An art, nature, and heritage walk will take participants on a journey through Byculla’s glorious past.
Often regarded as one of the oldest localities in Bombay, the culturally-rich Byculla is home to heritage structures of the past as well as trailblazing landmarks of the present. While the latter is a part of our contemporary reality and hence, accessible and familiar, the former is shrouded in mystery. And an art, nature and heritage walk in Byculla, organised by the Piramal Museum of Art will take participants on a journey that will shed light on Byculla’s glorious past, while also tipping its hat to the locale’s present.
The three-and-a-half-hour long walk will have three parts, each devoted to exploring a unique aspect of Byculla. Revealing the Museum’s motives behind organising such an event, Director of the Museum, Ashvin E Rajagopalan, says, “We want to encourage people to know their neighbourhood and not just the Museum, so on this specially curated walk, we start with the art collection in the Museum’s Byculla gallery inspired by nature.” Participants will be invited to view a Thukral & Tagra artwork titled Somnium Seminibus, which is populated with 26 tree species selected by the artists from Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan, popularly called Rani Bagh. Post this, the walk will proceed to Rani Bagh, where participants will get to spot several of the species found in the painting. “Last time, participants spotted the Baobab, the Fishtail Palm tree, the Autograph tree and lots more,” informs Sayali Mundye, who handles outreach and programming at the Museum.
But if the verdant grandeur of Rani Bagh makes you wish that you knew more about the space, fret not, for the next section of the walk is designed to satisfy this exact desire. Hutokshi Rustomfram, Trustee of the Save Rani Bagh Botanical Garden Foundation, a 12-year-old organisation working towards preserving, promoting and protecting the Garden, will lead participants on an approximately hour-long walk through the heritage Botanical Garden, which has a Grade II-B heritage status and is Mumbai’s largest green public space. About 3213 plus trees and 286 tree species populate the area. “It was established by The Agri-Horticultural Society of Western India in 1861 as a botanical garden and a few years later, a small zoo was added. Unfortunately, the place is known more for its zoo segment than its botanical garden segment, which occupies 63% of the area,” informs Hutokshi. Her specially designed walk will expose participants to over 150-year-old trees, trees that are in bloom and other remarkable species along the selected pathway. Hutokshi hopes that the walk will inform people about the historical standing of the garden and its contemporary relevance, since over 50 colleges in Mumbai patronise the garden for field visits, research and specimens for their practical examinations. “About 400 species preserved in St. Xavier’s College’s Blatter Herbarium have been collected from Rani Bagh,” informs the nature enthusiast.
The last leg of the walk will be taken over by Founder of the Inheritage Project, Alisha Sadikot. Alisha, who says she is driven by the desire to make histories around us accessible through walks, will take participants on an hour-long walk from Rani Bagh to Gloria Church, Masina Hospital, Regal Café, Byculla Station, Byculla Market and back to Rani Bagh. Along the way, Alisha will reveal interesting titbits about these landmarks (like how Masina Hospital was once the home of the Jewish businessman and philanthropist, David Sassoon) as well as Byculla, which was once called the ‘garden suburb’ of Bombay because of the plethora of gardens surrounding the houses of affluent residents. Alisha says, “I try to walk people through different phases in Byculla’s history because it’s one of those neighbourhoods where there is visual evidence of different time periods. But the city is in a state of flux, and so, we must see this evidence before it is lost forever.”