 439.]


Added to this the plague broke out in the island, 

carried off some-hundreds of the natives, and reduced the Europeans to the small number of seventy-six men. 

The plague was followed by a storm which destroyed the produce of the island and wrecked the greater part of the shipping. [Bruce's Annals, III. 502-503.] 

In 1708 the king of Persia proposed to send an envoy to arrange with the English a joint attack on the Maratha and Arab pirates. But the Governor was forced to decline; Bombay was in no state to receive an envoy

A.D. 1694-The 'Unfortunate Isle of the East' was

 plague-stricken, empty, and ruined. Of 800 Europeans only fifty were left, six civilians, six commissioned 

officers, and not quite forty English soldiers. There was only one horse fit to ride and one pair of oxen able to draw a coach.[Anderson's English in Western India, 128, 163, 171-172.]

Bombay that had been one of the pleasantest places in India was brought to be one of the most dismal deserts.[Hamilton's New Account, I. 240.]

 [Between 1684 and 1688 Bombay was the centre of English commerce with Western India. [Khafi Khan, who 'seems to have visited Bombay before Child's troubles began, was much struck by its strength and richness.]

Inside of the fortress from the gate, on each side of the road, was a line of English youths of twelve or fourteen years, shouldering excellent muskets. At every step were young Englishmen with sprouting beards, handsome and well-clothed with fine muskets in their hands. Further on were Englishmen with long beards alike in age, accoutrements, and dress. Further on were Englishmen with white beards, clothed in brocade, with muskets on their shoulders, drawn up in two ranks in perfect array. Next were some English children, handsome and wearing pearls on the borders of their hats.

 Altogether there must have been nearly seven thousand musketeers, dressed and armed as for a review. Elliot and Dowson, VII. 351-352.]

 Then came the collapse and the years of deadly depression and of strife between the London and the English Companies, ending in 1702 in the formation of the New United Company.

                                                       Pirates, 1700.

The sea seems to have been specially troubled with pirates. The most dangerous were the Europeans, of whom Captains Every,


and Green were the most notorious. Hamilton notices two nests of European pirates, near Madagascar and on the east coast of the Bay of Bengal. [Hamilton's New Account, I.19, 43, 320; II 67. Accounts are also given in Low's Indian Navy, I. 78.] 

Next to the European pirates the most formidable were the Maskat Arabs,
who sometimes with fleets of as many as 1500 men scoured the west coast of India. [Low's Indian Navy, I. 311, 312, 321. Hamilton's New Account, I.139.. Hamilton, perhaps on the ground of their common hate of-the Portuguese, was well treated by the Maskat Arabs. Ditto, I. 71, 76.] 
Along the west coast of India were many nests of pirates, of which the chief were 

the Sanganiaus on the north coast of Kathiawar,
 the Warels of Chhani on the south coast,

 the Sidis, 

Marathas, Angrias and 

Savants in the Konkan, 

Captain Roberts and Pirates on Malabar Coast

Captain Roberts and Pirates on Malabar Coast

A scene from the film, Kunjali Marikkar
‘Kunjali Marakkar,
and the pirates of Porka on the Malabar coast[Hamilton's New Account, I. 134, 141247; Low's Indian Navy, I. 97.]

                        Bombay, 1710-1720.
After, the union of the London and the English Companies in 1708, Bombay began to recover from its deep depression.
By 1716, the population had increased to 16,000, provisions were abundant, and thanks to the building of a strong dyke at the Great Breach, much of the salt swamps had dried, and the climate was pleasant and with care as healthy as England. 

The Town Wall was finished in 1716, 

and the Cathedral was begun in November 1715 and finished in 1718[Bom. Quar. Rev. 33-38; Hamilton's New Account, I. 188. Hamilton (New Account, I. 21) describes Mr. Boone, under whom these improvements were made, as a gentleman

        Bombay 1727
' Bombay had two towns or kasbas,Bombay and Mahim;

 it had eight villages, Mazgaon, Varli, Parel, Vadala (between Parel and Matunga), Naigaon (south of Vadala and north of Parel), Matunga, Dharavi, and the island of Kolis or Kolaba;

 it had seven hamlets, two, Aivaris and Gauvari under Vadala; two, Bamanvali and Coltem? under Dharavi, and three, Bhoivada, Pomala, and Salgado under Parel; and it had 

five Koli quarters under Bombay, Mazgaon, Varli, Parel, and Sion. 

