A city within a city: Glimpse into Mumbai’s rich heritage

  • Badri Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jun 01, 2015 15:44 IST

Did you know it was the St Thomas Cathedral in Fort that gave Churchgate its name? One of the gates of fort, which the East India Company had built to protect their settlement, was the entrance to the church. This was called Churchgate, a name that continues to be used till today.

Nearly 25 Mumbaiites got to know of similar stories when they gathered on Sunday morning under HT’s No TV Weekend heritage walk.

The walk started at Flora Fountain in Fort, through to Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue via VB Gandhi Marg and ended at St Thomas Cathedral on Veer Nariman Road, completing a 500-metre stretch.

Sanaeya Vandrewala, conservation architect, conducted the two-hour walk and imparted valuable information about the three heritage spots in downtown Mumbai. “People cross these places on a daily basis, but hardly anyone knows about their rich heritage,” she said.

Vandrewala explained how post 1860, the Victorian Gothic architecture across the city was termed as ‘Bombay Gothic’ owing to its uniqueness.

“It’s almost like you come across a hidden city when you get to know the story of these Victorian structures and stain glass architectures in south Mumbai. It helps you learn and know your city better. A Sunday well spent,” said Riddhi Thakar, 32, a resident of Bandra.

One of the main attractions — the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue — was the oldest Sephardic Synagogue built by the Sassoon family in 1884. “The building’s significance is attributed to its Jewish traditions as well as Indian and English colonial influences. One can see the Torah scrolls placed in the cabinet below the stained glass panels facing west towards Jerusalem,” said Vandrewala.

Business analyst and a resident of Kandivli, Rajesh Gupta, 42, who had come along with his children said this was his first experience at learning about the iconography and symbolism depicted through the city’s architecture. “It was like going back in time and actually viewing various symbols that show us the rich Jewish culture,” he said.

“More such walks need to be conducted as they create awareness about historic landmarks that might just go missing owing to the rampant development,” said Indranil Sarkar, a Mahim resident.

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