Saturday, May 12, 2007

Bhau, Nana & Rajabai

Many places in Mumbai have been named after Indians who have contributed to this city’s infrastructure. We have heard, passed through or visited these places but may not know who the people affectionately called Nana or Bhau were. Here are three such places.

Bhaucha Dhakka

Bhaucha Dhakka or Ferry Wharf was built by Lakshman Hari Chandarjee Ajinkya. (1789-1858). He belonged to the Pathare Prabhu community (one of the original inhabitants of Bombay).He was affectionately addressed as Bhau or big brother by the local people. His family had estates at Naigaum and Parel and he worked as Chief Clerk in the Gun Carriage Factory in Colaba. Information given in the Govt. Archives and in the Marathi book ‘Pathare Prabhuncha Itihaas’ by Pratap Velkar reveal that Bombay did not have a regular pier or wharf till 1835 for either goods or passengers. The government started leasing out land on the Bombay frontage to private individuals to build wet docks and basins. Laksman Hari Chandarjee Ajinkya alias ‘Bhau’ was the first local to take this opportunity. He thus constructed Bombay’s first wet dock in 1841 for the convenience of the passengers and incoming ships to load, embark and berth. These included Carnac and Claire bunders. Today, the passenger terminal at the Bhau-Cha-Dhakka is still used to ferry people to Mora and Rewas for their onward journeys to Uran and Alibag.

Nana Chowk

This very busy traffic junction which has six roads converging into it is named after Jagannath Shankersett alias Nana. (1803-1865). He owned large areas of land in the Nana Chowk area including a ‘wada’ which now has been replaced by high rise buildings, the recent Sunkersett Palace and another Sunkersett Mansion built decades ago. This area also has an old privately restored Bhavani Shankar temple built in 1806 associated with the Sunkersett family. JSS was born in a wealthy family of goldsmiths and contributed in many ways towards this city including donating land for the Royal/Grant Road theatre and endowing schools. In 1845, along with Sir Jamshejee Jeejeebhoy
, he formed the Indian Railway Association which was eventually incorporated into the Great Indian Peninsular Railways (GIP).They were the only two Indian directors out of the other ten in the GIP railways. He was also the first Indian member of The Asiatic Society and you will find his full size marble statue at the Asiatic Society Library. The erstwhile Girgaum road which extends from Opera House upto Princess Street is also named after him. A postage stamp was also issued in his honor in 1991.

Rajabai Tower
Rajabai tower located in the campus of the University of Mumbai at Fort including the library was built at a cost of over six lakh rupees donated by Premchand Roychand (1831-1906). Both these structures were designed by Sir Gilbert Scott and completed in 1878. The 280 feet high tower with a clock was a tribute to his mother, Rajabai. Premchand Roychand was a prominent banker and philanthropist of the 19th century who supported many schools especially for the education of girls. The schools included J.B.Petit High School, Bombay Scottish Orphanage School, Alexandria School and Cathedral Girls School. The Premchand Roychand gallery at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (Museum) has been named in his memory and it recently hosted the Bombay Bonanza exhibition to commemorate his 100th death anniversary. It must be noted that there is no statue of him in Mumbai nor any Mumbai street bears his name.

1 comment:

narendra shenoy said...

Hi,
I found your blog when I was searching for "chikki". I had just been to lonavala, you see, and the overwhelming presence of chikki was most intriguing. Well, your tidily written piece was informative and interesting. I liked this one about Bhaucha Dhakka, too. I hadnt a clue who Bhau was.
An interesting line of research might be to find out how these people's families are doing now. Are they still rolling in opulence or has the passage of time reduced their fortunes to more modest levels?
Anyway, it was most delightful and I'm sure you'll keep posting interesting stuff