There were three saltpans, at Kasli north of Matunga, Siwri, and Vadali. 

The estimated produce and revenue of the different parts of the island were, of the towns, Bombay 40,000 cocoa-palms, some rice lands, and old rice-lands now built on, and Mahim 70,000 coooa-palms and 592 mudds of rice. Of the eight villages, Mazgaon yielded 184 mudas of rice and bad 250 brab-palms, with a yearly revenue of about Xms. 4000; Varli 34 mudas worth about Xms. 7000; Parel, including its three hamlets, 154 mudas and some brab-palms yielding about Xms. 4000; Vadala, with its two hamlets, 75 mudas and some brab-palms Xms. 1900; Naigaon, 42 mudas and some brab-palms Xms. 1000; Matunga 65 mudas and 100 brab-palms Xms. 1700; Sion, 54mudas and a few palms Xms. 1400 ; Dhravi, with two hamlets, 23 mudas and a few brab-palms Xms. 625. Kolaba worth Xms. 400C to Xms. 5000. The salt-pans yielded Xms. 2300 and the Koli suburbs about Xms. 7000. There were two distilleries,bandharastis (?), at Bombay and at Mahim. Of other sources of revenue the Bombay and Mahim customs-houses yielded about Xms. 52,000, a tobacco tax Xms. 19,000, an excise Xms. 12,000, quit-rents Xms. 3000, and the Mahim ferry Xms. 1200. The total was roughly estimated at Xms. 160,000. The fortifications of the island were, the castle with six bastions begun in 1716, well armed; a small fort on Dongri; a small bastion at Mazgaon, wife a sergeant and 24 men and 3 guns; Siwri fort on the shore, with asubhedar and 50 sepoys and from 8 to 10 guns; the small tower and breastwork of Sion, with a captain and 62 men and nine or ten guns; three bastions at Mahim, with 100 men and 30 guns; a fort on Varli hill, with an ensign and 25 men and seven or eight guns; the island of Patecas (Butcher's" Island) belonging to Mazgaon, with a fort, begun by General Boone in 1722, and about seventy seamen and six or seven guns.]
bombay 1729 to 1731

Kanhoji's death in 1731 and the struggles that followed among his sons lessened the power of the Angrias.


A few years later (1734), the death of siddi Yakub Khan and a disputed succession lowered the power of the Sidis, and in 1735 the Peshwa took many of his forts. [Grant Duff, 231-232.]

The Konkanasth Brahmans, now the first power in the Konkan, were able to turn their whole strength against the Portuguese, whom they hated as Christians and as strangers, and for whose ports and rich coast-lands they had long hungered. The Marathas began to press the Portuguese. Year after year news reached Bombay that the Marathas had seized a fresh Portuguese fort, or appropriated the revenues of one more Portuguese district. In 1731 Thana was threatened, and the Government of Bombay, who felt that the success of the Marathas endangered their island, sent three hundred men to garrison Thana, but soon after withdrew the aid

Attack  by/on the Portuguese,1739.

In 1737, by siding with Sambhaji Angria against the Peshwa's friend Manaji Angria, the Portuguese gave the Marathas a pretext for attacking them.

The first step taken by the Marathas was to attack the island fort of Arnala, off the mouth of the Vaitarna. The fort was taken and the commandant and the garrison put to the sword

The Marathas next (April 1737) attacked Salsette, took

FORT Ghod-bandar and put the garrison to the sword, and, gaining command the river, prevented help being sent from Bassein to Thana.

 At  Thana FORT , though the fort was well advanced, the defences were unfinished. The captain fled to Karanja, and though the garrison made a gallant defence, successfully driving back two assaults, in the end they were forced to capitulate.

The English sent men and ammunition to

Bandra FORT,[for the portuguese] but the defences were useless and the place was abandoned, and fell to the Marathas without a struggle.

In 1738 the Portuguese made strenuous efforts to regain what they had lost. They defeated the Marathas at Asheri, and a gallant attack on Thana might have succeeded, had not the English warned the Marathas of the Portuguese[against Portuguese]  preparations and supplied the garrison with powder and shot. [ Bom. Quar. Rev. IV. 79. This caused the bitterest ill-feeling between the English and the Portuguese

In January 1739 Chimnaji Appa, the Peshwa's brother, took command of the Maratha troops, and, in spite of obstinate resistance, captured most of the northern forts, Katalvada, 
The Dahanu Fort


 Shrigaon FORT, and 

Tarapur FORT , whose walls were scaled by the Marathas, the Portuguese 'fighting with the bravery of Europeans,' till they were overwhelmed by numbers. 

