Sunday, February 11, 2007

Walk into Mumbai's past

Bombay's past on an image with the reflection of the present outside

This Sunday, take a different kind of a heritage walk. You won’t be walking around the streets of Mumbai but would be comparing the archival Philips Images of Bombay to the South Mumbai of today from the roof-top of the Ambassador hotel. A walk back in time! This walk has been organized by the Bombay Heritage Walks founded by city architects Abha Bahl and Brinda Gaitonde who started these walks in 1999 to raise the awareness about the city’s architecture and heritage monuments.

Look out of the window towards the east and you will see what is still known as the Fort area. The Fort was built in 1716 and housed many residential and commercial buildings. It had three gates Apollo, Church and Bazaar and a moat with a wide stretch of open space towards the west known as ‘The Esplanade’. Today you will hardly see any traces of the Fort other than its name. The names of the demolished gates have also been retained but by the station (Churchgate) and the street (Bazaar gate). The fort was demolished in the 1860’s, a bold move by the then Governor, Sir Bartle Frere, a visionary and master planner who wanted to make Bombay, the first modern urban city of India. He had a list of 14 buildings that he wanted to build including a high court, the secretariat and many of the magnificent Gothic buildings which one can see in this area.

Look above at the old photo of the headquarters of the Western Railways(then BB&CI),the magnificent stone building opposite Churchgate station built in 1899 and you will see that the sea is almost touching it and there are vast open spaces around it. Look across the sea in the photograph and notice the densely forested Malabar Hill inhabited then by the Malabaris (thus the name) who were supposed to be pirates and thus kept people away from this place. Now look out and in place of the forest is Mumbai’s skyline, numerous skyscrapers dot Malabar Hill. At the southern tip, you will see the Governors house (Raj Bhavan) which was earlier inside the Fort, then moved to Parel (Haffkine Institute) and finally moved here in 1820.

Look closely at the same photo and you will see a very tiny Churchgate station designed in the Swiss chalet style (built in 1876) with the railway tracks going further south. They would have run from under the existing Eros theatre and parallel to the today’s M. Karve Road, all the way upto the Colaba railway station (built in 1869 and demolished in 1930). The Art Deco buildings that you see today opposite the Oval would come up later on this railway line with the lines then terminating at Churchgate station.

Chowpatty in the olden days

Then look at the old photograph of Chowpatty and you will see benches facing the sea at the edge of the beach. You will recognize the Wilson College, the other buildings around it and naturally notice the absence of Kulfi Centre and Café Ideal. Do notice the small round about at the junction of the road which comes from Sukh Sagar onto Marine Drive.

Move ahead to the photograph that shows Marine Drive with its Art Deco buildings (built in the 1920’s) and the absence of the fly-over. Now,look out from the roof top and you will not only see the beautiful Art Deco buildings but also notice how the Mumbai skyline has changed with tall skyscrapers emerging out from the Nana Chowk and Girgaum areas.

So if you want to see and hear all of the above and many more stories including the one of the Hornby’s Vellard and others about Bombay’s past, head straight to the roof-top of the Ambassador hotel on February 11, 2007 at 4:00 pm at the event which is a part of the Heritage Walks section of the ongoing Kala Ghoda festival and have a blast with the past.
All pictures of old Bombay are from Phillips images.


peiying said...

hey i love that photo of mumbai's present reflected in its past. i stayed in bombay for a couple of months and i'm from singapore. i love that city. when i go to delhi, i take the side of bombay. anyway it was really nice going through your site and seeing the photos and reading about familiar places and sights

peiying said...

hey, i hail from singapore and i chanced upon your blog. i stayed in bombay a couple of months myself. i just loved your photo of mumbai's present reflected in its past. was really nice viewing the photos and reading about familiar places and sights in bombay. and in delhi, i always take the side of bombay when it comes to those "which city is better" arguments

Full2 Faltu said...

Fantastic peice of history Abodh. I did catch up on the Special Bombay exhibition in the Museum when I was there for my vacation.

The sky line and Mumbai has changed a lot. My friend who stays in Colaba was so excited to see her house in the photos. I went to see her house after that and not much have changed.


Anandham said...

Another nice post!!! We can compare the then Bombay & the current Mumbai from these walks. I did attend "Carriage Ride" heritage walk during "Kala Ghoda Art festival". You can check the
blog entry
here. I just made it up with photos rather than the history as I couldn't recollect much from the walk.

drifting leaf said...

what a photograph...!! stunning!

Anonymous said...

amazing! i needed the old chowpatty photo of a larger size..i mean with more'll be great if you can provide me with that..thanks..great job! :)