Carrying forward our journey of Bombay to Mumbai through postcards, here are a few more heritage buildings in Mumbai photographed ‘then’ and ‘now’. And hope you remember, that the places we are listing are in an order that will make for a great heritage walk around the area. Stay tuned for part 3 of our Bombay to Mumbai journey to complete the heritage tour.
Two Elphinstones are remembered in the history of British Rule of Bombay. An Uncle-Nephew duo. The older was a historian, the other was a soldier. Monstuart Elphinstone was the Governor of Bombay who took a keen interest in developing the education system of the city even when educating the natives was against the British Policy. He also built the first bungalow in Malabar Hill thus changing the fortune of this rocky patch of land forever, as the eminent personalities of the city followed suit. Elphinstone College at Kala Ghoda is named after him. After a few years, came along army man Lord John Elphinstone, the new Governor of Bombay who approved plans to convert this patch of land into a garden as suggested by the Police Chief of the City, Charles Forjett. The garden was named after the the governor and served as a popular place for performances and gettogethers. The buildings surrounding the circles housed offices of banks. Can you guess after whom is the Elphinstone station named?
After Independence, the gardens were renamed after Benjamin Horniman, founding editor of the Bombay Chronicle and supporter of the national movement. His radical views against the British led to his banishment from the country but his support to the movement is appreciated even today. The garden although serves as a venue for a few music and art festivals, it is majorly frequented by students, couples and senior citizens. A variety of trees are found inside this green zone and is home to a good bird population, butterflies and other insects. The surrounding buildings house a few banks, retail outlets and a restaurant. Latest addition to it is a luxury apparel brand, retailing sarees at prices which gently reminded one of the Economic Drain theory of Dadabhai Nowrojee, the Grand Old man of India.
Asiatic Society – Town Hall
The Asiatic Society of Bombay was earlier associated with the Royal Asiatic Society and later separated from it, in the year 1954. The imposing structure overlooking the Horniman garden circle has heavy influences of Greek and Roman styles of architecture. It now houses a public library. The collections includes several ancient manuscripts. The society could not fund the construction of this building and the Government of Bombay agreed to fund the shortfall. However in return it demanded office space which is used even today. The structure has been featured in numerous films and TV commercials. The 30 steps leading up to the main building serve as a great place for people to meet up in the evenings. The old photo shows two policemen in the traditional attire and the current one also has a lone figure of a cop clad in Khaki walking towards his jeep. Horse carts have not completely disappeared but they are used for a source of entertainment for tourists. Bullock carts have completely vanished and modern day beasts of burden which run on fuel have replaced them. The steps also serve as a venue for music concerts during the Kala Ghoda Festival and the area comes alive with music and cheer during those evenings.
Naval Dockyard Lion Gate – Apollo Street
The Naval Dockyard, famous for its Muster, Lion, Elephant and Cheetah gates lies on Shaheed Bhagat Singh Marg. Along the lines of the Old Mint, RBI Building, Town Hall, District Collector’s Office and other buildings. The clock tower seen in the old image lies intact but a part of the structure has now been demolished owing to the major fire that broke out last year. The wall of the dockyard had an impressive mural depicting the shore of the city as seen from the sea, created by Brinda Chudasama Miller. Built in 1807, it is one of the oldest structures owned by the Indian Navy. Located right opposite the clock tower is the Great Western Building, which has served as the residence of the Admiral as well the Recorders Courthouse. It was later converted into a hotel by the same name which over a period of time, shut down. It now houses a few designer wear showrooms, an art gallery and some offices.
Hotel Majestic and Waterloo Mansion
Indo Saracenic style of architecture unites the structures around Regal cinema. The Gateway of India, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (Museum), Taj Mahal hotel all are prominent examples of this style. However, although between them stands tall the erstwhile Hotel Majestic. A luxury hotel during the olden times it lost its sheen in the course of time. However, its namesake Hotel Majestic still serves tasty food at reasonable rates to all the shoppers of descending upon Colaba causeway. It also houses a hostel meant for the members of Maharashtra Legislative assembly. Sahakari Bhandar, the pioneer of co-operative general stores is located on the ground floor and serves as the best place to source everything from vegetables to toothbrushes.
The other prominent building in the picture is the Waterloo Mansion. It was built in the Gothic style with turrets (which have gone missing) and till recently was covered by hoardings which were removed after the BMC intervened. A prominent spire behind Majestic belongs to the Cathedral of the Holy Name, the headquarters Archdiocese of Bombay. It is famous for its spectacular stained glass windows and for the gifts presented to it by The Pope. The trams have disappeared and the cops in hats have been replaced by the cops in khaki sporting a gandhi topi. An ugly skyrise obstinately named Buckley Court, after the original building nearby which its constructed now dominates the skyrise.
Royal Bombay Yacht Club
Founded in 1846, this was one of the grandest clubs in the whole of Asia. Owing to the natural harbour that Bombay was blessed with, sailing as a sport and a leisure activity thrived and to this day continues between October and May. The picture depicts the residential chambers which were completed in 1896, supervised by FW Stevens. It was one of the few places to house hydraulic lifts, electric lights and fire services. Most of it is still present to this date, and an evening at the club is reminiscent of the era gone by. Legend has it that membership to the club is exclusive and not very easy to obtain. The area nowadays is always crowded owing its proximity to Gateway of India.
