September 13, 2010

A History of Ancient Bombay (Part II)

Continued from previous post
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Many roads in Bandra, e.g., Perry, Carter, Bullock, Kane, and Bates were named after British collectors and magistrates. Mr. Carter was Collector of Bandra in 1924 and Mr. Bullock was a Chief Magistrate at Bandra Court. St. Stanislaus School was started in 1863 as a 'Native Boys Orphanage'. It became a High School in 1923 and was the first English medium school in the suburbs after the Scottish Orphanage at Mahim.
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Christians in Bandra were mostly of the Koli, Bhandari and Kunbi castes. The architect of today’s Mount Mary's Church was a Parsi named Shahpoorjee Chandabhoy. The basilica was built in 1904 at a cost of one lakh, a great amount in those days. It was the first time a non-catholic was asked to build a church. The original basilica was built to serve the Portuguese garrison posted at Castella de Aguada - the Bandra Fort at Lands End. Castella de Aguada, which in Portuguese means “Fort By the Water”, was built in 1640 to keep a watch over the mainland of Salsette. It was destroyed in a fire in 1739 and rebuilt in 1761, the year marking the beginning of Bandra Feast as it is celebrated today. In 1739 with the threat of Maratha invasion, the Portuguese appealed to the British for help. The British, within the safety of Bombay Fort, suggested to the Portuguese to destroy all fortifications around the chapel and the fortress Aguada was put to the torch. Despite this, the Marathas took over and ruled for two decades. But after the third battle of Panipat in January 1761, between the Afghans and the Marathas, Maratha power declined and Salsette including Bandra gradually came under British rule. The Portuguese were left with just Goa, Daman, and Diu. And the French still had Pondicherry.
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The English found in this newly-acquired territory of Salsette, thousands of Indian families who had converted to Christianity. It was from these families that the British drew their supplies of bandmasters, clerks, assistants, and secretaries. At that time there was hardly a Hindu or a Muslim who could read Roman characters. There was also a large influx of Christians from Goa, Karnataka and Kerala and this prompted local converts to take the name of 'East Indians' and formed the East Indian Association on 26 May 1887 to distinguish the 'sons of the soil' who were the first employees of the India Company from Indian Christians who came from further down the west coast and shared the same names and religion, and as expected, also vied for the same jobs.
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Parel belonged to the 13th century kingdom of Hindu Raja Bhimdev. The name Parel may have come from the Parali Vaijanath Mahadev temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Sewri, a small hamlet on the eastern shore of this island, was then called Shivdi, from another shrine to Shiva. During the Portuguese occupation of Parel island the Parali Mahadev temple was replaced by a Jesuit church and convent. They remained with the Jesuits until they were confiscated by the British, when the Jesuit priests sided with the Siddis during their battle with the British in 1689. In 1719 the buildings at Parel became the official summer residence of the Governor of Bombay. In the 1770s, when William Hornby was the Governor (1771-1784), he shifted his official residence to Parel. This area then became one of the poshest quarters of the city! A fort at Sewri dates from about this time. The glory days of Parel and Sewri lasted well into the 19th century. The Agri-Horticultural Society had established gardens at Sewri, which were acquired in 1865 by Arthur Crawford, then the Municipal Commissioner, for building a European cemetery which still exists. Two years later, tanners and dealers in dry fish were relocated in this area. By the 1870's several cotton mills had been established in the reclaimed lands in west Parel. With these developments Parel became very polluted due to burning of coal in the mills. In 1883 the wife of the Governor, John Fitzgibbon (1831-1835), died of Cholera in the Government House at Parel. Two years later the Governor's official residence was moved to Malabar Point opposite Chowpatty, where it remains to this day. In 1899, Dr. Waldemar Mordecai Wolfe Haffkine, a brilliant Jewish student of Dr. Louis Pasteur, founded a Plague Research Laboratory in Parel. In 1925 the old Government House at Parel was leased to the newly founded Haffkine Institute, thus honoring its founder for his tireless work to rid the country of deadly infectious diseases, such as rabies and the plague.
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Pioneering work on fighting tuberculosis was carried out by a German bacteriologist Dr Robert Koch. Koch visited Bombay in 1883 and again in 1902 and worked at the J.J. Hospital in a single room studying the causes of TB and cholera. The laboratory at J.J. Hospital began to be termed as “Koch’s Room” and can still be seen next to the morgue. He showed that a certain bacillus now termed “Koch’s Bacillus” was the real cause of TB. For his path-breaking investigation and discoveries in relation to TB, Koch was awarded the 1905 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Dr. Koch died on May 27, 1910, in Baden-Baden, Germany at the age of 67.
