Mumbai: Mani Bhavan in dire need of repairs; trust asks for government's help

Updated: Feb 29, 2020, 07:19 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Trust maintaining Mani Bhavan writes to the state saying they need Rs 10.5 crore for urgent repairs and restoration work

Proposed display system for the corridor
Proposed display system for the corridor

After 150-year-old Esplanade Mansion, Mani Bhavan, Mahatma Gandhi's headquarters in Mumbai during the freedom struggle, is in dire need of repairs. The trust that manages the structure has sought a grant from the government to restore the 110-year-old weather-beaten building that has leaky roofs and faulty plumbing.

Mani Bhavan Gandhi Sangrahalaya (MBGS) trust submitted a proposal to Aslam Shaikh, the guardian minister of Mumbai city, who said they would consider the request for the grant because Mani Bhavan is an "important historical structure"

Mani Bhavan was last restored between 2004 and 2006
Mani Bhavan was last restored between 2004 and 2006

MBGS trust Secretary Yogesh Kamdar told mid-day that they have tried their best to maintain the building on Laburnum Road in Gamdevi, but they need financial help to carry
out the restoration of the Grade-I heritage structure.

"The structure is more than 110 years old and due to humidity and weathering, repairs are needed. Restoration is a continuous process when it comes to heritage structures. But we are a public charitable trust and our reach is limited. We run on small individual donations," he said. The museum was last repaired between 2004 and 2006 after the government gave the trust a grant of `95 lakh in 2004. "We could repair the serious damage then. Now, we have submitted a proposal for a grant for restoration, conservation and up-gradation of Mani Bhavan. If it's approved, we can improve the museum and make it user friendly. It can also boost tourism and attract a higher footfall than we record right now," Kamdar said.

The 110-year-old Mani Bhavan has surface cracks and fissures too
The 110-year-old Mani Bhavan has surface cracks and fissures too

Structural distress
Conservation architect Abha Lambah, who chalked out the proposal, said the document highlights the major structural distress seen in masonry walls, surface cracks and fissures. Much of the structural deterioration seems to have been caused by leakage from the roof, faulty plumbing and dampness, she said. The proposal also highlighted issues with the architecture stating that there are "insensitive additions to the structure, obliteration of architectural details, deterioration of architectural finishes as well as natural weathering of architectural elements caused by climatic and environmental factors", she added.

The proposal includes a facade restoration of the main museum building and the annex building of the Mani Bhavan complex with a proposed lift opening at all levels of the museum. The restoration will also involve removal of certain additions like ad-hoc weather shades and wire mesh frames that ruin the heritage look of the structure. Mani Bhavan is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi, who used the building as his headquarters in Mumbai during the freedom struggle from 1917 to 1934. It now functions as a research institute on Gandhian thoughts and rural development.

'Will consider proposal'
Sources said the proposal has been accepted in principle and there is a possibility that the provision for the grant may be made in the upcoming state budget. The guardian minister, visited the property earlier this week, told mid-day, "I have received the proposal from the museum. It is an important historical structure and we will consider it."

A small counter has been proposed where Mahatma Gandhi's autobiography and postage stamps will be available. The proposal suggests setting up a museum cafe and souvenir shop where items like DVDs on Gandhi's life, busts of Gandhi, other books, khadi bags and miniature charkhas would be made available for tourists.

Certain decorative elements like the balusters, timber balcony railings and grills will need proper restoration as well. Apart from interior restoration and spatial redesigning of the museum building, the proposal also includes improvement of the landscape and installing uniform benches, pavements and signages.

The museum display will also get a makeover and while the current strategy focuses on display alone, the new version will involve digitised and interactive display as well as audio components to highlight intangible heritage like songs and stories.

1.5 lakh
Annual footfall at the museum

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