From Bombay To Mumbai: A Journey Through Postcards Part- 3

{0 Comments}

0
Banganga Tank- Walkeshwar

In the concluding post of our series on Bombay to Mumbai, we will take you through some more places in Mumbai through postcards old and new. And here is a surprise. Go through Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, line up all the places in the order we have mentioned, and voila! you have your very own heritage tour of the city! 

Wilson College
Wilson College

Wilson College
Established in 1832, it is one of the oldest colleges of the country. It overlooks the Girgaum chowpatty and has been declared as Grade III heritage structure. Established by Reverend John Wilson and his wife as a school, it later evolved into a college and school. A few changes have been made to the building over time but numerous wooden doors still exist. The Mangalore tiled roof is commonly used on all houses located in areas receiving heavy rainfall. A basketball court has now come up towards the southern side and the area all around the college has undergone massive overhaul. Mutli storeyed apartments now occupy the skyline but this gothic building stands tall and the authorities continue to realise the mission set by Dr. Wilson and his wife.

Banganga Tank- Walkeshwar
Banganga Tank- Walkeshwar

Banganga Tank – Walkeshwar
The origin of the Banganga tank and it’s spring is absolutely fascinating. While on the quest to rescue Sita, Ram and Lakshman passed through this area. There was no source of water available and Ram was thirsty. To quench his brother’s thirst, Lakshaman shot an arrow or a Bana into the ground and out spurted the Ganga. This stream later came to be known as Banganga. It was only in the 1127 AD, during the Silhara Dynasty rule, another Lakshman, a minister in the court built this tank. It was later rebuilt in 1715 AD. The complex around the tank has numerous temples and shrines. Venkateshwar Balaji temple, Rameshwar Mandir, Walkeshwar Temple dedicated to Lord Shiva’s idol made of sand(Valuk Ishwar) are some of the most prominent ones around.

Most of the structures around the complex have remained the same. However, some houses have given way to multi storeyed apartments but the sloping red roofs are quite prominent on others. Stone pillars erected to place diyas are missing except at the entrance. The atmosphere around the tank has always been serene and inviting for artists and photographers. People also come here to perform the last rites of the dead. Numerous ducks, cormorants and different species of fish have created a perfect eco-system in the tank. Population pressures are evident but the tank to a large extent remains clean. However, devotees must be advised against disposing of nirmalaya in the tank.

Royal Opera House
Royal Opera House

Royal Opera House
As is the trend with Bombay, a prominent structure lends its name to the entire neighbourhood surrounding it. The Opera House area owes its name to this building, the only surviving opera house of the country. Royal Opera House was completed in the year 1922 and apart from operas, it was used to screen Hindi movies as well as plays staged by locals as well as international dramatists. The architectural style is Baroque, a blend of European and Indian styles. The building lies in possession of the Royal family of Gondal, an erstwhile princely state and now a city in the Rajkot district of Gujarat and now is closed for public performances. The plans to conserve and restore this erstwhile centre of arts and performances are underway and one can only hope that the lost glory of the building is restored.

Kabutar Khana- Bhuleshwar
Kabutar Khana- Bhuleshwar

Bhuleshwar Kabutarkhana
Bhuleshwar is an interesting bazaar area of Bombay. Densely populated, it houses numerous temples and shops selling imitation and real jewellery, sarees, accessories and a whole lot of different things in the vibrant lanes of Bhuleshwar. We went around on the lookout for this iconic Kabutarkhana, one of the oldest one of its kind. Kabutar khanas are found in many parts of the city and the suburbs. There was a Ganesh Utsav pandal constructed close by and thus we could not get the same angle to photograph the Kabutar khana and the buildings surrounding it. The buildings with their wooden balconies have stood the test of time and have been repainted. It is necessary that we conserve this part of our heritage. The pigeons had flown away owing to a large human presence on their feeding ground but they will return as soon as Ganesh Utsav is over.

Pydhonie Mosque
Pydhonie Mosque

Pydhonie Mosque – Hamidiya Masjid
The beauty of ancient places of worship is that they stand as silent spectators to all that happens around them. Observing, overlooking and at times showing the way to the lost. Another striking feature of most of the popular places of worship is their proximity to similar sites belonging to that of a different religion. The skyline of most areas sports a minaret a mosque along with a gopuram of a temple and also a cross of a church. Peaceful co-existence of different communities has been a characteristic of the Indian society for most parts of history and in case of Pydhonie, all throughout. Pydhonie loosely translated from Marathi means a place where one washes their feet. Pydhonie and Kalbadevi areas not only are home to mosques and temples but also a Jain derasar. There were no reports of untoward incidents during the ‘92-93 riots from this area. Built in the 1880, this mosque and the building adjoining it has not changed much. The sight of devout muslims offering their prayers on a Friday is quite remarkable. A short walk towards the east lies the iconic Mohd Ali Road and Minara Masjid while towards the west lie the Kalbadevi and Zaveri Bazaar area.

 

Dwarkadish Temple
Dwarkadish Temple

Dwarkadish Temple
Walking around Kalbadevi (earlier spelt as Calbadevie) and along the road to Swadeshi Market, near Vithalwadi it is hard to miss this striking structure. Carvings of monkeys in various playful mudras, sages in various forms, each different from the other adorn the exterior walls of this haveli built in honour of the King of Dwarka – Lord Krishna. It is one of the most photographed structures during the British rule as it was completed in 1875. It was conveniently named the Monkey Temple by the British owing to the many sculptures of monkeys on the walls. We interviewed, Mr. Amarnathji, (who was gracious enough to allow us into his office so we could photograph the temple from a similar angle) about the temple and he informed us that the statue inside was the only replica of the statue of Dwarkadhish, located at Dwarka, Gujarat.

