Bombay Castle: Mumbai’s oldest castle, with an illustrious history

[] Located within the INS Angre in south Mumbai, the Bombay Castle has a sundial dating from the Portugal times, which although doesn’t notify 12 hours of a single day, indicates specific periods that were important for people in those times.

Did you know that Mumbai (previously Bombay) has its own historical castle? One of the most magical monuments of the city is the Bombay Castle, also known as Casa da Orta. It is one of the oldest such defensive fortifications built here. The present castle was built by the British on the location of the previous Manor House. This house was built by Garcia de Orta, the Portuguese nobleman. He had leased Bombay Island between 1554 and 1570 from the King of Portugal.

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South Mumbai’s Bombay Castle: Interesting facts

An estimation of the value of this monument is almost impossible! It is simply priceless and stands on prime land in Mumbai. The castle was made of blue Kurla stone and red laterite stone, which came from the southern Konkan region. The Islands comprising Bombay eventually came into the possession of the British, sometime in 1665 and the castle was taken over by the East India Company around 1668. Over the next decade, they built the defensive fortification around the Manor House. From 1716 to 1723, a huge wall was created to surround the rapidly growing town. The wall was demolished in 1865 after rapid growth of the city, although you can still find a few remnants in some zones. There are sparse records remaining for the original castle and historians remain divided on the actual location of the Manor House. Two gates are situated within the south Mumbai naval station called INS Angre. There is a sundial which reportedly dates back to the Portuguese times. The sundial does not notify 12 hours of a single day but specific periods, which were held as important by people during that time.

The key building within the Bombay Castle was the Governor’s House. This was the residence of Bombay’s second governor, Gerald Aungier. This residence was ultimately shifted to Parel and subsequently to Malabar Hill. The current building has the offices of the Western Naval Command’s Flag Officer Commander-in-Chief.

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Bombay Castle: History and subsequent developments

The history of Bombay Castle is inextricably linked to the fort surrounding it. Many locals of Mumbai will know that a fort previously stood in south Mumbai, at Churchgate, Flora Fountain and CST. The name of the area which is Fort may have come from the original fort which stood there. The bigger Bombay Fort in the earlier days covered the entire stretch from St George Fort at Dongri in the north till Mendham’s Point to the south or the current Lion Gate of the Navy. Before the Portuguese arrived, the area was ruled by the Sultan of Gujarat. The first Portuguese Ship came in 1509 at Mahim with Francis Almeida as the captain. The Portuguese signed a treaty with the Sultan of Gujarat on December 23, 1534, for obtaining Bassein with its dependencies, inclusive of Bombaim and the seven islands. These seven islands were ultimately ceded to the British rulers by the Portuguese and they are Colaba, Little Colaba/Old Woman’s Island, Bombaim, Mazagaon, Parel, Worli and Mahim.

[] Old Mumbai in pictures

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January 23, 1661 saw a treaty being signed after England’s Prince Charles II wed the King of Portugal’s sister, Infanta Catherine de Braganza. The contract of marriage had the 11th article, ceding Bombay to the British as dowry although possession was granted only on February 18, 1665. Deputy viceroy Humphrey Cooke took possession of these islands. The lady of the island, Dona Ignez de Castro de Miranda’s Manor House was the site for signing of the treaty. The expansion of the Fort took place during the rule of the British. Cooke built a 50-metre wall with 18 cannons for safeguarding the Bombay Castle and Fort from Dutch invasions. They destroyed most Portuguese structures, except for a gate of the Bombay Fort and the 10-ft sundial within the premises. The fort was an irregularly shaped quadrangle, with 27-ft-high walls and these were 25 ft broad, as well. There were 36 large cannons on the walls. Governor Sir Henry Bartle Frere also had a vital role to play in the eventual development of the area, including Bombay Castle and the larger Fort that surrounded it.

[] All about the Daulatabad Fort


Where is Bombay Castle located?

Bombay Castle is located in south Mumbai within the current INS Angre naval station.

What is Bombay Castle also known as?

Bombay Castle is also called Casa da Orta.

Which structure did the Bombay Castle replace?

The Bombay Castle may have come up on the site of the original Manor House, which was built by Portuguese nobleman Garcia de Orta. He had originally leased Bombay Island from the King of Portugal between 1554 and 1570.

(Header images source: Instagram)

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Debora Berti

Università degli Studi di Firenze, IT

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