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The iconic, V-shaped BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) headquarters -- opposite the UNESCO World Heritage Site Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus -- will soon be opened for tourists, Tourism Minister Aditya Thackeray has announced.

A memorandum was signed on Tuesday between the BMC administration and the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) to throw open the civic headquarters for tourists on weekends to admire its architecture.

Both the CSMT and the BMC Building were designed by British architect Frederick W. Stevens.

"It's a building that's always captured my imagination and awestruck millions like me. I'm sure that not just tourists, but many Mumbaikars would also love to see the building of the BMC headquarters, the way Mumbai is run from in here and seek inspiration from the historic figures that built the city from here," Thackeray said in a tweet.

Housed in a Grade IIA Heritage building, the BMC - the biggest and richest civic body in Asia - has been politically controlled by the Shiv Sena since nearly a quarter century.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Thackeray, Minister of State for Tourism Aditi Tatkare, Mayor Kishori Pednekar, BMC Commissioner I.S. Chahal, BMC Additional Commissioner Ashwini Bhide, Principal Secretary Tourism Valsa Nair-Singh, MTDC Managing Director Ashutosh Salil and other officials.

The erstwhile seven islands comprising Bombay were Britain's first Indian possessions and came as part of a royal dowry in 1661 to King Charles II of England on his marriage with Portuguese Princess Infanta Catherine de Braganza.

Over the years, Bombay became the hub for major historical developments like the first railway line on the subcontinent which started opposite the BMC Building on April 16, 1853.

It also played the major role in India's freedom struggle, witnessing the birth of Indian National Congress in 1885, and Mahatma Gandhi's clarion call to the British rulers to 'Quit India' in 1942, before becoming a globally renowned financial centre, the cradle of Bollywood, trendsetter fashion and glamour capital, plus academic and business hub.

The BMC jurisdiction covers an area of 480 square km, including a 106 square km forest in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, with an estimated population of over 1.60 crore.

The civic body was created in 1865 in a small way with Arthur Crawford as its first Municipal Commissioner, preceded by a a Court of Petty Sessions (1807), a Board of Conservancy (1845), and a Board of 3 Commissioners (1858).

Housed initially in a small building near Girgaum, in 1870, it was shifted to a building on the Esplanade between the then Watson Hotel and the current Army and Navy Building, barely a km away from the current location.

As the city grew adding to the responsibilities of the civic body, in December 1884, then Viceroy of India, Lord Ripon laid foundation for its new premises, and the building - with a blend of Venetian Gothic and Indo-Saracenic styles of architecture - was completed in nine years.

At the entrance is a bronze statue of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, one of the earliest Municipal Commissioner of BMC and four times its President, besides being one of the founder members of the Indian National Congress, and its President in 1890.

Some of the noteworthy features of the BMC Building comprise a 255-feet tall tower at the main entrance and the Central Dome that is 235 feet high, and other aspects that are expected to be a major tourist draw.

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Free Press Journal