Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mumbai's 'gaons'

A little history, lest we forget three Mumbai neighborhoods which were villages that have long been integrated with Mumbai’s urban present and the only thing gaon-ish about them today is their ‘gaon’ tag.

Mazgaon: Mazgaon was an ancient Portuguese township and the name was either derived from Maza gaon which means my village in Marathi or from Maccha Grama which means a fishing village. It was also one of the original seven islands that Mumbai comprised of. Not many would know but Mazgaon was also famous for its mango trees which used to bear fruit twice a year. The Mazgaon mango was a celebrated commodity and finds a mention as the ‘Mangoes of Mazagong’ in the epic poem Lallah Rookh written by Thomas Moore in 1817. Mazgaon was home to many old stone houses and wooden bungalows, built in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries which were inhabited by mostly the Britishers and Parsis. Gunpowder Lane near Matharpacady was so called as a result of the armoury being moved to this area. Prominent landmarks in Mazgaon today are the Sales Tax office, the Mazgaon court and the Matharpacady village, a heritage ‘quartier’ with quaint, old houses struggling to survive amidst the skyscrapers in the neighbourhood.

Girgaon: The name literally translates into hill village. Giri in Marathi means hill. Thus, this was the village that existed at the foot of the Malabar Hill and is said to have been inhabited in the mid-nineteenth century. Girgaon comprised Girgaon woods and also boasted of coconut and mango groves and vast areas of plantations called wadi in Marathi. Today the Girgaon wadis may not be cultivating any of the produce that they used to but names like Mugbhat, Phanaswadi, Kelewadi, Kandewadi and Ambewadi would suggest the kind of plantations that must have existed there. Likewise, Zaoba Wadi, Vaidya Wadi, Khotachi Wadi & Jitekar Wadi may suggest who they belonged to. Gai Wadi was so named because of the large presence of cow sheds. Girgaon still has retained some of the villagish charm with its narrow lanes and old houses but times are changing. Many chawls in Girgaon with long wooden balconies are making way for multi storied buildings. Some old Maharashtrian restaurants like Kulkarni famous for its batata bhajiya, Virkar, Tembe Vishranti Gruha and many khanawals have shut down. Others like Chhatre‘s Kolhapuri Chivada, Vinay Health Home and B. Tambe have changed with the times and got renovated.

Goregaon: One version says that Goregaon was named after the Gore family who were active in politics. Another, which seems more accurate, says that the meaning translates into ‘white village’ in Marathi, as it was a large milk-producing centre since olden times. The Goregaon (E) area has still remained one of the few Mumbai’s green lungs in spite of the fact that the Aarey Milk Colony was set up in 1949 by acquiring 3000 acres of forest land. This was one of the world’s largest dairy farms and would be used to organize the supply of pasteurized bottled milk to the city. Many cattle from congested parts of the city were shifted here. The Film City was also set up here in 1978. Goregaon has now become another Mumbai suburb with a burgeoning population and various colonies or ‘nagars’, many high rise buildings, malls and multiplexes.


Bombay Addict said...

Thanks for this Abodh!

Full2 Faltu said...

How do you find such information abodh?

got your mail for batchmate. I think you should join Orkut. You are quite famous on orkut


narendra shenoy said...

I've heard a version that Girgaon is a shortened form of giran-gaon from the Marathi "girni" which means mill.

Abodh said...

BA : you are welcome !

full2 : well by straying around! The batchmate mail was generated by them only. Nopes! No Orkut for me. no time and had a bad experience there even without joining it !!

Narendra : Girangaon literallly means village of mills. No mills were there in Girgaon. Girangaon still exists... ( well hardly any giranis left though). This was the area which covered Parel, Chinchpokli, Lalbaug . In fact a book 'The millworkers of Girangaon' by Neela Adarkar and Meena and a play ( Cotton 56, Polyester 84) based on this book depict its history and ethos.

Abhijit said...

Abodh, I liked your photo-essays:-)