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Mumbai's hidden heritage

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Mumbai's hidden heritage

A few priceless pieces of our city’s heritage that Bharat Gothoskar thinks don’t get enough attention

November 28, 2017 01:25 am | Updated 01:46 pm IST

Vurjeevandas Sanatorium, Sion

Healthcare past

Mumbai, India - 23 November. 2017: Vurjevandas Sanitarium at Sion in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, November 23, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

Mumbai, India - 23 November. 2017: Vurjevandas Sanitarium at Sion in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, November 23, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

This was once the last building on Parel, one of the seven islands of Bombay, before the Duncan Causeway connected it to Salsette Island. It sits on a small road off the Sion-Panvel highway, facing the Sion Talao, an ancient water body. It was built by Vurjeevandas Madhowdas, a wealthy businessman of the time, as a sanatorium for the Bhatia community. Its attached dispensary was later transformed into an Ayurveda college. The hill has a herbal garden on its slopes, and on the top is an old watch-tower.

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Baradevi, Parel

Standing tall

Mumbai, India - 22 November. 2017: Baradevi Temple at Parel Village in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

Mumbai, India - 22 November. 2017: Baradevi Temple at Parel Village in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

On a narrow lane atop a hill in Parel village, in a room by itself, is this huge statue, or rather an unfinished relief. The site is next to the Chandika Devi temple, established in 1926. It is assumed to be an unfinished work — it was found amidst stone chips — and was discovered in 1931, while digging during the making of a road linking Parel and Sewree stations. Nearly 12 feet high, the central figure — thought to be Shiva — is surrounded by six others. It is also known as the Parel Heptad (from the Greek word for a set of seven) but locally known as Baradevi (12 goddesses). Experts believe that it was a backdrop to a Chaturmukha lingam and dates to the 5th to 6th century C.E. Other ancient relics were found in this area, which are all now in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. But the locals refused to let this one be moved, and instead a plaster cast sits in the museum.

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Votive Stupa, Shivaji Park

Thanksgiving

Mumbai, India - 22 November. 2017: Votive Stupa at Dadar in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

Mumbai, India - 22 November. 2017: Votive Stupa at Dadar in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, November 22, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

When one thinks of a stupa, one imagines a large dome. But they come in many shapes, and a small one is currently lying behind the Siddhivinayak society near Shivaji Park. It is common in Indic culture to make a votive offering — the local word is nawas — a thank you to God for fulfilling wishes. Buddhists would erect a small stone stupa as a mark of the thanks to the divine. The locals, though, consider this to be a Shiva lingam, and offer flowers to it. Experts believe that the stupa dates back to the 8th century.

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Eksar Veergal (hero stones), Borivali

Saga in stone

Mumbai, India - 23 November. 2017: The Eksar hero stones or war memorials are flat basalt tablets, between four and eight feet high, with intricately carved panels depicting ships and sailors – something rarely seen on hero stones, which usually depict land battles.The Eksar stones are the only ones in Maharashtra that indicate that the 12th-century Shilahara dynasty had a navy and fought a sea battle at Borivali in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, November 23, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

Mumbai, India - 23 November. 2017: The Eksar hero stones or war memorials are flat basalt tablets, between four and eight feet high, with intricately carved panels depicting ships and sailors – something rarely seen on hero stones, which usually depict land battles.The Eksar stones are the only ones in Maharashtra that indicate that the 12th-century Shilahara dynasty had a navy and fought a sea battle at Borivali in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, November 23, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

‘Hero stones’ are commonly seen in peninsular India; they commemorate those who gave up their lives defending their villages or kingdoms. They commonly have symbols like the sun, the moon, a pot of nectar, or even a battle scene. One set of hero stones can be found in Eksar, Borivali. What makes these unique is one panel shows a naval battle, which historians estimate took place in the 11th or 12th century, when the area was ruled by the Shilahara dynasty, whose capital was in Thane. It is the only proof that Shilaharas had naval capabilities. Locals worship these hero stones as their goddess.

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Walchand Bungalows, Antop Hill

Staff quarters

Mumbai, India - 23 November. 2017: Walchand Bungalow NO 2 which is Old British era bungalow at Antop Hill, Wadala in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, November 23, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

Mumbai, India - 23 November. 2017: Walchand Bungalow NO 2 which is Old British era bungalow at Antop Hill, Wadala in Mumbai, India, on Thursday, November 23, 2017. (Photo by Prashant Waydande)

On top of Antop Hill — an anglicisation of Antoba, the name of a one-time owner — these four bungalows sit in lush, green grounds. The Walchand business family bought along with Rubber Hume Pipe Company from British owners. The bungalows are believed to have been built in the mid-19th Century by the British administration. At least 35 families, descendants of employees of the company, have been living in the buildings since the 1930s. The Dosti Acres residential complex lies at the site of what used to be the factory. A fascinating nugget about the property: a safety bunker was built here during World War II to protect the residents in case of an air attack by Japan.

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Footnote

Bharat Gothaskar is founder and principal of Khaki Tours

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