Sassoon mystery tunnel, a passage to where?

Published: Oct 19, 2011, 08:34 IST | Vivek Sabnis |

Experts still in dark about use of underpass found in hospital

Experts still in dark about use of underpass found in hospital

A day after a mysterious tunnel was found at the 144-year-old building of the Sassoon General Hospital -- in the course of an ongoing digging work for a lift pathway -- heritage experts in the city are trying to figure out what it could have been used for. Heaps of soil and stones were ferreted out during the second day of digging for better visibility of the tunnel path.

Slice of history: The 15-feet-long and 7-feet-high tunnel in the
basement of Sassoon hospital building, which is 144 years old. A person
can stand and walk inside the tunnel comfortably. Pic/Krunal Gosavi

The tunnel has a staircase and a 3-feet wide corridor. It is 15-feet long and 7-feet high. "This tunnel must have been used for some specific purpose, and it can be found out easily," said Ganesh Jadhav, an employee of the hospital. "Some historically important objects can be seen there during the excavation work. The question is if the place was in use, then why was it closed with soil and stones." M N Kulkarni, deputy engineer, PWD, said there was a basement room in the hospital and the original plan of the building was available with them.

Storage place?
Kulkarni said a basement was constructed in such old buildings to store junk, machinery, medicines and miscellaneous items. The entire tunnel was, however, found to be empty and there was no sign of any left over material in the debris. Kulkarni said the digging work was carried out so that the lift path could be erected easily. "We want a space of at least 6 to 7 feet below the lift, and so, it was dug out," he said. The existence of the tunnel has aroused the curiosity of heritage experts and the Pune Municipal Corporation. Kiran Kalamdani, a noted conservation architect, said many Victorian style structures had basement tunnels linking them to other places.

In UoP also
"A tunnel was discovered in the Pune University Main Building a few years ago. The building was also known as the Governor's Bungalow during the British Raj," he said. "There must be some purpose to the tunnel in the Sassoon building and it should be found out logically and rationally," he said. He also said the hospital could not construct the lift without disturbing the beauty of the old structure. Dilip Mandlekar, chariman, Heritage Cell, PMC, said the tunnel would be discussed in a meeting today and further course of action would be decided.
Shyam Dhavle, deputy city engineer, Heritage Cell, also said the committee members would pay a visit to the hospital to observe the nature of the tunnel and decide the requirements for its

Mahatma Gandhi at Sassoon
The 144-year-old David Sassoon Building also has a special Mahatma Gandhi Cell on the first floor. Mahatma Gandhi was admitted to the hospital in the 1930s and he had undergone an appendicitis surgery there. To commemorate his memory, the hospital has made a photo-museum at the place where Gandhi stayed..

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