It is always filled with devotees and shuts its doors to visitors at regular intervals. The streets around Vithalwadi are crowded and often experience traffic snarls. But the serenity within the temple is intact and every merchant in the area makes it a point to pay his respects daily in this temple. The story behind its creation is also quite fascinating. Lord Krishna seems to have communicated to Suderdas Mulji(son of an emminent merchant of Bombay) in his dream that an idol of the lord was hidden in Mulji’s house. He got down to searching it and ultimately found it in a wooden box under a staircase and thus the haveli was built. The bullock carts have long gone but the devotees have been around, loyal as ever.

Khada Parsi Statue
Khada Parsi Statue

Khada Parsi Statue
As one zips across on the Y flyover of Byculla, one may or may not notice this old parsi gentleman standing somberly, overlooking the traffic snarls that are quite frequent in this area. The flyover, fans of Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron will recall in the opening scene of the movie. The cast iron statue of Shet Cursetjee Manockjee erected by his youngest son for Rs. 20,000 and later gifted to the BMC for upkeep is 150 years old. Manockjee was a prominent social worker belonging to the Parsi Community of Bombay. There are plans of restoring this Grade I heritage structure as it is undergone many changes from the time of its installation. The four lamps at the base which can be seen in the earlier picture were stolen in 1970. Considerable damage has been done to the column on which the statue stands because of air pollution. The are cases of encroachment at the base and a permanent security enclosure would prevent it in the future. The Byculla club seen in the photo has been lost to the pages of history. However, it retains the title of being the first residential club of Bombay. The Gloria church located nearby is worth a visit.

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum

Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum
The earliest museum to exist in the city was the Central Museum of Natural History, Economy, Geology, Industry and Arts established by Lord Elphinstone (the soldier, nephew) in 1855. Soon after it was closed to public but revived under George Birdwood a British Civil servant. He along with Dr. Bhau Daji Lad and Jagannath Shankarshet, two prominent citizens of Bombay raised funds for the museum. The new avataar of this museum was named the Victoria and Albert Museum but later on changed to Dr. Bhau Daji Lad museum after Dr. Bhau who was one of the first doctors to graduate out of the Grant Medical College. He was a great contributor to the field of education and science.

The museum contains valuable artefacts, crafts of different communities of Bombay, old maps of the city depicting the reclamation and development. A great resource for anyone who is interested in the vast history of our island city. The museum regularly conducts lectures, workshops for children and adults. A statue of an elephant discovered at Gharapuri islands is placed right outside. The islands were named Elephanta islands by the British after this discovery, which proves that it wasn’t only Indians that named areas after animals.

Dhobi Ghat
Dhobi Ghat

Dhobi Ghat
People of Bombay have been washing their dirty laundry in public and been photographed by foreigners since a long time and we are proud of it. First half of the picture is proof of this. On the western line stands Mahalakshmi station, home to the famous Mahalakshmi temple, the race course and Haji Ali Dargah on the west, it is also home to the iconic Dhobi Ghat. The flyover bridge connecting the west to the Jacob Circle on the east makes for a very convenient spot to view the activities of the ghat. There are over 731 washing stones spread across an area measuring upto 23 acres. There are washing bhattis(kilns) which are extensively used but run on firewood, using upto about 8300 kgs of wood everyday. It’s been a family business for most and over 3-4 generations have been involved in the same business. There are plans to make it more tourist friendly and providing them with pipeline gas connections to discourage them from using fire wood. Clothes are brought here from all over South Bombay and never does a garment lose itself in the labyrinth called the Dhobi ghat. Such is the beauty of complex systems which run on pure human genius with minimal reliance on technology. (Read, Dabbawallahs, Newspaper Vendors in your area and so on)

Do you know of any other area in the city named after the Dhobis?

Look around the current photo and you will spot a lone chimney standing solemnly in the background. It belongs to the erstwhile Shakti Mills, which along with its two more chimneys stands tall and imposing in the older version of the photo. The land is under litigation and hence not occupied by ugly concrete structures or uglier shopping malls, this patch of land is covered in dense overgrowth and is home to various types of birds. While travelling on the local, I have spotted a Golden Oriole, Greater Coucal, Drongos apart from the many Kites that hover over this small patch of green that brings instant respite to the eyes in this concrete jungle. The compound mills is not guarded well and one can try to sneak in and wander about in this area teeming with life.

Here it ends, our journey through this photographic time machine through Mumbai’s sepia era! If you have more pictures and stories like this, do share with us at story@mumbaimag.com and don’t forget to tell us how you liked this series!

Post By Rushikesh Kulkarni (22 Posts)

Runs Breakfree Journeys, a cult tourism outfit interested in outdoor travel and backpacking. On days that he is not wandering around the Western Ghats, he is spotted roaming in the bylanes of Bombay scouting for heritage history and good food.

Connect

Rushikesh Kulkarni

Rushikesh Kulkarni
Runs Breakfree Journeys, a cult tourism outfit interested in outdoor travel and backpacking. On days that he is not wandering around the Western Ghats, he is spotted roaming in the bylanes of Bombay scouting for heritage history and good food.