Versova FORT 

and Dharavi FORT in Salsette, which still held out for the Portuguese, next surrendered, and the siege of Bassein was begun.


                                            Fall of Bassein, 1739

The commandant of Bassein offered to pay tribute, but the offer was refused; he appealed to the English at first in vain, but he afterwards received from them a loan of £1500 (Rs. 15,000). [Bom. Quar. Rev. IV. 82-83.] The siege was pressed with the greatest skill and perseverance, and Angria's fleet blocked all hope of succour. Still, with the help of some Portuguese lately come from Europe, so gallant was the resistance, little less brilliant than the heroic defences of Diu and Chaul, that before Bassein was taken three months (17th February-16th May) had passed and 5000 Marathas were slain



The garrison was allowed to march out with the honours of war, and those who wished to leave the country were granted eight days in which to collect their property

Except five churches, four in Bassein and one in Salsette, which the Maratha general agreed to spare, every trace of Portuguese rule seemed fated to pass away.

[The conduct of the British in refusing to help the Portugese has been severely blamed (Nairne's Konkan, 83; Bom. Quar. Rev. IV. 82). Portuguese writers go so far as to state that the English supplied the Marathas with engineers and with bombs (Joze de Noronha, 1772, in O. Chron. de Tis. II. 16). According to Grose, who wrote in 1750, the reasons why the English did not help the Portuguese were, ' the foul practices' of the Kandra Jesuits against the English interest in 1720, their remissness in failing to finish the Thana fort, and the danger of enraging the Marathas, whose conduct of the war against the Portuguese deeply impressed the English. Voyage, I. 48-51.]

 As they were no longer able to hold them, the Portuguese offered the English

 Chaul FORT 

and Korlai fort 

on the south bank of the Chaul river. The English could not spare the men to garrison these places, but trusted that by ceding them to the Marathas they would gain their regard, and might be able to arrange terms between the Portuguese and the Marathas. The Portuguese placed their interests in the hands of the English. The negotiation was entrusted to Captain Inchbird, and though the Marathas at first demanded Daman and a share in the Goa customs, as well as Chaul, Inchbird succeeded in satisfying them with Chaul alone. Articles of peace were signed on the 14th of October 1740

 Bombay was little prepared to stand such an attack as had been made on Bassein. The town wall was only eleven feet high and could be easily breached by heavy ordnance; there was no ditch, and the trees and houses in front of the wall offered shelter to an attacking force

A ditch was promptly begun, the merchants opening their treasure and subscribing £3000 (Rs. 30,000) ' as much as could be expected in the low state of trade'; all Native troops were forced to take their turn at the work; gentlemen and civilians were provided with arms and encouraged to learn their use; half-castes or topazes were enlisted and their pay was raised; the embodying of a battalion of sepoys was discussed; and the costly and long-delayed work of clearing of its houses and trees a broad space round the town walls was begun. Though the Marathas scoffed at it, threatening to fill it with their slippers, it was the ditch that saved Bombay from attack.

for nearly twenty years Bombay lived in fear and trembling. In 1750, Grose laments that the friendly, or, at worst, harmless belt of Portuguese territory that used to guard them from the Marathas was gone. They were face to face with a power, unfriendly at heart, whose officers were always pressing the government to lead them to Bombay, and let them raze its wretched fort and pillage its markets

