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“We must understand are past well enough to value it and yet also well enough to know why and how it must be changed. Architecture is not just the reinforcement of existing values; social, political and economical. On the contrary it should open new doors to new aspirations. ” [Charles Correa (1985), ‘The New Landscape’] The antiquity of this megalopolis dates back to the third century BCE when the Magadhan Empire had its widespread from Afghanistan in North to Kerala in South. After the fall of Magadhan Empire, these islands came under the rule of several Hindu and Buddhist rulers.
The dominance of Hinduism and Buddhism left the islands with few Buddhist monks and a dark ethnic group called Kolis, who travelled from the nearby landmass of Aparanta (Western Border). In 1348 CE, these islands were under the governance of Gujrat Sultanate. In the early 16th century, due to the increasing power of Mughals under the leadership of Humayun, Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujrat was compelled to sign the Treaty of Bassein with Portuguese rulers of Goa. In this treaty, the swamp of 7 islands, the town of Bassein and its neighbourhood dependencies were taken over by the Portuguese Governance. The Portuguese were constantly involved in promoting their Roman Catholic religious orders in Bombaim.
The islands were leased to several Portuguese commanders during their regime. The British were in ceaseless tussle with the Portuguese contesting for authority over Bombay. By the mid-17th century the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, placed Bombay in possession of the British Empire, as a part of dowry of Catherine to Charles. Eventually the British parliament handed over this archipelago to the British East India Company for an annual rent of 10 Pounds, as it was difficult to govern oversea. In 1668, British recognized the calm backwaters and a deep draft around these islands, which could be a potential site for a port, Bombay flourished as a trade hub but it lacked the infrastructure as that of Surat. Construction of the fort began in 1715 and was completed in 1745 and this marked the rise of mighty British Empire.
To improve the infrastructure and to attract the manufacturers, connection of these 7 islands commenced via construction of causeways and reclamation of land. With a rise in prosperity and growing political power following the 1817 victory over the Marathas, the British East India Company embarked upon reclamations and large scale engineering works in Bombay. The span of six decades from 1784 with commencement of Hornby Vellard project to the amalgamation of 7 islands into a landmass in 1845 was marked as a period of rise in population, as labours from Andhra and central India migrated to complete the manual job of construction. Incoming merchants and landlord from Gujrat formed a sect of manufacturers in this upcoming city. In 1782, William Hornby, Governor of princely state of Bombay, started the first reclamation project to construct a causeway connecting 2 islands which gave rise to subsequent reclamation projects. Construction of Mahim causeway was the first illegal construction of Asia, where William Hornby without the grant of British Parliament constructed the causeway for personal sake.
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