Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Original Mumbadevi of Mumbai: Speculations on her location, her looks, and Cornwallis as her unwitting impostor


This blog has come out of a short but intensive search of the internet on Mumbadevi. It deals with the only first-hand description that I could find on what was within the Mumba devi temple. This description of 1710 is by one John Burnell, who may not have been a proper gentleman. This perhaps makes his account more honest. He describes the idol as red with a disproportionately big head and no mouth. Out of this search of the internet, I conclude that Mumbadevi temple was probably located near the dome where Cornwallis’ statue was kept, that the devi worshipped was the vermilion covered stones worshipped by koli fishermen and that the deep veneration for Cornwallis’ statue could actually have been worship of the mumba devi awakened by ancient memories. This is not new for stone-worshippers of Mother Universe.

In all my conversations with the Marathi-speaking people from Maharashtra Bombay has been rightly given the name Mumbai because they always refer to it as Mumbai. That’s it. Bombay has to be Mumbai. And tightly so (tight as firm, stiff,  fixed, rigid). The actual historical origin of the name need not be a tight-enough reason. It is the usage. For a natural Bengali (as distinct from a native Bengali) like me one can probably appreciate the sentiments behind the change in the name from Bombay to Mumbai”) as the change from Calcutta to the vernacular Kolkata seemed to be justified.

This blog, therefore, will not try to discuss whether or not the name should be Mumbai. It will also try to reconstruct the way the Mumbadevi temple may have looked as a koli temple in the place where it was thought to be originally erected. For this I can only use English accounts on th interenet and current Koli customs. I have not. In my brief search so far, found any English translation of Marathi accounts of ancient History of Mumbai.

Several cities have been renamed from their old names used by the British. The more dramtic change is that when Madras was changed to Chennai, as there was very little common sound bytes between them. Since the British came by sea (1639, when they built Fort St. George), the names used by fishermen should have been the ones they used first. Madars is thought to be named after a fisherfolk’s village, madrasapattinam, pattinam meaning town.  There is, however, no record of a pre-British name for madrasapattinam. A british mapmaker says it comes from Mundiraj shortened to undras or madras.  There is no regional god-name associated with Madras. It could have come from the Portuguese Madre de Deus Church in what is now Santhome built, they say, in 1575

The name Chennai is supposed to come from a Chennappa Naicker---which could be a Tamilised version of a Telugu ruler Damarla Chennappa Nayakudu---who is said to have sold the land to the British. It is also said it could also have come from the name of the first temple, Chenna Kesava Peruvar Koil, built after Fort St George was built. There seems to be no pre-Fort-St-George reference to Chennai or Madras, although the immediate region around Madras/Chennai has a glorious and ancient history. The Tamil version of Ramayana, kamba Ramayana was written in Thiruvottiyur, Thiruvallavar author of great Tamil epics is (perhaps wrongly) thought to have lived in Mylapore whose history could go back to first century BC. Tamils claim Valmiki, the author of the Sanskrit Ramayana (it may not have been in Sanskrit at all, but rather in Brahmi) got his moksha (great people do not die) in Thiruvanmyur. There is, of course, the famous Mamallapram or Mahabalipuram on the sea coast. It is likely that the alien sailors preferred to land their fleet in places where there was no existing population with an old record. The name of the place they landed in may not therefore have a recorded history.

The same would be true for what is now Mumbai. The aliens gave them the name that is local if not historical. It is another matter how they learnt of the local name in the first place!

There can be little ancient pride in the alien name of a place.  India is a case in point, even if I love my India, There must be some pride in giving a place the name the locals use in their own vernacular for it for whatever historical reason. Mumbai is one such case/

A few months ago during my routine inspection of a shop which buys old newspapers and other printed waste (ratthi shop) near the Pashan vegetable market, I found a book “History of Bombay, 1681-1776” by one M. D, David which was his doctoral thesis presented to Wilson College, Bombay, where he was Professor. This book that I bought (Fig 4, left; the numbering begins with Fig 4 since it is actually a continuation ofmy understanding of the Balasaheb Thackeray influence starting from the  the previous blog) was almost unread except being eaten and bored by a large number of bookworms. I bought it for Rs 20 has now an internet price of Rs 5000-6000. I always thought I will Blog on Old Bombay based on this book. Other books in English that I have downloaded from the internet and have referred to extensively for this blogs are (Fig 4)  da Cunha’s “Origin of Bombay” and Burnell’s “Bombay in the days of Queen Anne”.

