Mazgaon, the great heritage of Mumbai

Mazgaon, the great heritage of Mumbai

Mazgaon, the great heritage of Mumbai

It is hard to believe that there is a Taj Mahal in Mumbai or Ambewadi, from where mangoes used to be packed for Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. Also, there is a road named Gunpowder Street and a Chinese temple in this metropolis.

This Taj Mahal is not the The Taj Mahal Palace, the five-star hotel off the Gateway of India. This is actually a mausoleum in Mazgaon, which has a striking resemblance to the original Taj Mahal in Agra.

Hasanabad or Shah Hasan Ali's Maqbara or Mausoleum is the resting place of 46th Imam--Aga Khan I, Imam of the Nizari Ismailite sect of the Shiite Muslims. Heritage experts often describe it as Taj Mahal of Mumbai.

Not many in Mumbai know of this rich piece of history. When it comes to Mazgaon, it is historically, culturally, economically and strategically important.

“Mazgaon has a rich history...it influenced several communities, which makes it interesting,” Rafique Baghdadi, a journalist, writer, researcher and film critic, told Deccan Herald during a walk around of Mumbai. Incidentally, Baghdadi, the storyteller of Mumbai, is a resident of Mazgaon and knows the area like the back of his palm.

To give an idea of where exactly Mazgaon is – on one side is the Wadibunder, Dongri and Sir JJ Hospital to Reay Road, Ghodapdeo, Jijamata Udyan or Byculla zoo stretch and Darukhana on the seafront.

Starting off from the Our Lady or Rosery's Church, off the Dockyard Road suburban railway station on Harbour line, he takes you to the grand temple located on a hillock touching the Dockyard Road station itself, then to the market that ends just a few metres away from the main gate of the Mazgaon Dock Ltd and then to Koliwada.

Then Mazgaon's Chinese temple, the Kwan Tai Shek temple, from where he takes you to some of the quietest roads of Mumbai. He asks you to have a glimpse of the bungalow, where Bollywood actor of yesteryears, Kamini Kaushal, used to stay.

Then a look at the Cross of the Gloria Church, the Bob's bungalow, which has a unique Spanish-style architecture. The bungalow has unique stairs leading to the first floor.

Then comes the tank that Nawab Ayaz Ali built. He then takes you to the Gunpowder  Street, to show the Framji N Patel Agiary, which is located  opposite the Area Depot of Canteen Stores Department, the old-styled Parsi bungalow at Ambewadi. He also takes you to a building, where senior Maharashtra politician Chhagan Bhujbal grew up; a building named Lion's Den; the Catholic East Indian and Goan style houses at the Mathar Pakhadi.

The tour ends at the Khoja Shia Isnaashari Jamaat cemetery where the Ratanbai Jinnah, the wife of Mohammed Ali Jinnah was laid to rest.

“Such a variety in such a small place in terms of Mumbai’s geography, cannot be seen anywhere…such a variety of architecture and confluence of cultures cannot be seen in any other place,” says Baghdadi.

Mazagaon is also spelled Mazgaon and Mazagon. The Portuguese spelled it as Mazagao, the Catholics as Mazgon or 'Maz-a-gon' and the Marathi-speakers as Mazhgav. It is one of the 7 islands of Mumbai.

The word Mazagaon has been derived from the Sanskrit Matsya gram, meaning fishing village. The original inhabitants were Agari (salt-workers) and Koli (fishermen) tribes.  It is one of those places, where people from different religions and communities, have co-existed. Mazgaon also stands for Majha gaon or my village.

“There are several places in Mazgaon which are unique and most of us would miss them even if we pass by them daily,” points out Ajit Joshi, a senior journalist, writer and an expert on Mumbai.

“Mazgaon was home to many old stone houses and wooden bungalows, built in the 18th and early 19th centuries which were inhabited by mostly the Britishers and Parsis. Gunpowder Street near Matharpacady got the name as armoury was moved to this area during the British Raj,” says Joshi.

The Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) and Mazgaon Dock Ltd (MDL) make it of strategic importance.

The first Portuguese settlers were the Jesuits, who established a church in the 16th century. Notwithstanding their claim, in 1572, King Sebastian of Portugal granted the island in perpetuity to the de Souza e Lima family, from whom the D'Souzas of Mumbai trace their descent.

The original Gloria Church, Nossa Senhora da Glória, was built in 1632 from a donation by the de Souza family. Mazagaon, at one point of time, was occupied by the Sidi of Janjira, an admiral in the Mughal navy in 1690. It is said that he was driven away a year later by the Rustomji Dorabji, who organised the fishermen in Dongri into a fleet. Rustomji was given the title Patel after this feat, and his descendants have remained the only Parsi family of Patels.

The Wadia family too had some bungalows here.  Also, Vikrant, the aircraft-carrier of Indian Navy, was broken down in the eastern seafront off Mumbai’s Mazgaon – at the ship-breaking yard known as Darukhana. The biggest and best warships of the Indian Navy are built at the Mazgaon Dockyard Ltd, one of the biggest in the country.

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