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Dr. H.A. Ackworth, was Municipal Commissioner of Bombay in the 1890s. He had devoted much attention to the disease of leprosy. Hence when a special home to house sufferers of this dreaded disease was constructed at Wadala by the BMC, it was named after him. The home still exists and does great work among leprosy patients. However, the number of patients at the hospital is declining and the number of beds available has been reduced in recent years from 500 to 240. One of the wards has been turned in to a Leprosy Museum.
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In 1897 Seth Ardeshir Burjorji Godrej (1868-1936) founded the Godrej Brothers Co. at Lalbaugh. They started making locks and safes, and then moved on to soaps, steel furniture and refrigerators. Seth Ardeshir became a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and believed in not only boycotting British goods, but manufacturing them himself, surpassing the quality of the imported goods.
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The origin of the Dabbawallas' lunch delivery service dates back to the 1890s during the British Raj. At that time, males from various communities migrated to Mumbai for work. As there were no canteens or fast food centers then, if working people did not bring their lunch from home, they had to go hungry or go every day to a restaurant which was expensive. Even if the males had a wife or a cook, invariably lunch would not be ready when they left home for work early in the morning. Besides, different communities had different tastes and preferences that could only be satisfied by a home-cooked meal. Recognizing the need, Mahadeo Havaji Bacche (Mahadeo), a migrant from North Maharashtra, started the lunch delivery service. For his enterprise, Mahadeo recruited youth from the villages neighboring Mumbai, who were involved in agricultural work. They were willing to come as the income they got from agriculture was not enough to support their large families, and they had no education or skills to get work in the city. The service started with about 100 Dabbawalas and cost the client Rs.2 a month. Gradually, the number of Dabbawalas increased and the service continued even after the founder was no more. Following an intricate color and sign system the Dabbawallas can identify where exactly a tiffin box has to be delivered and returned back to its owner after the lunch is consumed. In 1998, Forbes Global magazine, conducted a quality assurance study on the Dabbawallas' operations and gave it a Six Sigma efficiency rating of 99.999999; i.e., the Dabbawallas made one error in six million transactions. That put them on the list of Six Sigma rated companies, along with multinationals like Motorola and GE. Their fame has spread world-wide, so much so, that Prince Charles of England insisted on meeting them during his visit to the city in 2003. Today there are about 5,000 Dabbawallas in Bombay.
. The present day Mazagaon (“maza” meaning “my” and “gaon” meaning “native place” in Goanese language) especially has a faded charm of it for it was originally a Portuguese settlement. The mangoes from trees in Mazagaon, fruiting twice a year, were so famous during those days that they are said to have been transported to Delhi to be served on the table of Mogul Emperor Shah Jehan. Most of the historic mansions of Mazagaon are now gone, save for the house of the successful Jewish merchant/banker and philanthropist Sir David Sassoon, named "Sans Souci". This house still exists as the main building of the Masina Hospital. Nearby, the Victoria Gardens Zoo was laid out in 1861. It now houses a museum where some of the relics from Bombay's past, including many statues of British monarchs and dignitaries which used to once grace the streets of Bombay, can be seen.
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Bombay boats of two most prominent synagogues: The Magen Hassidim Synagogue in Agripada (1904), and the Magen David Sassoon Synagogue at Byculla, each belonging to two distinct Jewish communities that played a key role in Bombay’s development. The Baghdadi Jews visited Bombay as traders from the 1750s onwards and are considered the newer entrants to the city. Some of them eventually settled down in Bombay and Poona, among them Sir David Sassoon. In fact, Sir David came to Bombay in 1832 with his family fleeing from the retributions of the Wali of Baghdad. Another smaller synagogue, the Shaar Harahamin, is located in Samuel Street at Masjid Bunder. This place of worship dates from 1796. It was built by one Samuel Ezekiel Divekar, a member of the Bene Israel Jewish community who are descendents of the original 14 Jews that survived a shipwreck on the Konkan coast over 1000 years ago. During the Anglo-Mysore wars Divekar, fighting for the British, was captured by Tipu Sultan, the Tiger of Mysore. However, he was pardoned and built the synagogue in gratitude to God.
