Urbs Prima In Indis II
Principal Teacher: R. Venkatesh
Talk 1: Bombay VT, and the Railways, a lifeline ….
-Begins with a summary of the Urbs Prima in Indis concept, and the emerging necessity of economic network making Bombay a port city connected with hinterland, and the political, economic and cultural context of incorporation of Great Indian Peninsular Railway.
• Investment and return being pre-determinants in the set up and operationalising of early lines, and the subsequent ownership of railways by the government.
• People who made it possible, technologically – role of Stephenson and Berkeley.
• Placing Bombay VT architecture in its larger context of Bombay Gothic, the architecture of Victorian Empire, and as pinnacle of the statuary and finery in sculptural embellishments.
• Fredrick W Stevens and his background, his contribution in Bombay and brief on other
key contributors in the VT project.
• Statues on Bombay VT; Progress, Commerce, Science/Naval Engineering, Agriculture to be revisited briefly (summarising and taking forward from the iconography lecture) and
other statues on façade: Sir Jamsetjee Jeejebhoy, Jagannath Shankerseth, Lord Dalhousie, Lord Reay, Mountstuart Elphinstone, Sir Bartle Frere, Col Holland, Thomas Watt and Berkeley.
• Photographs of interior, underside of the dome, the grand cantilever staircase, quinches, stained glass etc.
• Placing the “central line” of CR now in relation to certain other key examples of lost heritage relics – The Bhor Ghat reversing bridge, the GIPR training institute, Thana viaduct etc.
• Topical links to BBCIR (“Western Railway”) and Port Trust Railway.
• Presentation has about 50 photographs taken by the speaker.
Talk 2: Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Chowk precincts – a historical view
-The planning of Urbs Prima in Indis, introducing the area of Wellington Circle, placing the circle in geographical context with the arterial roads converging here defining a new axis, description of the geographical bearings.
• Begins with the former location of Kala Ghoda statue of Prince of Wales, and the socio economic context of such statue donations.
• David Sassoon Library, the Army & Navy Building, Elphinstone College, their architects/builders, promoters/founders and the importance of the institutions in a joint enterprise of private-public initiatives.
• Watson’s Hotel in context of the cast iron buildings’ technology prevalent in Britain.
• Royal Alfred Sailors Home, and its history through times, beginning with the introduction of Fredrick Stevens to Bombay, bringing in neo-Gothic style to city.
• Regal Theatre, the commencement of Art Deco, new genre of global cinematic entertainment.
• Majestic Hotel in Indo-Sarcenic style; age of luxury public hotels in early 20th century, a new culture of travel, business and leisure. Placed in context with Taj Mahal Hotel and a reference to the Watson’s Hotel.
• Royal Institute of Science and the NGMA, and the eclectic style used here.
• Prince of Wales Museum and the pinnacle of an almost puritan Indo-Sarcenic style.
• Wellington Fountain, its plaques (with close up pictures) and the history of Duke of Wellington covered in detail and its criticality in history of Bombay, followed by images of sculptures of Napolean and Wellington in the museum nearby.
• The history of Colaba Causeway and the impact of reclaiming this stretch.
• Ends with Gateway of India, the best known of Wittet’s creations, and the original but unexecuted plan of a grand avenue to the circle.
• Over 40 photographs in the presentation.
About The Speaker
R. Venkatesh completed his B.A. History (Hons.) from Delhi University in 1993, and M.A. (History) from Jawarharlal Nehru University, New Delhi in 1995. While he pursues a corporate career in the banking and finance sector, he continues his personal research in history and travels extensively to sites of historical importance and museums. He is an active photographer of heritage sites. He has conducted heritage walks for INTACH (Greater Mumbai Chapter) including events such as walks for the Indian Navy IOC Marathon, customised private group walks for architecture students, in areas in and around Fort area focussing on its history, architecture and economic aspects of (British) Bombay. In November 2019 he had his own photographic exhibition on a wide selection of Mumbai’s varied iconography, at the Photographic Society of India (at exhibition space in DN Road) and has delivered others talks there as well, with photographic presentations both on Mumbai as well as non-Mumbai historical themes. He had begun his foray into Mumbai research as an active member of INTACH Greater Mumbai Chapter a few years ago, where he eventually began delivering talks with his photographic content at the INTACH Member-to-Member programs, held at the Bhau Daji Lad Museum learning centre.
*Originally recorded on 5th September and 6th September 2020