The book by David starts with 1661 because as “…a result of the marriage between Charles II and the Infante Catherine of Braganza, Portugal ceded Bombay to the English king in 1661. ... the Portuguese King ceded the Port and Island of Bombay to the English with the idea ... of obtaining adequate support for the Portuguese in India against the growing power of the Dutch.” However, much of the ethnic history of Bombay begins before this time.

The Foreword of David’s book begins with
“The growth of Bombay from a settlement of rock, swamp and jungle to the proud position of the commercial metropolis of India is a most romantic story.” It is this story that we require understanding if we have to understand the political history of the Marathi Manoos in the context of the history of Mumbai. 


A book I must read is Mariam Dossal's “Mumbai: Theatre of Conflict, City of Hope - 1660 To Present Times” In a review of the book it has been written “Seventeenth century Bombay was a collection of islands, from Salsette in the north to Old Woman's Island in the south, packed with coconut plantations, paddy fields and fishing villages….” A web-site http://oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in/2011/02/bombay-fort-mapsphotospaintingsnews1600.html shows a view from present day Malabar Hill (Fig 5, click to expand; the place was called after the lookout-point for the Mapilla pirates from Malabar) that corresponds to this description.
Since Mumbai is now an agglomeration of several villages it is important to know how the various places got their names. An 1849 “Hindu map” published in the Census of India, 1901, shows (see Figure above, click to expand, as always) showing some of the local names including places named by trees. It also shows he settlement of various communities, such as Bhandaris, Prabhus, Thakurs, Brahmins, besides kolis. . An web site does this rather  exhaustively and concisely (https://sites.google.com/site/historyofmumbai/originsofname) . According to this site some of the places got their names from trees planted by Raja Bhimdev who sert up his base in Mahim in the 13th century. For example, the name Parel is from the Paral tree, wadala is from wad or the banyan tree, names beginning with chinch3is is after the tamarind tree, phanaswadi is from the phanas or jackfruit tree, Madmalaor Mahim woods is from mad or the coconut tree, The ubiquitious babul (Acacia Arabica) tree, found from Raja Bhimdev’s time is said to give the name to Babulnath, with a temple on a hill that was built in 1780 on a site containing buried Hindu idols. An alternative is that there was a Somavanshi Kshatriya named Babalji Hirji Nath who funded the construction of the temple and the Yajurvedi Brahmins who consecrated the temple called it babulnath. It is interesting to note that the Fofalwadi Lane in Bhuleshwar got its name from the betel-nut (areca-catechu) tree which in Persian is calle pupal and n Arabic as fufal.

Mumbadevi, a koli temple that is currently acknowledged to be the reason Mumbai got its name. There are more than twenty koli villages in Mumbai and each of them have their own village goddess that they call by various names. The names of other places have little to do with the name of these Koli temples. The name Colaba, for example, is thought by some to be derived from a mis-pronunciatin of koli-wada which means a Koli hamlet.

Most of the short discussions on the names of Bombay in the internet seems to have been sourced from the 1917 book “Bombay Place-Names and Street-Names. An Excursion into the by-ways of the history of Bombay City”. By Samuel T. Sheppard where it is written:
The name is so exhaustively ' examined in the Bombay City Gazetteer (Vol. I, pp. 19-24) that no more than a summary of the various derivations need be given here.
DeCastro, writing in 1538, said the island was called Boa Vida (Good Life) on account of its groves, game, and abundance of food.
Fryer wrote (1673) of the '' convincing denomination Bombaim quasi Boon Bay." Grose (1750) refers to "Buon-Bahia now commonly Bombaim." These are commonly recognised as mere attempts to explain the more ancient Musalman and Hindu names, Manbai , Mambai, or Mumbai, which were turned into Bombain (occurs in 1508) : Mombaym, Bombain, Bombayim (Portuguese, 16th century) : Bombaye and Bombaum (1666), Bombaye (1676), and Bombay or Bambai, which occurs in 1538 and finally came into use in the 18th century. ... ...
One could consider a name such as Bombahim laying stress on a possible connection with Raja Bhimdev’s Mahikawati or Mahim.

One significant statement from Burnell is that “The Portugals … discarded the old name it had born for many ages, and coined one new they thought more proper, giving it that of Bombahim, by others Boon Baiha, and by the English Bombay, in alludance to the harbour … “ Burnell does not say what was the old name that the Portugeuese discarded. However, it does suggest that the commercially familiar name (necessarily alien since commerce was with outsider Europeans) of Bombay began with the Portuguese name.

