For more than seven years as a student at St Xavier’s College, and then for work, I’d pass by the beautiful BMC building, always wondering what would it look like from the inside. I would wonder about the story of the statue of the angel who represents colonial Bombay and the building’s history!’ recalls Ghatkopar-based Milloni Doshi.
And, now she got a chance to step inside the building and witness it in full grandeur. Milloni Doshi was one of the 15 participants of the first-ever heritage walk conducted inside the iconic 128-year-old BMC building in South Mumbai. She was part of the first walk thrown open to members of the public and conducted on January 30, 2021. “It was truly a memorable moment for me,” says the BMC Education Department Fellow.
Milloni “could not wait to take the walk” when she learnt of it and “booked the ticket immediately” so she doesn’t miss the opportunity. “I got a chance to see the dome, the museum gallery, etc. and learned the most interesting facts about the structure and its origin. Also, that this was not the original BMC building, etc.”
The heritage walk of the BMC headquarters is being organised with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). The walks are planned for weekends with two slots in the morning and two in the evening on Saturday and Sunday each.
After the inauguration by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on January 28, 2021, the first walk for officials and dignitaries was conducted on the morning of January 30, 2021 and attended by Tourism and Environment Minister Aaditya Thackeray, Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar and other officials.
There were four tours that were conducted last weekend — two on Saturday evening and two on Sunday morning. As of now, the tickets can be booked at a cost of Rs 300 per person and online through BookMyShow only. It is, also, the very first time that the city’s civic body has opened its door to the public for guided tours.
MTDC personnel Nikhil Dhanwatey, who attended the first walk open to public, said, “It was a great experience. The Mayor personally welcomed all the members of the tour. It was nice to see the internal structure. It must be great to work in a place like this.
“I had crossed the building innumerable times. It’s one of those thousands of structures we take for granted in Mumbai, like a monument and don’t know what’s inside. The one hour 15 minute walk was a revelation. I particularly liked the majestic lions next to the staircase. It’s a pretty well-maintained building and it was unexpected to see everything in such good condition despite the popular perception of governmental buildings being in a state of perpetual ruin and disarray. It was a grand experience,” Nikhil adds.
“It’s a wonderful endeavour by the State government to bring to limelight the works of those who have been associated with the BMC Headquarters,” says Mumbai-based septuagenarian Ramesh Salvi. “It’s time that tourists shed the general perception that governmental buildings and structures are old and dilapidated. I feel strongly on this issue and hope that the trend of changing this perception continues,” adds the retired banker.
Another Mumbai resident and history enthusiast Raviraj Pawar always wanted to see the inside of the BMC building. “Being a student of history, I was particularly interested in exploring but never got a chance earlier. It’s such an old structure with Gothic architecture…because of the walk I got a chance to see the smallest details such as the windows, the façade, etc. It was fascinating!”
The BMC headquarter heritage walk is presently planned for groups in batches of 15 members. The tour starts from Gate No 2 of the BMC Headquarter where the 15 participants first meet. After a 10-minute briefing on the BMC building and CST, about why they were constructed and how, the batch is taken inside the building. Here, the participants get an opportunity to walk through the historic structure, the majestic staircase, see the heritage dome, the courtyards of the building, BMC commissioner’s office, Mayor’s chamber, etc.
According to a MTDC personnel, the response has been overwhelming as tickets have been sold for all the tours in February. Two guides take each group of participants through the heritage walk.