Saluting Mumbai's forgotten founding father

Feb 07, 2014, 07:56 IST | Dhara Vora

Jugonnath Sunkersett's name might not ring a bell in a jiffy. Yet, the city owes a lot to Sunkersett or Nana as he was popularly known; a visionary Mumbaikar who laid the foundations of early Mumbai, in the fields of education, transport and infrastructure. In the 150th year of his death anniversary, Dhara Vora went on a fact-finding trail

What do the railways in Mumbai, the Mumbai University and the Veermata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan have in common? The benevolence of Jugonnath Sunkersett.

The marble statue of Jugonnath Sunkersett at the Town Hall. The actual surname of the Sunkersett family is Murkute and they hailed from Murbad. One of the ancestral homes of the family still stands in Ghodbunder near Vasai. Sunkersett’s father was known as Shanker Seth and he went on to use the name of his father, which has now become the family’s surname. Pic/Dhara Vora

People today might remember him when they walk down the road named after him in Girgaon but this visionary was responsible for not just laying the founding stones but also seeing the completion of some of the most important developmental projects that this city has ever seen until then.

Padmini and Vilas Sunkersett are fifth generation members of the huge Sunkersett family. Vilas Sunkersett informed us that Sunkersett was the first person to carry a morcha in the country against the decision of the British to shut down a Hindu crematorium. He also donated the land for the Muslim burial ground outside Marine Lines station.

To mark his 150th death anniversary, a function has been organised by the Mahila Vikas Mandal in collaboration with the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan. This event is aimed to create awareness about this great Mumbaikar and pay tribute to his countless deeds. Organised by Padmini Sunkersett, the fifth generation daughter-in-law of the family, this function will include an exhibition of photographs of the relics that belonged to Sunkersett and are still treasured among the different members of the family, screening of a documentary on Sunkersett that was commissioned in 2006 by politician, late Bal Thackeray and details about various structures in the state that have been raised by thanks to the aid provided by Sunkersett.

Sunkersett and Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy formed the Indian Railway Association which was later incorporated into the Great Indian Peninsula Railway. The first train which ran from VT till Thane had Sunkersett and Jeejebhoy on board due to their founder status. A medallion with his face can be spotted on the facade of the headquarters of Central Railways. His home served as the ticketing counter.

On February 8, 5.30 pm onwards
At Yashvantrao Chavan Centre, Nariman Point.

Then and now: An image of the main living room in the ancestral home in place of which the current nine-floored building stands. The imported chandeliers had to be cut to fit into the current rooms of the Sunkersett families living in the building


>> Sunkersett, a wealthy businessman made donations towards the University buildings, Victoria Gardens, Bhau Daji Lad Museum and Grant Medical College.

>> Over 80 books have been written about Sunkersett by Marathi and Hindi scholars.

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