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Near the southern end of Byculla Road Bridge is the statue of a Parsi standing tall and upright. The statue is therefore also called “Khada Parsi” by the locals. It is the statue of Khurshedji Maneckji Shroff, a favorite catering contractor for the British. The statue was installed by his son Maneckji in 1867, who continued the catering business. Rajas and Maharajas were also among his clients. He was twice elected Sheriff of Bombay. He was a great champion of girls’ education and opened a school in his spacious bungalow at Byculla in 1860. But three years later he shifted the school to the Fort area and named it Alexandra Native Girls’ English Institution, which much later became the Alexandra Girls’s High School. Maneckji died at the age of 80 years in 1887. The statue still stands though dwarfed by recently built flyovers.
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Early nineteenth century Bombay could not have been proud of its roads. Even the so-called main roads were very narrow. Horse-owners would often use them for stabling the animals. The government woke up to the situation in 1806, and issued orders for the widening of the Parel Road and the Breach Candy Road to sixty feet. The Sheikh Memon Road and the Dongri Road were widened to forty feet. Twenty feet was laid down as the minimum width for the cross-streets. The city, as we know, has not yet done with the widening of its roads. In those days, once the night set in, the fort area would wear a deserted look. No horse-drawn carriages were seen on the road, and persons crossing the Esplanade, Oval or Azad maidans would be in danger of being attached by thieves and robbers.
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The city of Bombay underwent remarkable transformation during the 1860s. Wide modern roads were planned. By 1868 the roads from the Elphinstone Circle (now Horniman Circle) to Bazar Gate, and from there to Foras Road, had been completed. Apollo Street was widened. Bellasis Road, and the road linking Babula Tank with Elphinstone Bridge, were laid during these years. The population of certain parts of the city, like Dongri, Mazgaon, Girgaon, Byculla and Mahalaxmi, was increasing which necessitated new roads and the widening of the existing ones; the Girgaon Road, for example, was widened; and so were the roads in the Kamathipura area. Charni Road was extended to Falkland Road. Worli and Parel were linked by a road, named Fergusson Road. The Jacob Circle (named after the grandson of Sir David Sassoon) was laid; so was Sankhli Street. All these were macadamized roads. Tarred roads had not yet been heard of. The first steam-roller appeared on the city roads in 1869 and roads began to be tarred. They were phased out in favour of diesel-fueled rollers only in the 1950s, a period of almost 100 years!
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The city had its first residential gas-light in 1833. The credit for this rather romantic source for light goes to Seth Ardeshir Cursetjee Wadia, a Parsi master ship builder, who had installed a plant for producing coal gas at his residence. The Governor of Bombay, John FitzGibbon we are told, once visited Seth Cursetjee's place when it was lighted up with gas lamps and was so impressed by it that in 1834 gas street lighting was proposed for all of Bombay. However, it was not before the proposal was discussed threadbare for ten years that Bombay's streets had lights for the first time. These were originally installed as kerosene lamps in 1843. In the meantime, another Parsi sethia, Framji Cawasji Banaji had gas-lights intalled at his residence at Mazagaon in 1842. Crowsa of people used to throng to the two Parsi residences to check out the “novel lights”.
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The first gas lamps appeared on Bombay's roads in October 1865. Bhendi Bazar, Esplanade Road (now Mahatma Gandhi Road) and Churchgate Street (now Veer Nariman Road) were the first roads chosen to be lit up. Later the Queen's necklace on the Marine Drive was also lit up with gas lamps (this author had himself seen the Marine Drive gas lights, affectionately called the Queen’s Necklace, in the 1950s from Hanging Gardens). A gas lamp-lighter, employed by the municipality, would run along the streets from one side to the next. He carried a long pole with a hook at the end. He would use the hook to bring a tiny perpetual gas flame in contact with the asbestos gauze which would eventually light up with brilliance. It generated quite an excitement for the Bombayites. During the first few weeks crowds of people would follow the lamp-lighter; they would watch him do it with almost a sense of wonder. Towards the early morning the lamp-lighter would return to extinguish the lights. Coal and wood fires for cooking gave way to piped gas supplied by the Bombay Gas Company with its head offices on Hornby Road and the gas works at Lal Baugh. Once a month or so the Gas Company employees would come to eject the water build-up in the underground gas pipes by means of a hand pump. This was a brownish colored foul smelling liquid. The Gas Company halted its operations in the 1960s due to air pollution problems it generated in the Parel-Lal Baugh area.
