Just around the corner of Jagannath Shankar Seth Road, Girgaum, one comes across wooden houses with tiled roofs that look unworldly, surrounded by skyscrapers. Khotachiwadi, from the outside, seems a complete misfit in the 21st century.
The history of this quaint village traces back nearly two centuries. In the 1850s, Dadoba Waman Khot — a Bramhin who owned land in Girgaum — helped develop a settlement, that comprised of the local fishermen, Portuguese migrants from Goa, and East India Company’s immigrants. This became one of the earliest settlements in earstwhile Bombay, and the term Khotachiwadi, which translates into ‘the garden of Khot’, was officially adapted by the community in 1880 in Khot’s honour.
We bring you an insider’s look, on this heritage village that has seen nearly 200 years of change in the city and has managed to retain a few elements of originality and resilience.
DID YOU KNOW
* Right next to Khotachiwadi are Kandewadi (onion garden), Ambewadi (mango garden), Phanaswadi (jackfruit garden). These were built to sustain the residential community in Girgaum and provided for the agrarian society in Khotachiwadi.
* The above arrangement is traditionally called a gavthan, meaning a self-sustaining village. Bombay was built on 189 gavthans with Khotachiwadi being the southernmost and the one closest to the beach that we now know as Girgaum Chowpatty. It was pushed further inland only when the local train lines were laid in the late 1850s.
* Of all the families who originally settled in the wadi, 20 to 25 families continue living in their ancestral homes. All of these families have been residing harmoniously, despite belonging to various religious backgrounds.
* The wooden houses represent typical Portuguese architecture styles; they all have a large, open front porch, a back courtyard and an external staircase to access the floor above. All the houses here are made of teak that was shipped from Burma. The walls around the wood are made of limestone and sand.
* The community had six wells in the original settlement. Today, post all the renovation, only two wells remain.
Visit these landmarks the next time you are in Khotachiwadi
Chapel: It was built as a gesture of gratitude to the almighty for having saved all of Khotachiwadi’s residents from the Bombay plague epidemic of the 1890s. Its walls are painted pink, keeping with the flowers that bloomed on a Quercia tree next to the church. However, the tree kept catching fire multiple times during Mumbai summers and had to be axed.
Ferreira House: One can find a piece of the Quercia tree log in the front porch.
Misquitta House: Bridget Misquitta is the oldest member of the community and is well in her nineties.
Ideal Wafer House: The only three storied structure in the community, it now houses a chips shop on its front porch.
Khanderao Block: This chawl was built for the helpers who worked for the residents of Khotachiwadi. Chawls are an extension of the Portuguese structures, with porches on every floor.