Saturday, 12 August 2017

Bombay Municipal Corporation building, a fine British contribution

The Municipal Corporation  or the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation Building (BMC) is at the junction of Dadabhai Naoroji Road and Mahapalika Marg, right across the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus), Mumbai. Considered as
a Grade IIA heritage building ( April 24, 2005), it houses the civic body that is in charge of various aspect of administration of Mumbai Corporation.  Covering an area of  434 km2 (167.6 sq miles), it is  believed to be the largest civic organization in India as well as in Asia

Mumbai Municipal Corp.SkyscraperCity
 The BMC, founded in 1865, initially was functioning in a small building on Girgaum Road and In 1870, 
it was  moved over to a building on the Esplanade, where the present Army & Navy building is 
situated. Arthur Crawford was its first Municipal Commissioner. Since more spacious building became an important need of the hour, the foundation stone for a new building  for BMC (the present site) was laid on December 9, 1884, by none other than the then Viceroy, Lord Ripon.  The building  with Gothic designs done by Frederick William Stevens became a final choice and the work on the building was completed in 1893. 

Winged Lion, or Gargoyle.
en.wikipedia.org
  Above image:  Winged allegorical figure representing the 'urbs prima in Indis' and the Coat of Arms of Bombay below. Gable of BMC Building with the coat of arms of Mumbai, Mumbai, India. Bernard Gagnon - Own work . ...........................

The attractive  architectural features are the central dome that rises to a height of 71.5 m (234.6 ft), the gable  with a huge winged allegorical figure representing the 'urbs prima in Indis'( the first city of India as it was to be known then), and the richly molded and paneled Council Chamber having a ceiling of unpolished teak. One can not miss the Winged Lion, Griffin like sculpture or Gargoyle on the building  and the impressive Sir Pherosha Mehta Statue in front of BMC  at the entrance.
   
 In view of its, historical and heritage values  a major restoration work was planned at the cost of Rs. 80 crores and was  approved by the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee and the civic administration; it is said to be the largest and most comprehensive conservation concept undertaken in the city. Without damaging or tampering with its heritage value, old architectural or aesthetical merit, the conservation work would involve restoration of interiors and the exterior – from the roof tiles to the exquisite Minton tiles inside and to stained glass work, strengthening several wooden beams. Initially, broken tiles, repair of statues, and removal of plants and moss would be taken up to give shape to its old glory. 

The restoration plan further  also envisages  reorganization of office space within the building to improve the operational efficiency of staff members,  'Citizens Facilitation Centre' and  and modification of the  Corporation Hall by  increasing its seating capacity from 200 to 300.

 The English might have made their final exit in August 1947, but our connectivity with the past colonial rule is altogether a different  matter and the thread should not get broken. we must pass on such heritage sites  the  to our younger generation. Across many Indian states the respective governments have begun to take steps to repair and restore old structures. in this regard, in the forefront are Kerala and West Bengal. 

Tit-Bits:

01. In the present environs, way back in the past there was  Phansi Talao or Gallows Tank, where public hangings took place as per records.

Mumbai Municipal Corp. en.wikipedia.org

02. The motto of BMC is  in Sanskrit: Yato Dharmastato Jaya  (Where there is Righteousness, there shall be Victory), inscribed on the banner of its Coat of Arms.

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Municipal_Corporation_Building,_Mumbai