July 14, 2024

GIRGAUM – the village at the foot of the hills

At the foot of Malabar Hills was the ‘settlement of the natives’ called ‘Girigram’. The name for this was derived from two Sanskrit words, ‘Giri’ meaning the hills and ‘gram’ denoting the village. This name too changed with the passage of time to ‘Girgaum’ and now ‘Girgaon’.

The natives lived outside the Bombay Fort and beyond the residents of the Hills. The Hills were home to maharajahs and those that considered themselves rajas, but the intellectuals and the working clas s lived at the foot of the hills. The area had multi-cultural, multi-religious settlements living in more humble abodes. There were the locals (Hindus), the East Indians (Christians), and the Parsis (Zorastrians). All neighbours and friends

All communities developed their own style of architecture to suit their needs. The Maharashtrians built ‘wadis’, the Parsis established ‘baugs’ for community living, and the East Indians had ‘villages’ of their own.They all went to the ‘Chou-pati’ beach for fresh air and outings. ‘Chau-pati’ means meeting of four channels through one creek. 

Each community also had its own places of worship. The temples, the fire-temples and the churches exist cheek by jowl bearing witness to the harmonious living in the area.  

Grant Road 

One of the busiest roads in the city, was initially named after Sir Robert Grant, who was Governor of Bombay from 1835 to 1839. After independence named Maulana Shaukatali Road, but few remember it by this name. The road and the whole area of residential localities like Nana Chowk (in memory of JaganathShankarseth), Chikalwadi, Bhaji Gully (vegetable market street), the electronic market along Lamington Road is still Grant Road to us all.  

The Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway (BBCI) connected the city to Surat, which was the main trading-post of the East India Company before Mumbai, and its terminus was established in 1857 at Grant Road. As business grew, the terminus was shifted to a nearby yard, today’s Bombay Central, and this facility was used for cargo.   

India has the oldest railway system in Asia. In 1853 the first train ran from Bori Bunder (renamed Victoria Terminus and again Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus) to Thane. The 14-coach train took 1.25 hrs. to cover this short distance of 34 km. with a halt at Sion to refill its water tanks.

Since then, the railways have grown to be one of the largest public transport networks in the world, with two separate lines in the city, the Western Railway (WR) and the Central Railway (CR). The Western Railway follows the western coast from Churchgate to Dahanu Road. One of the main stations en route is still Grant Road.

Girgaon continues to be a busy ‘village’ and different communities continue their friendships over generations. Grant Road continues to offer the best mode of transport – and certainly the fastest in this city of traffic jams, despite the bridges and skywalks!