Dahi Handi is a famous sportive event organized in many places of Maharashtra on the next day of Janmashtami. Janmashtami, is an annual festival that celebrates the birth of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. It is observed according to Hindu calendar, on the eighth day of the dark fortnight in the month of Shraavana, which corresponds to August and September months of the Gregorian calendar.
Dahi Handi celebration commemorates the way of living of Lord Krishna. Dahi translates to curd and Handi translates to earthen pot used to process and keep the milk products. In his childhood, young Krishna was very fond of curd and butter. While growing up he became notorious for stealing it. The female folks in the neighborhood became cautious and started hanging the milk products from the ceiling to keep them out of reach of Krishna and his friends. To defeat this idea Krishna devised the idea of forming human pyramids, by which they could reach the Handi.
Every year during Janmashtami this event from the life of Krishna is played by youngsters. In Mumbai and suburbs it has become a competitive sport, with participation of many teams. In the recent years, female teams have also started to participate in the event. These sporting events, often carries prize money with the support of local political parties and leaders. These team’s youth called ‘Govindas’ climb one over another and form a human pyramid and then break the Handi.
The recently renovated, The Royal Opera House is the only opera house that survives in the country.
Special mention to Kruti Garg, who took us on a heritage walk through this iconic structure savaged by time and now returned to its previous glory. She is a senior conservation architect and was closely involved in the restoration of the building. Some excerpts from the journey:
Situated on Charni Road, near Girgaum Chowpatti beach, the adjective ‘Royal’ was prefixed to ‘Opera House’ to reflect the fact that its foundation stone was laid during the British Raj in 1909, and King George V inaugurated the building in 1911 while the building was still under construction and then it went on to be completed by 1915. There is the royal crest of England which has the unicorn on one side and a lion on the other, present on the main (front) facade and on the side. As a depiction of Opera, the designs have musical instruments like harps and trumpets making its appearance on the architecture.
Architecturally it was designed on the likes of Morris Bandman, an entertainer and invested by coal baron Jahangir Karaka, providing the highest luxury of that time. The basement under the stage area has an orchestra pit, wherein the band of Musicians would play. Ice was introduced through pipes in the subsurface of the building, in order to cool the interiors.
The Royal Opera House, initially saw a lot of performances from British and American companies. Subsequently, 5 years from its construction it started screening movies. In 1940, the Prithvi theatre performed at Opera house when in Mumbai. Deenanath Mangeshkar has also performed here. A lot of big staring movies were screened here and some renowned movies even shot here.
In 1935, the opera house was taken over by Ideal pictures and converted into a cinema hall. As a result of which in 1970s the side boxes – the prime seats in this theatre, were torn down and completely removed from the building because they were interfering with the sight lines for movies. A projection room was added in the middle of the first floor of auditorium which was not original. Hence, the building had completely changed from its initial setting of a high octave Baroque interior to an Art Deco Cinema, by the time it closed down in 1980s.
In 1952, it was bought over by the Maharaja and Maharani Jadeja of Gondal, Royal family of Gujarat, as a commercial venture and run it for another 30 years from then. In 1980s Opera house was closed down because this single screen theatre could not make profitable business anymore and remained closed for around 18 years. The elaborate curtain on the stage has the crest of the royal family of Gondal.
Initially, in May 2001, it was noted that since the opera house was a Heritage building, it could not be redeveloped but only restored. With a lot of Archival researches, the building was completely restored and is now a 585 seater auditorium. The side boxes are put back. So are the stained glass windows and rich mouldings of sculpted foliage on the ceiling and proscenium arch. The orchestra pit has been widened and foyers heightened by frescoes and crystal chandeliers.
From a publication that was obtained from a scholar from New Zealand, called ‘Territorials in India’ which had a full chapter about the Royal Opera House and how it was constructed.
When the restoration began, the ceilings were completely different. It had an Art deco feel with no embellishment and decoration as seen now. There were no details on the balcony and original material from the Site was missing.
The wood panelling and boxes were restored as in its inception. This is the only theatre of that time, which had the Royal box designed for family seating. Side balconies, although restored as original, are not functional anymore for seating. Originally, these side boxes and royal boxes were furnished with plush Irani bentwood chairs. The second balcony had just benches and was for the lowest priced tickets. However, the renovated building has crimson cushioned chairs throughout.
Archival research texts described the interiors as embellished with gold and crimson. Designs on the spandrel, of the little boy are an original design found during restoration work and put back in their original locations. Acoustics have been improved and redone and the building has seen an insertion of air conditioning, speaker system etc. In the entrance choir, one will see a pair of unique crystal chandeliers, which were donated by the David Sassoon family, from their mansion called the ‘Sans Souci’ in Byculla.
Original ceiling was in the same shape as today. Back then there were no speaker system to augment the sound levels, hence the ceiling was designed in shape of a gramophone mike, for acoustical reasons to improve sound quality.
New Technology combined with restoration of the old world charm has gone into the renovation of this building.
