Doesn’t this look like Hogwarts from Harry Potter?” asks Dr Anita Rane- Kothare, head of the Ancient Indian Culture department at St Xavier’s College. Named after St Francis Xavier, the 16th century Spanish Jesuit priest, Xavier’s opened its gates in 1869, at Esplanade Cross Road, the present day Carnac Road, Fort. The Jesuits, however, continued struggling with funds to keep the college running till, finally, the government gifted them a plot of land on a 999-year lease for Rs 1 per annum. And so the college began with 11 male students (girls were admitted only in 1912), and has more than 4,500 students today.
DID YOU KNOW?
* The Blatter Herbarium on the terrace of the chapel is a botany library established in 1906 by the Jesuit Priest Reverend Fr E Blatter. It is the only herbarium in India which preserves over 2,00,000 plant specimens such as algae, fungi, bryophytes, pteridophytes, gymnosperms and flowering plants. Some of plants were planted as early as 1816. It has collection of books on botany right from 1758.
* The hall, which acts as the institute’s auditorium, contains two secret underground passages, below the stage. Initially used as storage, they are now shut courtesy sewage from the surrounding subways.
* The Heras Institute, an in-house museum named after Fr Henry Heras who came to India in 1922. The museum preserves his collection of paintings, statues, lamps and seals which he collected over three decades. It has the biggest collection of Mesopotamian cylindrical seals in the country. The museum is open to the public on request only.
* The institute contains a section called the Woods, popular among students. An aerial of the woods reads XIC (St Xavier’s Institute of Communication) but isn’t visible now due to heavy tree plantations.
* The backside of the library contains bullet marks from 26/11 terror attacks. This side of the college shares a wall with a Corporation Bank opposite Rang Bhuvan, where Hemant Karkare was shot.