June 2, 2023
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A Tiny Town ‘Basrur’ In Coastal Karnataka recently celebrated Shivaji’s First Naval Expedition on this 13th February 2021.

On 13 February, 355 years ago Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj took to the sea — his first and only naval expedition — to free the tiny port town of Basrur in Karnataka.

The people of this town now mark this day as Basruru Swatantrya Diwas‘.

Basrur is a tiny port town today in Kundapur taluk of Udupi district in Karnataka. It finds mention in works of various historical scholars and chroniclers as Barcelor, Barcalor, Basnur, Bares, Abu-Sarur and Barsellor.

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A historically important harbour and trade centre, it has today lost most of its ancient glory and all that remains are tales of the past. But less than four centuries ago it was a bustling town that was a centre of trade, commerce and art. For those who revere the ‘Hindu Hriday Samrat’, this town is the one to which their ‘raze’ led his first naval expedition.

Shortly after establishing the fort of Sindhudurg, which was to serve as the base of his naval forces, Shivaji took to the sea with a fleet of 88 ships. It included three mammoth ones with 4,000 infantry, and demonstrated the strength of his forces on the waters too.

In a bid to ensure this town and its tales are not relegated to the pages of history, followers of Shivaji in this town along with those who trace their origin to the city, backed by the Karnataka Itihasa Sankalana Samiti have been celebrating 13 February as Basruru History Day for the past five years.

“The expedition checked the exploits of the enemies in the region and marked the beginning of the battle against the Portuguese,” say the organisers, who are celebrating this day as the Basruru Swatantrya Diwas this year.

“When local rulers informed Shivaji Maharaj of the oppression by the foreign traders who had settled down in Basrur, he led his forces and helped our town gain freedom and hence we would like to celebrate it as Basrur’s Swatantrya (Independence) Diwas,” says a Samiti member.

On this day (13 February), 355 years ago Shivaji, who can be undisputedly credited for the revival of India’s maritime power, led his men to the river port of Basrur and raided the port town as it was geo-strategically an important one for both the Dutch and the Portuguese.

The raid, which the Maratha monarch secretly planned and executed, was said to have broken the monopoly of the foreign traders, and the loot from the raid has been described being ‘beyond count’ by Sabhasad Bakhar, a work chronicling the life and times of the great warrior.

The raid was aimed at breaking the trade control of the Portuguese and the Dutch who were competing for monopoly over the flourishing town. Shivaji, The Great Maratha by A H Sardesai, looks at how local rulers neither resisted the raid nor was there any change in the political and economic scenario of the town after the raid, and how the town continued to be a major trade centre even after Shivaji left.

All these tales though are nowhere visible now in what remains of this once
crucial port town.

Writer – Harsha Bhat

Maharaj Shivaji’s First Naval Expedition
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