Mumbai: Raj Bhavan heritage tours to resume from October 1

The underground bunker, the Gallery of Revolutionaries, newly constructed Darbar Hall, Jai Vihar are the main attractions.

Sanjay JogUpdated: Saturday, September 10, 2022, 05:59 PM IST
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The much-awaited heritage tour of Raj Bhavan at Malabar Hill will resume from October 1. The visits were closed during the monsoon. The booking has already started from today. The tour will include is it to the sunrise gallery, Devi mandir, the underground bunker, the Gallery of Revolutionaries, Darbar Hall, Jai Vihar and the Maharashtra Formation Memorial. The time of the visits will be from 6 am to 8.30 am. The visitors can spot peacocks frolicking on the lawns.

The visits will remain open on all days except Mondays and official holidays. There will be a Diwali break of 7 days from October 22 to 28. The Raj Bhavan visits were opened in 2015 and during the last 7 years, thousands of people have visited, said the Raj Bhavan statement. The booking charge per person is Rs 150. However, there is no fee for children below 12 years accompanying parents.

The Raj Bhavan, which is the official residence of the Governor of Maharashtra, is spread over an area of around 50 acres on Malabar Hill. Sea surrounds the estate on three sides, which has lush green lawns, conserved forest areas and heritage bungalows. It has a mile-long stretch of thick forests, a sandy beach and several lush lawns. The most significant fact about Mumbai Raj Bhavan is that it breathes a century and a half of history.

The 150-meter long, underground British Era bunker, which had remained closed for nearly six decades was discovered on August 16, 2016. The British – era bunker was built sometime before the First World War when Raj Bhavan served as the ‘Government House’ of the Bombay Presidency.

The bunker when opened had various rooms bearing names such as Shell Store, Gun hell, Cartridge Store, Shell Lift, Pump, Central Artillery Store, Workshop, etc. The Bunker opened with a 20-ft tall gate resembling a fort and has a ramp on its west end, just opposite the Darbar Hall. It has long passages and 13 small to medium size rooms. It is a unique piece of architecture, unlikely to be created anywhere in India. The structural audit of the bunker was carried out by the IIT Bombay. Thereafter the work of structural strengthening of the bunker was done. The strengthening work included waterproofing, electrification, air-conditioning and allied works.

The British-era bunker at Raj Bhavan has been reincarnated as a Gallery of Indian Revolutionaries from Maharashtra and the rest of the country. It was inaugurated on June 14, 2022. The gallery has various murals, busts and paintings of known and unsung Revolutionaries. The gallery takes the visitors through time-travel of this entire story of the armed struggle against British rule in Maharashtra (then Bombay Presidency) through exhibits, sculptures and rare archival photographs. The gallery also recreates the scene of the coronation of the perennial inspiration for all revolutionaries— Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.

The Banquet Hall is now called the Jal Vihar. Carved screens, designed by poetic craftsmen separate the dining area from the reception hall. The vaulted ceilings of both halls are crowned by moulding of the Ashoka Lions of India. The floors are laid with priceless Persian carpets inlaid with ancient motifs that evoke the Mughal era.

The new Durbar Hall in the Raj Bhavan is built on the site of the old Durbar Hall and has a seating capacity of 750. It was inaugurated in February this year. While retaining the heritage features of the old court hall, the new hall has been given additional features such as a balcony and a sea view gallery.

The Devi Mandir is another must-visit spot in the Raj Bhavan. It has been given a new makeover and a large Shiva idol has been installed.

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