One conjecture is by P. B. Joshi in “A short sketch of the early history of Bombay: Hindu Period”. He considers Mumba is derived from Amba (Bhawani the consort of Shiva) it being a compound word of Maha and Amba pronounced by the “illiterate” kolis as Mamba or Mumba and the suffix “ai” signifying mother.  Joshi may have considered the kolis to be illiterate about the culture behind the two pagodas (described by Burnell) near walkeshwar dedicated to Mahadev or to (strangely) to both Krishna and Durga that built a temple at Walkeshwar (The original temple of Walkeshwar, built by the Silaharas of the north Konkan, destroyed either by the Muhammadans or the Portuguese (Bomb. City Gaz. vol. in, p. 359)).that was blasted off by the Portugese (according to Burnell). There is likewise the remains of some extraordinary good sculpture, and several bases and capitals of pillars of several orders, to all [sic,? totally] different from those we use in Europe, tho' indeed are really worth observation, being cut by very good hands, tho' all broke and decayed, lying in a heap of confusion, as here the leg of a god, and there a head; a god is without a nose and another is without an elbow, all lying scattered up and down, according as the strength of the blast was pleased to disperse them, tho' something of beautyis still legible in the remaining part, its front prospect,
It is customary to assume that the Koli fishing community were the main occupants of these islands.  It would seem (http://mudiraja.com/mudiraju_kolis.html) that the Koli community were the original aboriginals of the Indian subcontinent. This website has the the term koli being derived from the word “black”. In Maharashtra the kolis came from the kalabhras community. The change Kalabhras - Kalabhros - Kalbhros Kalbhors - Bhors and Kala(bhras) - Kala - Kalo - Kale - Kali - koli have been suggested. There are also the Kshatriya kolis of Rajasthan, the Mudirajas of Andhra and the Muthurajas of neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the bhils and the jats of MP and UP and Punjab. The same web site would have Valmiki, Ekalavya (I like that), Buddha’s mother (I agree) and therefoe Buddha (?), and  Shivaji’s Commander-in-Chief and several of his Generals as descendants of kolis.It is thought that the original kolis are of Dravidian origin. This would be ironic in the early Shiv Sena “lungi hatao, pungi bajao context. I will write on this in the next blog.

Sheppard’s book on the names of Bombay has " Prolonged investigation leaves little room for doubt that the word Bombay is directly derived from the goddess Mumba, the patron deity of the pre-Christian Kolis, the earliest inhabitants of the island ; and it only remains to ascertain the original form of the goddess's name." (Gazetteer, Vol. I., p. 21.)”. There is the rub.

An actual first-hand English description of Mumbadevi temple is from Burnell’s book. He writes describing a Kolwada (a koli hamlet) near a place he calls Caradaw:
It hath but one town of note in it, called Colorey [Kollwada], the inhabitants being fishers, and joineth in point of government with those of Dungary. Of publick structures it hath none but two small pagodas on the back of the town, behind which is a large tank. The pagods are those of Mombidivia and Gunis [Ganesh], Mombidivia is seated In a poor hovel upon a small altar bedeck'd with flowers, her head being three times bigger in proportion than her body. It is painted red, hath two eyes and a nose, but never a mouth, and makes a most terrible figure, her forehead being adorned with the Braminy mark, on which are some grains of rice sticking to it. In the niches of the room are several lamps and two stones in the fashion of pillars, about 10 feet high.

Images of the Mumbadevi temple available on the internet shows the interior (Fig 7, bottom left) as well as the lower part of the exterior (Fig 7 2nd from left) to be similar (Fig 7 2nd from right) to the exterior of the Buddhist caves at Bhaja or the interior of Karla caves. The two stones “in the fashion of pillars” in Burnell’s Mombidivia temple suggests a Buddhist cave influence. It is also not clear there could have been an Elephanta cave influence. After all, there have been laments that the advanced culture of Elpehanta when left to its own “descended” to worship of red stones.

The image of Mumbadevi (blue face Fig 7, bottom right) riding a tiger (Fig 7 top right, from http://www.grotal.com/Video-Of-landmark-maa-mumba-devi-temple-V63703) is a later (probably Gujarathi/Rajasthani style) represenetation while Annapurana riding a peacock on her left has a more primitive face (in red) similar to other faces found outside the temple (Fig 7 bottom right). The red face of Annapurna could be from memories of what Burnell calls Mombidivia. This face is not mouth-less. On the other hand the early stone worshippers had red stones with two prominent eyes and are usually mouthless as discussed in some of my earlier blogs (shown in Fig 8  below). This seems to be a typical Maharshtra tradition. The swayambhu (not made by hand) tradition of ganapathi images and the Marathi preference for ganapathi. It could be important to know whether the ganapathi image in the second pagoda in

