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Restoring Mumbai’s forgotten drinking water fountains

The Mumbai pyaau project aims to restore three landmark pyaaus in South Mumbai by the end of December

mumbai Updated: Aug 05, 2016 11:18 IST
Tanushree Venkatraman
Tanushree Venkatraman
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Pyaaus,Water Fountains
The Vitthal Koli pyaau at Gokhale Road, Dadar.

A group of passionate Mumbaiites and architects have come together to restore the city’s 50-odd pyaaus or drinking water fountains. The Mumbai pyaau project aims to restore three landmark pyaaus – the Vitthal Koli pyaau situated at Gokhale Road, Dadar, the Sir Cowasjee Jehangir pyaau located at Kalachowkie and Devidas Purbhoodas Kothari pyaau at Fort — by the end of December.

Constructed between 1860 and 1930, most of the pyaaus were built by merchants. Water charity was considered to be a noble deed. The merchants’ families donated the pyaaus in memory of a deceased relative.

The Ratanji Mulshi fountain at Fort has the sculpture of a young boy standing atop the fountain and reading a book. It is believed that the boy died at a young age and his father built it in his memory.

The restored Keshavji Naik pyaau at Masjid Bunder.

“These pyaaus were like street furniture in those days. A place where people would meet, relax. By initiating the revival of these fountains, we are trying to bring back an essential part of Mumbai’s socio-cultural element that is slowly diminishing,” said Rahul Chemburkar, a conservation architect associated with the project.

Chemburkar played an integral part in the restoration of the Keshavji Naik pyaau at Masjid Bunder a few years ago. The pyaau, he says, was covered with trees and dirt. Made of Malad, Kurla, Basalt and Red Agra stones, the pyaau also served as a clock tower and a resting place, he said. Post restoration, the pyaau is fully functioning.

“There is a person employed at the pyaau who serves water in brass vessels. The idea of this project is to create awareness about such structures in the city and sensitise people towards them,” he said.

The 50-odd pyaaus are also on the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC)’s heritage list. Most of them have been classified as Grade-II or Grade-III structures, which means they cannot be touched without the heritage committee’s prior approval. Apart from restoration, the group also aims to place plaques with information related to the pyaau and murals depicting Mumbai’s past.

First Published: Aug 05, 2016 11:11 IST