Bandra History

Posted on August 9, 2008. Filed under: Bandra | Tags: , , , , , |

1. Bandra’s Beginnings

In the ‘Conquista Spiritual de Oriente’ (about 1638) it is mentioned that in the pre-Portuguese period (before 1534) the King gave Bandra to the Captain of South Salsette as it was the largest village in the South Salsette District (Salsette is the island bounded by Thane, Kurla, Bandra and Bhyandar).

Bandra became tributary to the Portuguese in 1532.  Gerson Da Cunha in his “The Origin of Bombay” (1900), gave us an abridgement of an account from ‘Lendas da India’.  In this account there is a description of how Diogo da Silveira brought Thane, Bandra, Mahim and Bombay under tribute.

In 1534, King Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, ceded Vasai, Salsette and the adjacent areas to the Portuguese.  Bandra thus became a Portuguese possession. 

In 1548, Bandra, Kurla, Mazagaon and four other villages were given by the Governor of Portuguese India  to a certain Antonio Pessoa as a reward for his military services.  This was confirmed by the Royal Chancellery on the 2nd February, 1550.

As these villages were given for a period of ‘two lives’, they reverted to the Viceroy after the death of Isabella Botelha, the widow of Antonio Pessoa. 

The Jesuits who had applied for these villages in anticipation of the death of Isabella Botelha obtained them from the Viceroy in 1568 and the Royal confirmation was received in 1570.  The Jesuits were the owners of Bandra till 1739 when it fell to the Marathas.

Bandra was under the British from 1st January, 1775 till 14th August, 1947.  The name of the place has undergone a metamorphosis from ‘Vandra’ (Marathi) to ‘Bandora’ (Portuguese) to Bandra (English).  Other variants were Bandor, Bandura, Bandera, Bandara, Pandara and Bandorah. 

When a place grows in importance and fame we say that it is being ‘put on the map’.  It is remarkable that ‘Bandura’ is boldly indicated on the maps of Dr. John Fryer (1672) and Jacques Nicolas Bellim (1740) and other maps of the period.  This fact will be appreciated all the more when we consider that few places are indicated on these maps.     

Before railways and roadways became common, waterways were the means of communication.  Places that were situated on waterways often prospered.  Bandra is an example of this.

Bandra was (and is) situated on the south-west extremity of the island of Salsette; in fact Bandra itself was called an island.  It lay north of the creek or rather waterway that led to the Bombay harbour.  Before this waterway was rendered useless due to the building of the Mahim and Sion causeways, silting and reclamation, boats used to pass between Mahim and proceeded  via Sion to the Bombay harbour.  Therefore there were many fortifications on both sides of this waterway : forts at Worli, Mahim and Sion on the South and two at Bandra and one at Kurla on the north of this waterway.

The Jesuit, Fr. Monclaro, writing in the 1570s says that Bandra “is a harbour and a good stopping place for the ships coming from the south or from the north and intending to move forward”.

We have many references about Bandra as a port.  For example,  among the ‘conditions’ laid down on 14th January, 1665, when Bombay was being ceded to the English we have : “That the port of Bandra in the island of Salsette nor any other islands shall be impeded and all vessels from that port or ports, and others coming to them, shall be allowed to pass and repass very frankly…”

In Vol. XIV, pg. 15 of the Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency (1882) Bandra is described as a port and we can obtain the annual value of the imports and exports of Bandra from the years 1874-1881 from Vol. XIII, pt.2, pgs. 354 & 355. Some of the early writers call Bandra a town.  John Fryer who visited Bandra in 1675 writes : “The town is large and houses tiled; it is called Bandura…. It is also called a village.  Fr. Gomes Vaz, writing in 1576 says :  “Bandra is a very fine village”.  This large village was comprised of more than 20 hamlets or ‘pakhadis’.  Today each of these is popularly called a village but technically they are hamlets.

