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Delve into the history of Mumbai with these two weekend sessions

Updated on: 09 February,2024 10:48 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Devashish Kamble |

A walk through the winding lanes of Mumbai’s red-light district explores the lesser-known intricacies of its local history

Delve into the history of Mumbai with these two weekend sessions

Participants at the Dutt Mandir in Kamathipura

Kamathipura is often viewed as Mumbai’s underbelly, left out of discussions and celebrations of the vibrant culture of the city. A cultural stroll through the winding lanes of the red-light district, organised for INTACH-Mumbai by Zoya Kathawala, aims to alter this perception. “Gang wars, illicit sale of alcohol, and crime. The mention of Kamathipura usually evokes a mental image of these elements. And there’s no denying that the area dealt with these at some point in time. But there existed a parallel narrative that often goes unnoticed,” Kathawala, shares.

Zoya Kathawala
Zoya Kathawala

The independent arts consultant tells us that the culture of the neighbourhood revolves around working. “The word ‘Kamathi’ is derived from the Marathi word for mason workers or labourers. These workers have contributed to the construction of iconic buildings such as the BMC headquarters and the erstwhile Victoria Terminus,” she reveals. The 90-minute-long walk will also take participants through shrines built by the converging cultures in the area, stories of rebellion that brewed in Kamathipura, including the origins of the Dalit Panthers, a Dalit rights movement. “Kamathipura is much more than what you hear from people. It is a micro urban ecosystem by itself. From bike-repair shops to jewellery, you’ll find it all here. A walk through the neighbourhood will change your perspective” she shares.

On: Tomorrow, 7.30 am
Meeting Point: Pila House, 14th Lane, Kamathipura.
Message: 8087773299 (to register)
Cost: Rs 1,000 (members), Rs 1,200 (non-members)

Port of call

An architecture professor’s talk will delve into the history of Panvel as a port town

Panvel has re-entered discussions among urbanites, largely due to the buzz around the forthcoming airport project. While the town eagerly awaits its transformation into a hub of commerce and travel, Dr Smita Dalvi, a professor of architecture at Pillai College of Architecture, Navi Mumbai, will deliver a talk in collaboration with the Museum Society of Mumbai, shifting the narrative to Panvel’s historical significance as a prominent port town, facilitating trade between western ports since as early as the 16th century AD.

Bazar Peth functioned as the spine of the markets in Panvel
Bazar Peth functioned as the spine of the markets in Panvel

The port, located along the Panvel Creek, and approximately 15 km from the Arabian Sea, served as a conduit for transport of goods and passengers. All kinds of agricultural produce were exported to bigger ports on the coast, and across the seas. The Panvel port became known especially for exporting husked rice, salt, and cart wheels. The ensuing trade contributed to the town’s prosperity and the emergence of bustling markets. “One particularly notable area is Bazar Peth, the main market that historically linked the port to the town’s outskirts and land routes through the Western Ghats,” Dalvi explains, highlighting that the port passed through the hands of Sultanates, the Portuguese, the Marathas, and eventually, the British. The decline of the port, she notes, began with the advent of roadways and railways introduced by the British.

“Panvel hosts numerous heritage sites. Take the Panvel Municipality, for example; it’s one of the oldest municipalities, dating back to 1852. However, many remain unaware of the town’s maritime past. As we anticipate future developments, it’s equally crucial to reflect on the history that has been passed down to us,” she concludes.

On: Tomorrow, 5 pm
Log on to: @maritimemms  (to register)

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