If my country looks and speaks diversity, Mumbai lives and breathes diversity with its vivid lifestyle. As somebody who has been singing praises and love over an online portal, I can assure you that if you ever come for a visit, I can assure I will fail to impress you with my knowledge regarding the city. So this year, I made a resolution; I will make an attempt to learn about the various nuances of my city – the colors, the linen individuality to the city. I am rambling again aren’t I? Well, I decided to utilize my unfortunate habit of rambling and combined it with my unbridled passion for being lazy and sleeping till late hours and focused it on the heritage city tour of Gamdevi conducted by Khaki Tours. Not only its an excellent way of exploring your city on foot (always the best way to go!) but also Khaki Tours, hosted and conducted by Bharat G, provides a detailed crash course into the history of the city and its cultural influence
For a place measuring half-a-square metre area and one that I barely know about, it was surprising to learn that there are numerous historical anecdotes that has played a large part in shaping Indian history that none of us ever learnt in the four walls of school. So let me introduce you to a photo essay showcasing 5 important highlights of Indian history that originated in the zig-zag lanes of Gamdevi.
- Nationalism of Indian Classical Music. Music was considered to be a talent that solely belonged to the artisan community. Music was said to be a privilege solely for the benefit of exclusive Gharana (which means house or family in Urdu) communities. While Vishu Narayana Bhatkande was the first Indian to write the first modern treatise on Hindustani classical music, B.R. Deodhar visioned Indian music that can be offered to the masses, not only for appreciation but also to have an opportunity to learn and perform. Deodhar School of music was started with this very vision.
2. A Heritage Legacy that captures the essence of time. Built at the foot end of the historic French Bridge, Raut’s Bunglow has witnessed the changes in the landscape of Mumbai since its inception 120 years back.
Built on a prime real estate area of 1548 sq. yards with a budget of 22,500 rupees, the house may belong to a typical Middle Class family, but every inch celebrates the rich heritage and pride. Unfortunately due to the late hours of the evening walk, I wan’t able to view the interiors, but from what the current owners told us, the original owner Jayantibai Raut actually got married in the living room. Other than being awarded the Urban Heritage Award for 1993, Dr. Sakharam Arjun Raut, husband of Jayantibai Raut was a radical man who broke the norms of the society by marrying a widow with children.
3. Advent of Theosophical Society of India. Though the Theosophical movement was first founded by a Russian lady Madam H.P. Blavatsky and a former English army officer, Colonel H .S. Olcott in the United States of America in 1875, it was Mrs. Annie Besant who made the movement popular in India. The ideology of the society can be perfectly seen in the emblem which comprises of:
- The motto of the Society – ‘There is no religion higher than truth’ ;
- A serpent biting its tail (ouroboros) originating from the Greek;
- The swastika;
- The hexagram;
- The cruxansata (Ankh);
- The pin of the Society, composed of cruxansata and serpent entwined, forming together “T.S.”, and
- Om (or aum).
The seal of the Society, in its symbolic form, describes the doctrines which the members follow.
Built with Malad stone originating from Gokuldham, Malad, this structure is originally European in basic design with Indian style red laced stone jharokhas, the two-storeyed lodge houses the Theosophical Society Library which comprises of over 7,000 books, a hall and meeting room which are now rented out for seminars and cultural events.
3. Raghavwadi or Haji Kasam Wadi. After walking through two different areas of Mumbai, I can safely conclude: there is always going to be some building called Wadi which has something to do with history and will showcase architecture to its splendor. Despite the numerous presence of Wadis, surprisingly the origin of the word resides among the world of Arabs which basically means valley.
Raghavwadi was home to the family of the founder of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, Alladiya Khan, in the 1930s. It is also the place where the Goa-Hindu Association held their first meeting away from Goa, due to the absence of religious tolerance at the time of inquisition. Currently the entire area is on the verge of commercialization with the proposal of a 63-storeyed tower.
4. A Miniature of Gateway of India. The iconic landmark of Gateway of India is not an original piece, can you believe that? Well if you continue down the 6-foot wide Lane, Bhendi Gali, the surpise is definitely beyond the narrowest lane of Mumbai.
This street has two unique artifacts that can be considered as the pride and joy of the city. One of the last remaining gas lamps still stand tall narrating a story that is such an integral part of my city. This street is also home to the Yeshwant Siddhi Cooperative Society, the exact location of the palace of Rao Bahadur Yeshwantrao Harishchandra Desai, was the superintendent of the team that built the original Gateway at Apollo Bunder, which boasts of holding the first Gateway of India.
The model has been built originally from the yellow sandstone, specially brought from Kharodi in Rajasthan. This sandstone is water resistant and has helped the structure withstand all the extreme climate conditions in the past. This is the same material that was later used to built the current structure of Gateway of India. The carvings and intricate detailing are present only on the one side and is exactly same as that of the current structure.
5. A modest two-stories building on the prettiest lanes of Mumbai, the Laburnum Road, served for 17 years (1917 – 1934) as the hotbed for Gandhi’s activities. It may have belonged to an ardent devotee of Gandhi, Shri Revashankar Jagjeevan Jhaveri, but today Mani Bhavan is commemorated as a memorial to Gandhi, to his stay here and to the activities that brought the changes in Indian history.
It was Mani Bhavan which sparked the first phase of Gandhi’s non-violent freedom movements. While he was recuperating in Mani Bhavan, Gandhi took his first lessons in carding from a person who used to pass by Mani Bhavan. The first steps of the Satyagraha movement was formulated and initiated within the four walls of this historic building.
This heritage building of national importance is a major tourist attraction for nationals and internationals alike. The ground floor houses the office of the museum and the Library with a rich collection of 40,000 books. The first floor is the auditorium where films on Gandhi and recording s of his speech are played. The second floor displays the room where Gandhi lived and worked, all of which is preserved in its original setting with integrity.
Did this get to much? Well, don’t worry! I will stop, for now. But aren’t you intrigued to see all this historical niches that are out in my city? Are you willing to come to Mumbai now, not only to visit me but also to uncover more hidden stories?