Saturday, 6 July 2013

A Walk in Bandra

Bandra remains one of the lesser explored but more interesting parts of Mumbai, tempting its visitors with a unique mix of history, architecture, traditional "gaothans", the glitz of the Hindi film industry and also boasting some of the best shopping spots in the city. 

The suburb of Bandra is a fine village comprising around 20 hamlets that were originally known in Marathi as "pakhadis". Bandra consisted of Sherly, Malla, Rajan, Kantwady, Waroda, Ranwar, Boran, Pali and Chuium. The earliest records of Bandra are from the mid 1500's, when the Portuguese gave the Jesuit priests the islands of Bandra, Sion, Wadala and Parel. 

The Portuguese built several churches in Bandra, many of which are still in use today. Bandra remained a village with plantations of rice and vegetables, until it was connected to Mahim by a causeway in 1845. Many bungalows were built here between the years of 1860s and 1870s.  

A traditional house in Ranwar
Today, we explore Ranwar, a century old East Indian village right in the middle of Bandra. Ranwar is one of the original 24 pakhadis (hamlets) that made up Bandra since the earliest documented history in the early 1700s. Surprisingly, Ranwar has managed to retain much of its village character even as the present day "development" has hemmed it on all sides. As journalist and urban planner Jane Jacobs says in The Death and Life of Great American Cities: "Cities need old buildings so badly it is probably impossible for vigorous streets and districts to grow without them" and "new ideas must use old buildings".

Ranwar is a listed heritage precinct that comes under the Bandra Village and is protected under the Heritage regulations of Mumbai. The typical character of the houses in Ranwar display strong a Portuguese influence with architectural elements such as porches, tiled pitched roofs and ornamentation such as balustrades, wooden fretwork panels etc. Among other things, Ranwar also has a tennis court and the Ranwar club is known for its Christmas and New Year Eve dances. 

A house near Veronica Street
A walk in Ranwar led me to Veronica Street. According to Christianity, Veronica was moved with pity when she saw Jesus carrying his cross to Golgotha and gave him her veil that he might wipe his forehead. Jesus accepted the offering, held it to his face, and then handed it back to her which later came to be known as the Veil of Veronica. Apparently, when the play about the Passion of Christ was enacted in Ranwar, the lady who happened to play Veronica always hailed from the street hence the road was also named as Veronica Street.  

The next time you are in Bandra, save some time from your busy shopping spree and visit Ranwar, a century old East Indian village in the middle of Bandra. Take a left from Tata Agyari or the next left from Hindu hotel on Hill Road, you reach Waroda Road. If you continue walking, getting a sense of the beautiful Mangalorean tiled houses, you will reach the backyard of Mount Mary's church. A walking tour will leave you amazed to see this side of Bandra that is beyond pubs, coffee shops, parties or even shopping.  

Triple Optics: "There must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street" 

1 comment:

The madrasi said...

Bandra 's unexplored part.. a place known only for it shopping and food attracts, Definitely a good post . Lot of research and visits lead to this perhaps . Keep posting on many such wonders of Unexposed mumbai areas. For me , this reminded of the vaasai vilage too