BANDRA ... a sky view.
History records the first known settlement in the area as far back as 600BC. Part of Ashoka’s empire three hundred years later, the place came under the hindu Silhara dynasty from 900 to 1300AD.
The Portuguese, in 1534, took possession of the seven islands of
Tradition has it that Bandra was originally known as Vandra or Ape, the home of monkeys, then Bandor as the Portuguese called it in 1505, later Bandera, Bandura, Bandore, Pandara, Bandorah, Bandara and finally Bandra, a railway sign board finalised it at the end of the last century. There are other views on the origin of the name, one stating that it is derived from a Portuguese princess and another more plausible one that it is a corruption of Bandar-gah in Persian (Bandar is a common word for Port in Iran). Vandre in Marathi and Bandar in Persian both mean port and come from the same Sanskrit root word. It is referred to as "Bandora" as seen on gravestones in the cemetery of St Andrew church.
Reports on the exact date vary, but either in 1570 or 1620 the Jesuits built a church and a college in Bandra under the invocation of Santa Anna (St Anne) on very extensive grounds. Judging from the remains of foundations of old walls the enclosure extended from the point near Mahim Causeway where now stands a mosque, ran along the seashore as far as the end of what was Bundarwadi, took a northerly turn across Godhbundar road (now Swami Vivekananda road) as far as D’Monte street and then went diagonally straight to the present Bandra railway station, thus enclosing Bundarwadi, Madamwadi, Dadaboiwadi, a part of Hill road and the whole of the Bombay municipal slaughter house (now BEST depot) compound. The chapel and
In 1640 the Portuguese built Castella de Aguada (Fort of the Waterpoint) at Land's End, a strategically located watchtower overlooking the Mahim Bay and the islands of Worli to the south, the Arabian Sea to the west and the northern sea route into Mumbai habour, a large estuary, which was later reclaimed from the sea in the nineteenth century. During the Portuguese rule, it was armed with seven cannons and other smaller guns as defense. A freshwater spring in the vicinity supplied potable water to passing ships, thus lending the fort its name. After the decline of the Portuguese in the early 18th century, the British partially demolished the fort as a precautionary measure against the Marathas sensing an impending threat to their possessions.
When King Charles married Catherina of
In 1830, the British donated large parts of
The chapel of
The Kunbi farmers founded St Andrew Church in 1733, which has the distinctive Portuguese-style façade. The wall enclosing the compound of St Andrew Church was built by a Parsi, Manockjee Sorabjee Ashburner in 1862 as is recorded on a slab on the main gate of the enclosure. The Portuguese built several churches in Bandra facilitating its unique distinction of being a town having the most Roman Catholic churches anywhere in the world, all within a four sq/km area; six churches each with their own parishes, and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount. The churches beside the Basilica, St Anne and St Andrew are St Peter (1853), Our Lady of Mount Carmel (1890), St Theresa (1948), and St Francis of Assisi.
Bandra has over a hundred and fifty crosses at various places, many built to ward off the decade long plague epidemic that struck between 1896 and 1906. The oldest cross is the one relocated in St Andrew church compound. It was originally at St Anne but when the building was blown up on the orders of the English to prevent it falling into Maratha hands in the year 1737, the cross, its only original remnant, was relocated. It stands 17ft high and is carved out of a single stone, on its surface thirty-nine emblems of the passion of Jesus Christ.
Bandra remained a village with plantations of rice and vegetables separated from the industrial town of
The first school founded in Bandra after Bombay passed on to the English was St. Andrew’s Parish School started by the Vicar, Fr Francisco de Mello in 1780, to teach Catechism to the children of the parish. This later became St Andrew High School.
St Stanislaus High School, started in 1863 as an orphanage for native boys by the Jesuits of St Peter’s church, became a high school in 1923. It was first English medium school in the suburbs and maintains its status as a premier educational institution to date as it approaches its sesquicentennial.
In 1863, the first four F.C. (Daughters of the Cross) sisters came to Bandora (Bandra) and started a day school for village children, that eventually evolved into
The first railway service, the Bombay Baroda Central Indian Railway (BBCIR) was inaugurated on April 12th 1867 with one train per day between Virar and Bombay, Six years later the frequency was increased to 24 and today over 900 trains stop at Bandra each day. A handful of Bandra’s residents had motor vehicles; the other’s just walked to the railway station. Till as late as the 1930's Bandra had only one bus service from Pali naka down to Hill road to the Railway station.