[Grose gives interesting particulars of these terrible Marathas, who had taken Thana and Bassein, and who held Bombay in the hollow of their hands. Most of them were land-tillers called Kurumbis, of all shades from deep black to light brown, the hill-men fairer than the coast-men. They were clean-limbed and straight, some of them muscular and large bodied, but from their vegetable diet, light, easily overborne in battle both by Moors and by Europeans. Their features were regular, even delicate. They shaved the head except the top-knot and two side curls, which, showing from the helmet, gave them an unmanly look. The rest of their dress was mean, a roll of coarse muslin round the head, a bit of cloth round the middle, and a loose mantle on the shoulders also used as bedding. The officers did not much out figure the men. To look at, no troops were so despicable. The men lived on rice and water carried in a leather bottle; the officers fared little better. Their pay was small, generally in rice, tobacco, salt, or clothes. The horses were small but hardy, clever in rough roads, and needing little fodder. The men were armed with indifferent muskets mostly matchlocks. These they used in bush firing, retreating in haste to the main body when they had let them off. Their chief trust was in their swords and targets. Their swords were of admirable temper, and they were trained swordsmen. European broadswords they held in contempt. Their targets were light and round, swelling to a point and covered with a lacquer, so smooth and hard that it would turn aside a pistol shot, even a musket shot at a little distance. They were amazingly rapid and cunning. The English would have no chance with them. They might pillage Bombay any day. [Grose's Voyage, I. 83. In spite of this Maratha thunder cloud, Bombay was advancing rapidly to wealth and importance.]

 Bombay was no longer the Britons' burying-ground

n 1753 (1st December) the Government wrote to the Court; ' The number of inhabitants has so greatly increased that the crowded people are murmuring to have the town enlarged. Some very considerable bankers from Aurangabad and Poona have opened shops to the great advantage of trade.' (Warden's Landed Tenures, 77). This increase in prosperity was partly due to very liberal instructions about attracting strangers to Bombay in a letter from the Court dated 15th March 1748. (See Bom. Quar. Rev. V. 164)

Mild management and religious indifference, allowing Hindus, Musalmans, Parsis, even Catholic 'Christians the free practice of their forms of worship, had tempted so many settlers that every inch of the island was tilled, and, in proportion to its size, yielded much more than Salsette. Among the Marathas, Bombay had a perilously great name for wealth. Its noble harbour was the centre of trade between Western and Upper India and the Malabar coast, the Persian Gulf, and the Bed Sea. Its well-built though badly placed castle and its costly moat made it one of the strongest of the Company s Indian possessions.

Uniforms of the East India Company's private army,
circa 1843

                                                            Bombay Native Infantry

The military force was of three branches, Europeans, Natives, and a local militia. The Europeans were either sent from England or were Dutch French and Portuguese deserters, or they were topazes that is half-Portuguese. The sepoys had English officers, wore the Indian dress, and carried muskets, swords, and targets. They were faithful and with European help they were staunch. The local militia of land-tillers and palm-tappers would prove useful against an invader

Next to Angria, perhaps equal to Angria, the English were the first naval power on the west coast. They had succeeded to the old Portuguese position of granting passes to native craft. [PASSES were granted by Child at least as early as 1687. Hamilton's New Account, I. 202, 216. The toon of pass used in 1734 is printed in Bom. Quar. Rev, IV. 188.

                                          Fall of Angria, 1757.

Fortunately for Bombay the Marathas remained friendly until two events, the destruction of Angria's power in 1757 and the crushing defeat of the Marathas at Panipat in 1761, raised the English to a position of comparative independence.


                                                        Suvarnadurg fort

In 1755 the Marathas and English made a joint expedition against Angria. The Marathas proved feeble and lukewarm allies, but the English fleet under Commodore James took the important coast forts of Suvarndurg and Bankot in the north of Ratnagiri. In 1757, strengthened by the presence of Admiral Watson and of Colonel Clive, the English attacked and took the great coast fort of Vijaydurg in Ratnagiri, burnt Angria's fleet, and utterly destroyed his power.

In the next year they gained command of Surat castle and became Admirals of the Moghal fleet. 

Dutch Factory at Surat  1634
Dutch Factory at Surat 1634 

So encouraged were they with this success that, in 1760, they were bold enough to side with the Sidi against the Marathas and to hoist the English flag 

at Janjira FORT.

The defeat of Panipat in 1761

Maratha Ruler Balaji Bajirao

the death of the Peshwa Balaji Bajirav, and the succession of a minor, freed the British from present fear of the Marathas. [On the 7th January on the field of Panipat, fifty-three miles north of Delhi, the Marathas under Sadashivrao Bhau were defeated by the Afghans, and the Peshwa's brother and cousin, chiefs of distinction, and about 200,000 Marathas slain. Balaji Bajirav the Peshwa died heartbroken in he following June.

                               Bombay, 1760-1770
Meanwhile, Bombay had been growing larger, richer, and healthier. In 1757 Ive describes it as the most flourishing town in the world ' the grand store-house of all Arabian and Persian commerce'