'Shivaji Park, politics and cricket go together'

On one side of the park there is a grand statue of legendary Maratha warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a Ganesh temple called Udyan Ganesh and a small memorial of late Balasaheb Thackeray. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The historic Shivaji Park at Dadar,  where Uddhav Thackeray will be sworn in, has a special place in Mumbai's history. Whether it is politics, sports, cultural events, kattas and gup-shup, it has its own importance. For the Shiv Sena, the Shivaji Park is far more important.

On one side of the park there is a grand statue of legendary Maratha warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, a Ganesh temple called Udyan Ganesh and a small memorial of late Balasaheb Thackeray. The bust of late Meenatai Thackeray, popularly called Masaheb, is on one edge of the ground.

Whether it was during the British Raj or post-Independence, the park has witnessed significant landmark events. "Shiv Sena and Shivaji Park go together," says veteran political analyst and writer Prakash Akolkar, adding that for decades Balasaheb addressed the annual Dassera rally in this ground. 

Balasaheb took up the cause of Marathi manoos and Hindutva from this ground. Besides Thackeray, several leaders including former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress President Sonia Gandhi have addressed rallies here.

During freedom movement, it was the place for freedom fighters to gather and the focal point of Samyukta Maharashtra Chalval or movement. 

The 1,13,000 sq mts (28 acres) open space is cradle of Indian cricket. It is also the same ground where legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar took first lessons of cricket. Some of the legendary cricketers who trainee here are Sachin Tendulkar, Sunil Gavaskar, Ajit Wadekar,  Vijay Manjrekar, Ramakant Desai, Balu Gupte, Dilip Sardesai, Ashok Wadekar, Padmakar Shivalkar, Eknath Solkar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Chandrakant Pandit, Lalchand Rajput, Sandeep Patil, Ajit Agarkar, Pravin Amre, Vinod Kambli and Sanjay Manjrekar.

There are 31 BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation-owned tenants with the largest being Shivaji Park Gymkhana and Bengal Club. "Shivaji Park, cricket and politics go together," said storyteller, journalist and author Ketan Vaidya of Musafir Walks. 

 

 

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