Kala Ghoda to restore famous Mulji Jetha fountain in Mumbai

Sep 25, 2016, 09:43 IST | Aparna Shukla

A first look at Kala Ghoda Association’s restoration plan for fountain built by philanthropist for his late son, and the challenges on hand

The Mulji Jetha fountain with the statue of 15-year-old Dharamsee Mulji, in whose memory it was built, atop it. Pic/Datta Kumbhar
The Mulji Jetha fountain with the statue of 15-year-old Dharamsee Mulji, in whose memory it was built, atop it. Pic/Datta Kumbhar

When decades of spit, paint and graffiti are painstakingly scraped off, Mumbai will once again be able to gaze upon the magnificent 120-year-old Mulji Jetha fountain – a memorial by a loving father to his only son at Fountain (see box). The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and Kala Ghoda Association, which is funding the restoration, promise that this could be as early as December.

One of the damaged animal head water spouts on the fountain
One of the damaged animal head water spouts on the fountain

The restoration
The sculpture, which is being restored by renowned architect Vikas Dilawari, will have its paint removed, and intricate parts such as the monument’s elephant tusks and the damaged ends of the figures restored. The structure will also be illuminated. Dilawari said, “We are using material like Porbandar stone, granite, and basalt in order to try and restore it to its original glory.”

The plaque with a tiny history lesson
The plaque with a tiny history lesson

He said, “This fountain, unlike the Flora Fountain, has not been functional for years now. We are trying to revive the plumbing, but may not be able to restore it entirely as some animal head spouts have been damaged beyond repair. Also, it would be difficult to work on its concealed pipes.”

Undoing damage
“Most parts of the fountain have been damaged or vandalised. Spouts and ornaments at the top of the domes have been damaged. At some point in the past, the fountain was painted over, hiding the structure’s original material,” said Dilawari, who is also restoring 16 other heritage structures across Mumbai.

For the landscaping, Dilawari will remove two feet of earth, lower the monument to ground level and surround it with a green lawn and flowering shrubs. “The stainless steel railing around it will be removed and a high, perforated railing has been proposed to protect it from vandalism. The garden around the sculpture will be created such that maintenance is easy,” Dilawari said.

BMC says
In January this year, the Kala Ghoda association had decided to fund this restoration project and planned to complete the job by December. But, decisions regarding the beautification of the area around the fountain had to be taken and the heritage committee consulted, which is why the work will begin only now.

“There are certain procedures that have to be followed for restoration of heritage structures. As far as the beautification process is concerned, we had to ensure that the surrounding area is beautified, too. We proposed this idea to the standing committee and everyone agreed. We are hopeful of completing the job by December,” said Chandrashekhar Chore, Deputy Municipal Commissioner, (Improvements), BMC.

‘Ready to start’
Maneck Davar, chairperson of the Kala Ghoda Association, said, “The challenge is not the restoration process, but the maintenance of it. Mumbaikars have spat, sketched, painted and done all kinds of nasty things to heritage sites. We request and hope that this does not happen post restoration.”

The Mulji Jetha fountain
The Mulji Jetha fountain stands at the intersection of Mint Road and P D’Mello Road. It was commissioned in 1894 by Ruttonsee Mulji (Muljee) as a memorial for his 15-year-old son Dharamsee, who had died. The structure was designed by FW Stevens (who designed the Victoria Terminus) in the Indo-Saracenic style. The lowest section of the fountain has a set of eight columns above a large pool that was once a drinking trough for animals. Stevens also created drinking water fountains for the public in the same structure.

Preserving history

>> Wittet Fountain, Gateway of India
>> Mayor’s bungalow, Dadar Statues at Corporation Hall, CST

Work in progress
>> Bomanjee Hormasji Wadia Clock Towers, Nariman Street
>> Horniman Circle garden Pyau, Fort
>> Horniman Circle Fountain, Fort
>> Flora Fountain (part B)

Works under chief engineer
>> Mahatma Phule Market
>> Fountain at MJP Market, LT Road

Yet to begin
KalaGhoda statue restoration, MG Rd

Contractors needed
>> Devidas Purshottam Das
>> Kabutarkhana and Pyau

Tenders Floated
>> Wellington Fountain, Colaba
>> Flora Fountain, Colaba (surrounding areas development)
>> Bandstand Cooperage Garden
>> Fencing and tensile fabric canopy at Gateway

Works under City Department
BMC Head office

Proposals submitted for approval
>> ENT Hospital, MG Road
>> Meghraj Sethi Hospital, Byculla

Proposals for tender
>> Madhavdas Laxmidas Kothari Pyau
>> Metro Junction Fitzgerald Fountain
>> Kalachowkie Pyau

Proposal awaiting heritage NOC
>> Restoration of Municipal TB clinic, Grant Road
>> Anand Vitthal Pyau
>> Bi annual maintenance of Municipal Head office

Proposal under design
Providing decorative lighting to Municipal Head Office, Main Building.

Year the fountain was built

Rs 50 L
The average cost of restoring one fountain

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