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Heritage milestones lie neglected

The milestones that were placed across the city over two hundred years ago, which are grade-I heritage structures, are in a state of despair.

mumbai Updated: Aug 23, 2010 01:04 IST
Bhavika Jain
Bhavika Jain
Hindustan Times

The milestones that were placed across the city over two hundred years ago, which are grade-I heritage structures, are in a state of despair.

There are 15 milestones listed in the heritage list, of which many are missing or have sunken into the ground because of negligence of the civic contractors while undertaking road-widening projects or while raising the height of the footpath.

When Hindustan Times tried to trace these 15 milestones we could only find seven of them in their original place.

However, they urgent attention from the civic authorities.

HT found the Milestones at Gowalia tank, opposite Chitra Cinema, in Grant Road, Vincent Road in Dadar (West), the one in Sion (east), N.M. Joshi Marg and the one at SS Rao road.

Two milestones stones are placed outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.

While the others in Mahim, the one opposite Voltas house in Byculla, N.M Joshi Marg opposite ESIS bhuvan, on Dr Mascarenhas Road in Mazgaon, at the junction of Chinchpokli and the one in Kalbadevi couldn't be traced.

"Because of the lack of awareness amongst people of the locality, these pieces of history have been lost to haphazard development of the city," said Saleem Ahmadullah, who had documented these milestones in the mid-eighties. One of the recent examples of neglect is that a milestone reading 'II Miles from St Thomas Church' near Voltas house was removed and thrown off along with debris from a footpath that was being widened.

A shop owner damaged the milestone in Kalbadevi because it was obstructing the entrance to his shop. The milestones were originally about four-feet tall made in rough basalt stone. Some of them are being by hawkers and shop owners.

The cobbler sitting near Vincent Street milestone that reads 'VII miles from St Thomas Church' uses it to sharpen his tools. "Mujhe malum hi nahi tha ki yeh patar itna juna hoga (I never thought that this stone could be so old," said Ramdev Pawar the cobbler.

These milestones were built before 1837 on the arterial roads leading from south to north Mumbai. These milestones existed from Horniman Circle to Sion.

They traced the distance from St Thomas's Church (which has now been elevated to the status of a Cathedral) because all the roads started from the church then. “In those days, there were few roads and people use to travel on horses. These milestones provided reference points," said historian Sharada Dwivedi, historian and researcher.

The reason why St Thomas church was chosen is because Bombay (as the city was referred to then) didn’t have any landmarks like a town hall or a post office.

So the British chose this religious structure, which was the first Anglican Church in the city," said Ahmadullah who is 71 years old now.

Members of the civic heritage committee said that several years ago, there was a proposal to excavate all the remaining stones to be displayed in the museum. But the idea was turned down as activists felt that the importance of these milestones was related to their placement.

They felt the milestones were significant in the context of a particular locality.

First Published: Aug 23, 2010 01:02 IST