Some pictures from the site:
This year’s festival was a very special event as the precinct got back the black horse statue that gave the area its name. In January 2017, ‘Spirit of Kala Ghoda’ – the 25 foot high equine statue was unveiled. The bronze sculpture has been crafted by Shreehari Bhosle and designed by architect Alfaz Miller with inputs from sculptor Arzan Khambatta. An initiative by Kala Ghoda Association, this statue has finally returned to the area the symbol that once defined it but of course without the rider. The Kala Ghoda art precinct derives the name from the equestrian statue of King Edward VII seated on a black horse (kala ghoda).
The main theme of the art installations of this year was horse. The spirit of horse was interpreted in different ways. Many of these installations were interactive and were accepted and enjoyed by the overwhelmed visitors.
Kala Ghoda Art Festival – 2017 was held from 4th February to 12th February 2017. Some pictures from the festival…
Diwali or Deepavali is the festival of lights celebrated every year in autumn in India. This year it was celebrated from 28 Oct to 01 Nov. Below are some of the pictures of the Diwali illumination arranged in Hiranandani Estate, Thane.
The Church of St John the Evangelist better known as Afghan church is located in Navy Nagar in the Colaba area of Mumbai. This Anglican Church was built by the British to commemorate the dead of the First Afghan War and the disastrous 1842 retreat from Kabul.
When we entered the church compound it gave a deserted look. But we could locate the care taker of the church in the nearby cottage who with reluctance agreed to open the doors of the church for us to see. But the grumpy guy refused to switch on the lights inside so we could not take good pictures of the interior of the church.
The foundation stone of the church was laid in December 1847 by Sir George Russell Clerk, Governor of Bombay. The church was consecrated on January 7, 1858 by Bishop of Bombay, John Harding. The imposing edifice was constructed using locally available buff-coloured basalt and limestone. Wide gothic arches and beautiful stained glass windows, decorates the interior of the church. The floor tiles were imported from England.
This church is a Grade I, heritage structure. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended a Remembrance Sunday service at the church during their visit to Mumbai in November 2013.
Chhatrapti Shivaji Terminus (CST) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mumbai, India. This historic railway station is one of the busiest in India. Built in 1887 this gothic structure is the most photographed monument in India after the Taj Mahal. Originally it was called Victoria Terminus and was intended to house the main station and the administrative offices of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway the predecessor of Indian Railway. In March 1996 its name was changed to Chhatrapti Shivaji Terminus and known simply as CST. The CST has 18 platforms out of which 7 are reserved for local suburban trains and 11 are for long distance out-station trains.
Very few people are aware of the the existence of a Railway Heritage Gallery in the CST building which has a nice collection of old engines and other artefacts used by the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. This gallery is functional since December 2012 and is open to the public along with a guided tour of the heritage CST building. The areas covered in the tour are:
a) Heritage Gallery at Ground Floor
b) Dining Hall at Ground Floor
c) Central Dome View from Ground Floor
d) Star Chamber view from Ground Floor
e) Heritage Lounge at Second Floor
f) Four-Court at Ground Floor
The tour also includes tea and biscuits in the Heritage Lounge at second floor.
Heritage Tour Timings: 3PM to 5PM on Week days only.
Price: Rs. 200/- per Person & Rs. 100/- per Student
Just below the clock was a statue of Queen Victoria which was damaged by a lightning many decades ago and was never replaced.
The Kala Ghoda precinct is Mumbai’s premier art district. It has large number of city’s heritage buildings and art galleries like Jehangir Art Gallery, National Gallery of Modern Art etc. Also the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalyaya is located in here. The area is sandwiched between the Lion Gate to the east, Regal Cinema to the south, Fountain to the north and Oval Maidan to the west.
The name Kala Ghoda means Black Horse, a reference to the presence of a black equestrian statue of king Edward VII placed in the area. Even though the statue was removed from the precinct in 1965 and subsequently placed inside the Byculla Zoo, the area was continued to be called as Kala Ghoda (but alas without the black horse).
The Kala Ghoda Association was formed on 30th October 1998 with the object of maintaining and preserving this art district of south Mumbai. Every year, since 1999 the association hosts the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival. The nine days long festival commences on the first Saturday of February and closing on the second Sunday of February. Over the years, the festival has grown in stature and popularity attracting visitors and participants from other parts of the country and the world. The festival sections are visual arts, dance, music, theatre, cinema, literature, workshops, heritage walks, urban etc. Entry to all the events is free to all, as the costs are met through corporate sponsorship.
The Rampart Raw being the centre of the Festival is closed off to vehicular traffic for the duration of the festival, with the entire area becoming a street mela, with interactive art installations and stalls of artisans selling their creations. In the recent years, the festival has expanded beyond Kala Ghoda area with many events being held in Cross Maidan and Horniman circle as well.
Kala Ghoda Art Festival-2016 was held during 6th February to 14th February 2016. Some pictures from the Festival…