Gateway of India
Apollo Bunder or Wellington Pier as it was known earlier was literally the gateway to India. After opening of the Suez Canal, most of the visitors to India who came via the Canal stepped on the Indian soil at Apollo Bunder. it was not until George V along with Queen Mary decided to visit India that the current structure was constructed. An arched gateway with a central dome and minarets was hastily constructed marrying the styles of Hindu and Muslim architecture (Indo-Sarcenic). It was completed finally in 1927 and within 21 years, the last of the British Troops marched out of the gateway to mark the end of British rule in 1948.
Today, the Gateway of India is synonymous with Bombay. It has stood witness to terror attacks ( 03, ’08) and plays host to various important government functions and cultural festivals. The Indian Navy celebrates the Navy Day on 4th of December with a magnificent display of its prowess featuring helicopters, marine commandos simulating rescue operations and the naval band. Recently the Elephanta festival was organised by the MTDC. On other days, it remains a popular hangout spot and scores high on the tourist map, in sharp contrast to the deserted look it bores in the older photo. Photographers and vendors try to make a quick buck before the cops drive them out. But the most significant change that we noticed, (which was responsible for the goosebumps we experienced!) was the sight of the Tricolour flying high atop the Gateway.
King Edward Statue – Kala Ghoda Precinct
King Edward VII, the Prince of Wales after whom Mumbai’s most prominent hospital(KEM) is named was the successor to Queen Victoria. A statue of him riding on a horse was erected in his honour by Albert Sassoon, the son of David Sassoon, a jewish merchant. It was located right opposite the Army and Navy Building on MG Road, Kala Ghoda. The statue was moved to the Bhau Daji Lad Museum and now stands under a green canopy of the Veer Jijamata Udyan, Byculla. The black horse became a prominent symbol of the area and locals till today refer MG Road and its surroundings as Kala Ghoda. The location of the statue has been converted into a parking lot and during the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival is used for displaying interesting installations.
The other three buildings in the frame have undergone a few changes but the overall appearance has remained the same. Newer buildings have come up around. The erstwhile Temple hotel has now been replaced by a travel agency, the red roofed building houses art galleries and boutiques, while the Rhythm House building as it is knowns is home to one of the most iconic music stores of the city. The shed extending to the footpath still remains and the lane connecting to Naval Dockyard is used as a major venue of the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival that takes place in the month of February. The Kala Ghoda Arts Association has worked diligently in conserving the unique character of this Art District. With home to numerous art galleries, a library, a synagogue, numerous eateries, heritage buildings it definitely is one of the most vibrant places in the city.
Maneckjee Navroji Sett Shenshai Agiary
The second oldest fire temple in Bombay, it was built in the year 1773. Built by Maneckjee Navroji Sett in memory of his father, it stands somberly in the bustling area of Bazaar Gate. If you remember the story of the Fort, one of it’s gate led to a Bazaar and thus the area was named after the iconic bazaar. Indians owe a great deal of gratitude to the entire Parsi community. Their contribution to philanthropic causes till date continue to be noteworthy. Known for their jolly nature and delectable Parsi cuisine. They played a big role in the Indian Freedom struggle and continue to contribute to the Indian growth story.
The Agiary is open only to Parsis but still, it draws many other visitors like us who stand on the footpath opposite and stare in awe at the beautiful structure. All the motifs present on the facade are intact including the sun embedded in the pediment, a flame on top of it and a crest showcasing a lion on a mountain surrounded by sea. The two winged lions at the entrance are royal religious symbols and a recurring theme at most of the fire temples. The buildings adjoining the temple have undergone a noticeable change. Although the numbers of Parsis have gone down, their presence continues to add sweetness to the Indian society.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
Victoria Terminus as it was earlier known means different things to different people. For history and architecture buffs like us it is a magnificent symbol of a marriage of architectural styles namely the Gothic and Indian collectively known as Indo-Sarcenic. For the commuters on the Central railway local line, it is nothing but a railway station from where they catch a train for home. For travellers moving out of the city, it is the gateway to most places in India and to the incoming ones, it represents Bombay. But it is also the HQ of Central Railway Zone(Indian Railways has 17 zones under it and Mumbai has the distinction of housing two zones, other being the Western Zone) and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A whole lot has changed since the picture was taken but a whole lot also remains the same. With the Heritage tag, any alterations to the structure are prohibited. One can also spot the bronze statue of Sir Pherozshah Mehta, with his back towards the BMC building the busy junction of DN Road and Mahapalika Marg. The winged griffin is still present, however it is hidden from view by a tree. Both the buildings are fascinating and one can spend hours admiring them and noticing the small details that add to the bigger picture. The leaping griffins, the intricate carvings of animals (monkeys, peacock, mongoose fighting a snake, pigeons and owls and a cat with a rat in its mouth) portraits of prominent figures of Bombay carved in and many such architectural marvels.
In our final part of the Bombay to Mumbai series, we will tour famous colleges and many other interesting locations. Stay tuned!