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The Zoroastrian Towers of Silence on Malabar Hill were built by Seth Modi Hirji Vachha in 1672 with a land grant from the British on a 999-year lease through the good offices of the Governor, Gerald Aungier (1669-1677). Aungier passed away only five years later in 1677. The Zoroastrians believe in venerating the earth, fire, and water and hence they prefer to expose their dead to the sun and flesh-eating birds (vultures) within the confines of the Towers of Silence. The first fire-temple was also built in the same year by Seth Vachha opposite his residence at Modikhana within the British Fort. Both of these structures can still be seen today although they have been expanded and strengthened. For example, Seth Framji Cawasji Banaji constructed a Tower of Silence on Malabar Hill that was consecrated on 3rd may 1832 by Parsi Dastur Rustomji Kaikobad Mullaferoze before a large gathering. Subsequently Seth Framji also constructed the Banaji Fire-temple at Charni Road which was inaugurated on 13th December 1845 by Dastur Jamshedji Edalji Jamaspasana.
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The inroads of the sea at Worli, Mahim, and Mahalaxmi turned the ground between the islands into swamps making Bombay an extremely unhealthy place at that time due to prevalence of Malaria. Many commuters going to the Fort by boat between islands lost their lives when there was a storm during the monsoon season. During the next 40 years much was done to improve matters. Reclamation work to stop the breeches at Mahalaxmi and Worli were undertaken. The work on the Hornby Vellard began in 1708 during the Governorship of Mr. William Hornby (1771 to 1784). The directors of the East India Co. objected to the expense of its construction, but Hornby did not give orders to stop the work and it was completed in 1784. In 1803 Bombay was connected with Salsette by a causeway at Sion (1803). The island of Colaba was joined to Bombay in 1838 by a causeway now called Colaba Causeway.
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The Mahalaxmi temple is dedicated to Mahalaxmi, Lord Vishnu's consort. Built around 1785, the history of this temple is supposedly connected with the building of the Hornby Vellard. Apparently after portions of the sea-wall of the Vellard collapsed twice during construction, the chief engineer, a Pathare Prabhu, dreamt of a Lakshmi statue in the sea near Worli. Legend has it that a search of the sea nearby by local fishermen recovered the statue and he built a temple for it. After this, the work on the Vellard was completed without a hitch.
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Before the railway was built, crossing the Mahim Creek to go to the industrial town of Bombay was by ferry sail boats. After many boats capsized during the monsoon storms with loss of goods and human life, work on a Causeway, designed by Lt. Crawford, began in 1842 connecting Mahim and Bandra with funds donated exclusively by Lady Avabai Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, wife of the first baronet Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, with a stipulation that no toll would be charged to citizens for its use by the government. Initially the cost was estimated at Rs. 100,000 but as the work commenced in 1842 the cost escalated. When the initial sum was exhausted and work about to stop Lady Jeejeebhoy once again dipped into her personal purse and made a second donation to the treasury of Rs.57,000 and the causeway was opened to the public in 1845. The total cost was Rs. 1,55,800, a handsome amount of money in those days.
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Sir Robert Grant (1779-1838) governed Bombay from 1835 to 1838 and was responsible for the construction of a number of roads between Bombay and the hinterland. The Thana and Colaba Causeways were built during his tenure as well as the Grant Medical College attached to the Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy (aka Sir J.J.) Group of hospitals. The Grant Road railway station is also named after him.
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Sir Jehangir B. Boman-Behram was last President and first Mayor of Bombay Municipal Corporation. (1931-32) It was during his presidentship that the President of the Corporation was designated as Mayor, on 22nd October 1931. Born in July 1868 in Bombay, the young Boman-Behram graduated in Arts in 1890. Thereafter he obtained the degree of L.L.B. and practiced as an Attorney for two decades and became a partner of a Solicitors Firm for 5 years. Then he gave up his profession to do public service. He was elected to the Corporation On 1st April 1919 from 'A' Ward. He was the Chairman of the Standing Committee during 1928-29, and also of the then Schools Committee for the year 1928-29. He was also a member of City Improvements Committee, Election Committee and Law Revenue and General Purposes Committee for some time. Sir Boman Behram represented the Corporation while he was a Councillor, on various outside Institutions for a number of years. He rendered valuable services especially during communal disturbances in the City. Sir J. B. Boman-Behram was primarily instrumental in forming citizens' Conciliatory Committee and the Welfare of India League. It was due to his efforts that the hospitals in the city received financial aid from the H.O.H. fete organized in 1934. He died on 29th December 1919.
