Mumbai: Lovers of Mumbai's architectural heritage have been called upon to participate in a rally to protect Matharpacady, Mazgaon, a centuries-old village with a unique blend of Indian and Portuguese style architecture.
Though the date of the 'candle march' is yet to be finalised, the rally is expected to be held in the first week of November. Matharpacady, the beginnings of which date back to the 16th century, has 50 to 60 surviving homes. A recent notification by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) threatens to bring the area under 'cluster development,' which means that the entire precinct can be pulled down and replaced with skyscrapers, like the ones coming up all over Mazgaon.
Matharpacady is a protected precinct under Mumbai's urban heritage laws, but the lower grade listing does not preserve it against being obliterated. Alarmed residents are opposed to the plans. "All over the world, cities are doing everything to protect their urban heritage; here we are pulling it down," said Godfrey Pimenta, a lawyer and member of the Watchdog Foundation and the Bombay East Indian Association. Matharpacady is primarily inhabited by East Indians, a community that traces its origin to the conversion of local groups like Kolis, Agris, Banderas, and other local groups to Roman Catholicism in the 16th century.
According to historians, the 'Our Lady of Glory', popularly called the Gloria Church, which once stood in Matharpacady, dates back to the late 16th century. The church shifted to its present location to give way to a public project. Fleur D'Souza, former head of the Department of History at St. Xavier's College, said that the history of Matharpacady is tied up with the history of Mumbai. "Remember that South Bombay was where the administration of the city began. The Bhandaris formed the nucleus of the defenses protecting the island. The area supplied personnel for the Mazgaon docks next door. Many were part of the mill district when it came up. Some were clerks in the colonial administration," D'Souza added. Pimenta said that Matharpacady holds a special place in the hearts of those who cherish urban heritage. "We invite all who care deeply about our shared history and the preservation of our architectural treasures to join us in this endeavor," Pimenta added about Mazgaon and Matharpacady.