From the church registers, other records and gravestones we know the names of the extant and extinct hamlets.

a) The following hamlets (pakhadias) existing during the Portuguese period – ending May 1739) may be mentioned:

i) Chuim cultivators

ii)Candely – cultivators – extinct after 1732 – near Chuim

iii) Rajan – cultivators – Port. Rajana

iv)Sherly – cultivators – Port. Sellaly

v)Malla – culltivators – Port. Mallem

vi) Palli – cultivators – Port. Pallem

vii) Parvar – cultivators – extinct after 1853 – between Dr. Ambedkar Road and Khar Gymkhana

viii) Old Kantwadi – cultivators – Port. Horta de Santo Andre – N.B. New Kantwadi comes into existence in 1817- likewise hamlet of cultivatorix)

ix) Ranwar – cultivators – Port. Ranoar

x) Boran – cultivators – Port. Dandacavar

xi) Tank – cultivators – Port. Tanque

xii) Patarvar – cultivators – extinct after 1817- north of St. Joseph Convent.

xii) Santa Cruz – toddy-tappers and cultivators

xiv) Khar – Bois and “cavoqueiros” – Port. Salgado

xv) Cumbarvara – Bois and potters – near Khar

xvi) Catirvara – Bois – near Khar

xvii) Povoacao – Portuguese and their household staff – D’Monte Street extending to the old Slaughter House site.


Besides the above there were the following localities: miscellaneous population – near Povoacao

xviii) Horta do Bazar (Bazar Oart ) – “Faras” – scavengers – near Chinchpokli Road

xix) Rua do Bazar – (Bazar Streert) -miscellaneous populatiom

xx) Rua dos Tintoreiros (Dyers’ Street)- miscellaneous population ; located most probably near the Bazar

xxi) Rua Baixa (Lower Street) –

xxii) Bazar– mixed population – location at present Bandra Bazar

All the above pakhadis (hamlets) , the Povoacao and the four localities comprise the parish of Santa Anna (Old Slaughter-house site – between the railway lines and Swami Vivekanand Road. Also belonging to the parish of Santa Anna are potters, toddy-tappers, weavers, mainatos (washermen) and other non-Koli groups/castes not ascribed to any particular pakhadi/locality.

To St. Andrew’s parish pertained all the koliwadas (hamlets inhabited by Kolis) thus:

i) Colaria Grande – near Chapel Road

ii)Colaria de Meio – Bazar area

iii} Colaria Mora – near Bandra Bunder

iv)Colaria Naopara – Old Ghodbunder Road

v) Colaria da Igreja – Chimbai

vi) Colaria Zaitucali – north of Mount Carmel church

vii) Supali – Near Supali Talao ground

viii) Colai – Near Seaside Cemetery

N.B. The first six above named koliwadas are mentioned in the baptismal register of Santa Anna because some of the godparents of children/persons baptised in Santa Anna were parishioners of St. Andrew’s.

The island of Salsette on which Bandra was located was often referred to as a granary.  Dr. John Fryer who visited Salsette in 1673-75 writes :”the ground excellently fertile either of itself or by the care of the inhabitants, that it yields as good Cabbages, Coleworts and better Radishes than ever I yet saw:  Besides Garden – Fruit, here are incomparable  Water-Melons, and Onions as sweet, and as well tasted as an Apple; and for the natural growth of the soil, it is known not only to supply the adjoining Islands, but Goa also.  It is more than 20 Miles in Length and 70 in Circumference”.

In Bandra itself there were extensive paddy fields, vegetable gardens and coconut ‘oarts’.  Besides there were mango groves on the hill-sides and brab trees in other areas.

Rice was the chief crop grown in Bandra.  When there was friction between the English in Bombay and the Portuguese in Salsette, “the Portuguese forbade the export of rice from Bandra” (Gazeteer, Vol. XIII, Pt. 2, pg. 478)

Humbert, in his ‘Catholic Bombay, Her Priests and their Training’ informs us that in 1706, there was a loss suffered by St. Paul’s College, Goa, due to the plague among the farmers in Bandra. 



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