Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Mumbai's Lost Relics

Fountains have fascinated and soothed mankind since time immemorial. In India, the first fountains can be traced back to the Mughal era. Most of the gardens founded by the Mughals in India date back to the 17th and 18th century. There are two types of fountains which are predominantly found in India: ornamental and drinking ones. The practice of establishing ornamental fountains has been the legacy of the Mughal and Rajput princes, they have also been symbols of water charities. Water charity was once considered as a noble deed and often water was donated in the name of a deceased family member. It was believed that donating water would allow the soul of the dead to rest in peace.  

The idea of drinking water fountains or pyaus, as they are locally known in Marathi,  took root during the 1860s when the then Governor demolished the ramparts of the old fort and opened up Bombay. The popular Flora Fountain is a relic of that era. Sadly, there are many pyaus across Mumbai which are being demolished in the name of development and road widening. Pyaus were once the oasis of Mumbai before piped water reached the city. Most of these pyaus provided potable drinking water for the general public and animals. It is interesting to note how most of these pyaus were situated parallel among the erstwhile tram lines and crowded business districts not just for human drinking purposes but also for troughs, cattle and tram horses.

A systemic study of these fountains help us in understanding the social fabric of the city. In other words, thse fountains help in recreating an era during which they created their own space in the artistic space in the town planning of the city. In most pyaus, there are plaques related somewhere narrating the reason behind the establishment of the pyau. The plaques and the data collected from archival and oral sources become essential pointers to the information of various communities that immigrated to Bombay. While most of these fountains not only indicate the religious and cultural leanings of the donors but they also blend with the style of neighbouring buildings.

Due to a fast-paced and always-on-the-go attitude that Mumbai is now famous for, it would be nice if you could probably pause for a minute and pay a silent tribute to the person who decided to donate water as charity for the benefit of the general public the next time you come across a water fountain while commuting to work.

1 comment:

Swarnali said...

Thats a good piece of info. Satisfactory read!!:)