There was a section of Muslims in the eastern part of Bandra, presently across the railway lines, called Navpada (Naupada) previously known as Naopara. These Kokani Sunni Musalmans or Konkani Muslims, all Hanafi, had migrated from inner parts of Thane district like Vasai, Nalasopara, Bhiwandi and Rabodi. Nine prominent Kokni Muslim families inhabited here, so it was named as Nav (meaning nine in Marathi) and Pada (meaning village). They built the Kokani masjid (Konkani mosque), and a cemetery and lakes, which can be traced back more than 300 years. The inhabitants of this area mainly ran cotton hand looms. By the introduction of power looms in
The Tata Agiary on
The English found in this newly acquired
Bandra consisted of villages Sherly, Malla, Rajan, Kantwadi, Waroda, Ranwar, Boran, Pali, Chuim and Chimbai. Ranwar had a tennis court and the famed Ranwar Club was popular for Christmas and New Year Eve dances. Supari Talao, Bandra’s signature sports venue, actually had a ‘talao’ on its eastern half, and was home to American troops during World War II, who stole the hearts of the local children by sharing their rations with them on their way to school.
Each of the two waterfronts that embrace Bandra have had their own unique place in the lives of their inhabitants. The bay strewn with rocks and sand facing the causeway to Mahim and the city was the source of livelihood to a large fishing community of Kolis as well as a unique experience for us growing up there, witnesses to its monsoon fury as well as its tranquil calm, home to a wide variety of aquatic life. Each rock cluster was given a different name according to the purpose it served. The paddle boats, the walls of fishing nets and damns of rocks (kalwa) were a treat that still endures. The tireless fisher folk were a source of enlightenment, their camaraderie, discipline and hard work that went into bringing each fresh catch and themselves safely back home. Then in the mid 1960’s with grandiose plans in the name of ‘progress’, a major portion of the bay was reclaimed (hence Bandra Reclamation), and the local Kolis forever lost their paradise. This bay was lipped with cottages and buildings built in the 1940’s and 50’s with relevant names. Wavelash, where I have resided for my 50 odd years, as well as all the other structures here had their sea fronts lashed by waves twice each day. All of these structures were in large compounds where we as children would spend the whole day, each different group at their own game.
Godbundar road, Bazaar road, Hill road, Pali road and BJ road are the five oldest roads in Bandra. Godbundar road originally ran from Mahim causeway, skirted Bazaar road, went around the Bandra talao and continued on to Godbundar. It was later made straight by cutting through the talao. Bazaar road began at Godbundar road, opposite the mosque and ran through the market keeping close to the coast, now the Bandra Reclamation. Its two kilometre stretch is home to a Jain temple, a Ram mandir, a Hanuman temple, a Khoja mosque, a Catholic chapel and a Sikh gurduwara. Hill Road starting from Bandra railway station went through middle of Bandra town, past St Andrew church to terminate at the foot of the
The families of Bandra’s yesteryears were large and traditions handed down from generations were faithfully adhered to ... many still are. Marriages were an eight day celebration; from Thursday to Thursday for a Sunday wedding. The whole village was invited to celebrate along with the extended families and no one was excused for not being there. Thursday was pig slaughter day. Friday was to make papads to go down with the locally brewed spirit. On Saturday ‘fugias’ and ‘varias’ were prepared and water was drawn from the village well to bathe the bride and groom ... a tradition called ‘paani’ followed by East Indians to date. Sunday was the nuptial Mass followed by a grand reception with a sumptuous menu laced with ‘kimaat’, a concoction of the same locally brewed spirits and selected condiments. Monday was the day of rest when the remaining food was finished. Tuesday was time for ‘pos’, when the feet of the guests were washed in exchange for cash. There was a farewell dinner on Wednesday and the guests left on Thursday by which time ‘honeymoon’ for the bridal couple was supposedly over.
Did that honeymoon ever end? ... it never really did ... i know for sure
... it's the Bandra we love!
(with inputs from my 'good old Bandra' friends as well as some new ones, documented history and info available online).