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In 1813 there were 10,801 persons living in the Fort, 5,464 or nearly 50%, of them Parsis. By 1864 the ramparts of the Fort were completely dismantled to free much land for building development. With the growth of the city more people moved from the Fort to such suburbs as Byculla, Parel, Malabar Hill, and Mazagaon. The first club, the Sans Souci Club, was formed in 1765 but had no permanent premises and used to meet at the Duncan Cameron Tavern in the fort. The first permanent club was formed at Byculla in 1833. European sports clubs for cricket and other games came in to existence early in the 19th Century. The Bombay Gymkhana, at the southern end of Azad Maidan, was formed in 1875 bringing together several smaller clubs, and the Yatch Club assumed an aspect of permanence in 1880 at Apollo Bunder. Both clubs were exclusively for Europeans. Other communities followed this example, and various Catholic, Parsi, Muslim, and Hindu gymkhanas were started on nearby Kennedy Sea Face along Marine Drive, with fierce sports competitions among them being organized on a communal basis. Some of these Gymkhanas can still be seen on Marine Drive between the Taraporewala Aquarium and the Princess Street flyover. The Japanese Gymkhana on Wodehouse Road next to the Cooperage became the Wodehouse Gymkhana. However, in order to encourage more social intercourse between the Europeans and Indians, the Orient Club was started in 1900. Subsequently the Willingdon Club was opened in 1917, with backing by the Viceroy of India, Lord Willingdon, who, as Governor of Bombay (1913-1918), did his best to bring Englishmen and Indians closer together socially and to establish a better understanding of each other’s customs among them.
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The Pentangular cricket tournament had its origins in an annual match played between the Europeans of the Bombay Gymkhana and the Parsis of the Zoroastrian Cricket Club. The first such game was played in 1877 when the Bombay Gymkhana accepted a challenge for a two-day match from the Parsis. The game was played in good spirits, with the Parsis surprising the Europeans by taking a first innings lead. The Europeans recovered, but the match was drawn with the sides evenly poised. From 1879-1883, the Parsis and Hindus of Bombay were locked in a struggle against the governing Europeans over the use of the playing fields known as the Bombay Maidan. Gymkhana members would play polo on the field, rendering much of it useless for cricket because of the large divots left by the horses, while sparing their own European-only cricket ground. With this dispute settled in favour of the natives, the Europeans versus Parsis matches resumed in 1884. The 1889 match was highly memorable as a thrilling victory for the Parsis! With the Gymkhana set a low target of 53 runs in the final innings, the Parsi captain M.E. Pavri bowled so well that the Europeans were dismissed for 50, just 3 runs short of victory. By 1900, the Presidency Match - as the Europeans versus Parsis game had come to be called - was the highlight of the Bombay cricket season. In the 19 matches to this year, the teams had won eight each and drawn three. However, by 1946 with the independence of India imminent, several secular-minded persons such as the late A.F.S. Talyarkhan opposed sports competition on communal or race basis, especially cricket matches, which came to an end after independence from Britain in 1947.
.Lord Harris served as Governor of the Presidency of Bombay 1890 to 1894. His appointment was not universally well regarded, with one anonymous writer penning a poem expressing the hope that Bombay would not suffer too greatly from Harris' political inexperience. His governorship was notable mainly for his enthusiastic pursuit of the sport of cricket amongst his fellow Europeans in the colony, at the expense of connecting with the native population. When the interracial Bombay riots of 1893 broke out, Harris was out of the city at Ganeshkind (near Poona) enjoying cricket matches. He returned to Bombay only on the ninth day of rioting, and then primarily to attend a cricket match there. Many later writers credited Harris with almost single-handedly introducing and developing the sport of cricket. The Harris Shield cricket tournament is his legacy and still played among the schools of Bombay. The game was, however, well established among the natives before his arrival. Furthermore, in 1890, he rejected a petition signed by over 1,000 locals to relocate European polo players to another ground so that the locals could use the area for cricket matches. It was only in 1892 that he granted a parcel of land to the newly formed Mahomedan Gymkhana for a cricket field, adjacent to land already used by the Parsi Gymkhana. When Harris left India, a publisher circulated a collection of newspaper extracts from his time as governor. The introduction stated: “Never during the last hundred years has a Governor of Bombay been so sternly criticized and never has he met with such widespread unpopularity on account of his administration as Lord Harris.”
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Continued below