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Home / More Lifestyle / Insider’s guide: The secret passages of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai

Insider’s guide: The secret passages of St Xavier’s College, Mumbai

The heritage structure that houses one of the best academic institutes in the city is also home to Indo-Gothic architectural marvels

more-lifestyle Updated: Feb 05, 2016, 14:58 IST
As told to Nidhi Choksi
As told to Nidhi Choksi
Hindustan Times
St Xavier’s College is home to Indo-Gothic architectural marvels
St Xavier’s College is home to Indo-Gothic architectural marvels

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.


* 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.

Soft rock: The gemmology department preserves Itacolumite, a rare sandstone that can be bent in any direction. It is predominantly found in Itacolumi, Brazil. In India, it is found at Jhajjar, Haryana. (Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/HT)

* 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.

Century old books: The main college library houses over 1,50,000 books, from the 16th and 17th century. The Rare Books section includes a Marathi Bible from the 18th century and H Becher’s Remarks and Occurences, a collection of old maps, which is only known copy of the book. (Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/HT)

* 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.

Stories on a pillar: Each of the pillar reliefs of the structure have designs: leaves, birds and animals. One of the pillars has a carving of a cat and numerous mice around it. It tells the story of a friendly cat who befriended the mice. (Photo: Anshuman Poyrekar/HT)

* 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.

ht epaper

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