Bandra-A Trip down Memory Lane
The Queen of Suburbs, Bandra as it is now named, was originally a tiny fishing village and known as Vandra (Ape) since it was home to several hundred monkeys. The Portuguese, in 1505, called it Bandor, which later metamorphosed into Bandera, Bandura, Bandore, Pandora, Bandorah, Bandara. Around the turn of the last century, it was christened as Bandra, with the railway station sharing the same name.
Bandra was populated by Kolis of the fishermen’s community and farmers too and consisted of clusters like Sherly, Malla, Kantwadi, Rajan, Chuim, Pali, Ranwar, Waroda, and Boran. The East India Company acquired this land while Portuguese owned the rest of Bombay (now Mumbai). The hill had an English-styled Club and Danda Green, a massive 18-hole golf course, where only the British of Pali Hill could gain membership. The cottages where the British lived had an attached stable for the horses they owned. Since most of the working class were attached to the East India Company, they began to be known as East Indians, a name that has stuck till date.
The original residents of Salsette, Thana, and Bassein (Vasai) were the East Indians and constituted a majority, followed by Hindu Kolis, Parsis, Goans, Muslims, and Europeans. It was only after World War II that larger structures were built to help immigrants to settle down here.
Prime Locations & Transportation:
The oldest roads in Bandra were Hill Road, Bazaar Road, Pali Road, BJ Road and Ghodbunder Road with two hills, Pali Hill and Mount Mary Hill. Ghodbunder Road began at the Mahim Causeway, passed Bazaar Road, and the Bandra Lake before continuing to Ghodbunder, a port where ships arrived carrying fine Arabian horses. Thus the name Ghod (horse) + Bunder (port). Transport was limited and people simply walked for long distances. On 12th April 1867, train service began between Bombay and Virar, running one train per day while bus service started in the 1930s with one service from Pali Naka to the station.
Unique Week-long Marriage ceremonies :
Marriages were a week-long affair, beginning and ending on Thursday and the entire village received invites. They were conducted at the massive cottages that were rented for as low as Rs. 30 a month, with a large garden attached to it. Every day had its significance. Thursday was fixed for pig slaughter, Fridays for making papads and Saturday to fetch water from the village well and bathe the couple. Sunday was the big day with an elaborate wedding ceremony and reception. Monday was fixed for consuming the food that was left over and to rest, while Tuesday was the day to wash the guest’s feet in exchange for cash. Finally, Wednesday had a final dinner and the guests left on Thursday.
Bandra is home to more than 150 crosses. Many were primarily built 1896 to 1906 to ward-off a demonic plague epidemic that Mumbai fell prey during the decade. The oldest cross, a beautiful one with carved emblems, was built in 1610 in the Jesuit seminary of St. Anne’s which was subsequently relocated to St. Andrews’ Church after a fire in 1739 destroyed the original structure. The 1904 Mount Mary Church was built and designed by Mumbai’s leading architect, Shapoorjee Chandabhoy and it cost a princely sum of 1 lac then.
Can you imagine that it took a ferry across the Mahim creek to reach the industrial town of Bombay? The road that we travel on today was built when incidents of boat’s capsizing in the sea increased. Did you know there was only one train that halted at the Bandra Station initially but increased to 24 in 1873 and today 940 trains halt every day at Bandra, one of the busiest suburban railway station of Mumbai?
Bandra has grown and metamorphosed into a plush suburb over the years with the rich and the famous & Bollywood’s who’s who making it their home and giving it a glamour quotient that’s unparalleled. Property rates have grown multi-fold and prominent builders making their presence felt with lavish residential and commercial projects. The heart of Bandra is slowly changing with the “gaothan” making way to towers and it won’t be long before the rich past of Bandra will be relegated to history books and city records.