The Dabul Bell
In 1883, a bell ws made over to the church of Dabul by the then British government. Thisbell had quite a history of its own. Originally, it hung in the belfry of the Jesuit church of St. Jospeh – the Matrix/mother church of Bassein–in the ancient fort.
Towards the close of the prolonged campaign, which the Marathas launched against the Portuguese at Bassein, there was a phase when the besieged wee sorely encountered with a grave dearth of provisions, arms and ammunition. In distress they sent an appeal to the British at Bombay for a loan. The latter demanded security. Cut off from all contact with Goa, all that the Portuguese in Bassein could pawn in their dire need was their church plate and bras guns. And so the bell changed hands.
The British then granted Rs.15,000 “on this strange collateral security”. Commenting on this action on their part, James Douglas, British biographer of Bombay, declares deplorably: “Herein we did, I think, rather a cruel thing under the guise of assistance.” But the sacrifice did not yield a change of fortune–the Portuguese were soon compelled to capitulate, and the might fortress fell.
What became of the bell? The above write continues the tale: “In lieu of non-payment we seem to hve taken some work out of this bell, for there are people who recollect when it hung outside the walls of the cathedral, on the right side of the main door as you enter, a little way round the corner of the building. Whether it was ricketty, or dangerous from its weight and proximity to the heads of the passers-by, we do not know, but it was taken down from its elevation some 20 years go, and lay in the Cathdral compound until 18969, when it was hnanded over the Bombay Government by the Cathedral trustees, for safe custody, and was placed in the arsenal, where it has remained ever since until its translation in April 1883.”
To follow its course: Apparently, the bell was spotted by none other than Dr. Gerson J. da Cunha, during his great research on Bassein. Knowing its origin, he brought the objhect to the notice of Bishop Meurin, who read and translated the Latin inscription running around the mouth or outisde rim of the bell. It reads thus inEnglish: “Who will give to me that I could die for Thee, and that all nations of the eearth would rcognise Thee?” To describe it further: hihg on the cape of this 10 cwt bell is a cross, on the centre of which is the monogram JHS, and below is the date 1674. It also bears the name of its founder: Hiram Tavares.
The next step: The British authorities were motivated to courtesouly hand over the bell to the Dabul church where it was installed and has hung ever since. And where it probably has reached journey’s end.
DR. TERESA ABUQUERQUE