Mumbai to get 15,000-sq-ft museum in bunker found under Raj Bhavan
History lovers in the city will soon be able to visit a British-era underground bunker found under the Raj Bhavan three years ago. President Ramnath Kovind will inaugurate the museum today, though the bunker museum is expected to be opened to the public after monsoon.
The bunker was discovered in August 2016, after being closed for more than six decades. Spread over 15,000 square feet, the museum has retained the original features of the bunker and will tell the history of the Raj Bhavan as well as Maharashtra’s rich martial heritage using holographic projection technology.
“The discovery of the underground bunker in Raj Bhavan had generated tremendous excitement among the people of Maharashtra and elsewhere in the country,” said Ch Vidyasagar Rao, governor of Maharashtra. “There were numerous constraints in opening the bunker. I am glad that we have not only overcome the constraints in conserving the century-old bunker, but have also created a virtual reality-assisted museum that would engage visitors with our glorious past and great future.”
The bunker has a 20-ft tall majestic gate and 13 rooms, which visitors will be able to access when the museum opens to the public around October-November this year. There will be audio commentary that will detail the history and the bunker’s restoration. “Visitors will get an opportunity to virtually fire the cannons besides visiting the 13 rooms that are part of the museum. The dioramas of cannons and soldiers, optical illusions of a bunker have also been created for the real time experience. We have also installed a buggy in the museum that was used to ferry the governors living here during the British era. We have pictures and posters to talk about the historical structures and moments that Raj Bhavan has witnessed for decades,” said an official from the Raj Bhavan.
After a retired staff member of the Raj Bhavan informed the governor of the existence of a ‘tunnel’ beneath the governor’s residence and office at Jal Bhushan, the temporary wall that closed the entrance to the bunker on eastern side was broken in August 2016. The governor decided to restore the structure and convert it to a museum. A team of experts including historians, conservation experts and architects was appointed. After the structural audit, the strengthening of the bunker’s structure was carried out and then, the design of the museum chalked out. “While restoring the bunker, we have ensured that the sanctity of the heritage structure was maintained. By opening the bunkers to citizens, we are keen to engage them with our proud past,” said the governor.
On Saturday evening, President Kovind inaugurated Jal Kiran, a presidential guest house at Raj Bhavan, where he will stay during his two-day visit to Maharashtra. He will also perform bhoomipujan for reconstruction of Jal Bhushan. He unveiled a plaque to mark the completion of restoration of the two 22-tonne cannons from the pre-World War I era that were discovered last year and have since been restored and placed in front of the banquet hall at the Raj Bhavan.