Bastioned Perimeter

Bastioned Perimeter

Chaul [Revdanda Fort], Maharashtra, India

Military Architecture

At a certain point in the Livro das Cidades e Fortalezas... (1582) the following can be read: “Once the sieges of Goa and Chaul were raised, with Hidalcão and Nizamaluco becoming vassals and tributaries of the Portuguese crown as before, the city of Chaul began to be restored and rebuilt, after being much damaged and destroyed by the enemies. This was done with such speed and in such a way that it is now more beautiful and much more populated than before. It began to be enclosed by a stone and mortar wall with bastions at the cost of a one percent tax imposed on merchandise, which will bring in thirteen or fourteen thousand cruzados every year, whereby much of it is already very well enclosed”. The context in which the bastioned perimeter of Chaul given in the previous entry was built is thus clearer. In 1577 the whole beachfront from northwest to southeast was enclosed by a wall punctuated by small turrets serving as bastions. The landward side would take only a few more years to be walled. The process was nevertheless continuous, and it is clear how the renovation progressed on the land side, where the bastions gained in size and complexity in line with the classic types. The most exuberant and portentous was that of the Holy Cross, dating to the 18th century and not finished, i.e., without the interior wall and necessary level ground. The Sea Gate was necessarily situated next to the factory and early fort, overlooking the shore and the river. The Land Gate was to the north, obviously, ensuring the connection to the surrounding area. Both followed the then traditional model of double bottlenecked doors. As at other sites, of which Vasai is but one example, the wall was weaker over the sea (literally), that is, not as thick, not as high (six to seven metres) and with smaller bastions. The ones on the land side were up to 11 metres high. More than any other description, the image and plan are the best way to read the bastioned perimeter of the city, a structure which is basically what at the site best bears witness to the memory of this Portuguese ex-nihilo urban foundation. But beyond what remains (the initial fort, bastioned perimeter and magnificent and unusual structure raised on the ridgeline), Chaul’s defence structures were much more complex. Proof of this is excellently depicted in an anonymous and technically and artistically naive drawing, probably from the period of the 1684 Maratha siege. Note how the city had prepared all the surrounding territory; noteworthy was the construction of an advanced line/entrenchment starting from the fortified Capuchin convent of the Mother of God. The fortification of the latter and the building of a turret in the Chaul open ground date from the 1613-1614 conflict with Ahmadanagar. The truth is that the complex arrangement worked – Chaul was not conquered, but rather handed over in the scope of the agreement that ended hostilities and the Província do Norte as well.

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