Burnell’s description below for ganesh temple near mumbadevi temple could be viewed came as a rival temple for upper class Hindus to attract kolis just as the Portugese would build their church in the same place.
Gunis is seated in much such another habitation, being cut out of a large solid stone and placed on a square altar, on the left side of which is a concavity for the water wherewith they wash the god to be convey'd. He hath hardly any eyes visible,

There is, interestingly, a koli fisherfolk temple at the entrance (Fig 7 top left) of the Karla caves which also has images of a lady (aai ekveera) at the sanctum sanctorum (Fig 7 top middle; the eyes seem to be different in two images found in the internet). The silver decorations behind the goddesses are of the same style as those of the  Mumba devi temple and probably of the same age as each other. The connection between Karla caves and the Mumbadevi temple is consistent with some views that the early Koli fishing communities were probably Buddhists who continued worshipping their local goddesses. The kohli communities in the various islands of Bombay seem to worship different goddesses. The kolis of Worli islands worshipped Golphadevi, while those at Versova worshipped Hingla devi, and khardevi  at Colaba which was part of the Old Woman’s islands.
A peculiar feature of images of aai ekveera on the internet is that the photographs of the same idol at Lonavala do not seem to be identical as far as their eyes are concerned. Slight but definite changes are shown in the bottom right of the deity in Lonavala (Fig 9, bottom right). There must be some morphing. Extreme change is in the figures on the left of Fig 9 bottom where the eyes are glaring and fixed. The eyes here resemble the eyes of the pieces left outside in the complex of the present day Mumba devi temple of Mumbai (Fig 7, bottom right). The morphing seems to be definitely there for the deities of Lonavala in the two figures of Lonavala in the top left of Fig 9.  The red colour and the staring eyes are typical of the stones worshipped in figures given in Fig 8. The reproducible ekvira devi images that one gets on the internet those from the Dhule temple in the interior of Maharashtra. The ekbira devi here is a painted stone to begin with!
There is a suggestion therefore of a folk memory, which insists on restoring images of the god of they worship to a featureless stone whose conscious is represented only by their eyes. It does not matter what name they give it. They only worship it as a memory. Different stones of worship have different memories. The memory is powerful and persuasive and could linger over generations and get stamped in real-space by a token of a flower, or vermilion, or a garland. It would seem very “savage” to the “educated”.

The Golphadevi temple at Worli has a stone idol that is worshipped by the son-kolis. Another curious koli temple is a more recent Hingla devi temple from Versova. This temple in Versova. has an idol which is the conventional “Gujarati” style like that in the modern Mumba devi temple. The origin of the Hingla Devi name is uncertain. I tend to agree with the belief that it is from the Hinglaj temple on the banks of the Hungli river in Baluchistan (Pakistan).  A “small shapeless stone is worshipped as Hinglaj Mata. The stone is smeared with Sindoor (vermilion)” (Wikippedia) (see Fig 10, right). This temple is associated with shakti  worship and the stone feature is very similar to khadadevi or aai ekvira of Dhule or indeed any other stone that is worshipped in India.

It is quite likely from the above that the idol inside the Mumbadevi temple is also a red stone with eyes. It conforms with Burnell’s description “Mombidivia is seated In a poor hovel upon a small altar bedeck'd with flowers, her head being three times bigger in proportion than her body. It is painted red, hath two eyes and a nose ... .” Burnell also mentions a tank near Mumbadevi. The koli temples are not associated generally with a tank. It suggests that the tanks were initially part of the complex of two pagodas mentioned by Burnell. One could guess that the earlier temples were built by those who built the sculptures of Elephanta/Ajanta. They had to be abandones and would have been later occupied by the kolis who converted existing images to red-stone images they are more familiar with. This has already been suggested by the modern morphing exercises apparent in Fig 9.

In a blog on “Pantocrator: the snake, the lion and the dragon ... and Belur” (22-1-11) I had noted
There is strong evidence that the structures left standing at Belur were built on remains of some other previous structure unlike the structure at Halebid a little further away from Belur. Many of the stones that pave the spaces between structures at Belur have geometrical shapes that suggests pillars and bases and arches (Fig 13, left and centre). In one or two places there are even signs of worship with haldi and kumkum (Fig 13, left). There is no sign of an idol having been installed there although there is some sign of some inscription on the whiter stone. There are many such geometrical shapes but no other with signs of worship (at least that day). It is as if there is a folk memory (swarm intelligence if you like) of time past when a sacred object of worship would have been associated with the stone. The worship endures because the memory endures because the worship continues with or without the haldi and the kumkum. There is little veneration from the devotee for the art of the sculptor as such.

I give some examples below which could be in accordance with the above.

The Khardevi temple (khara means salt) on Colaba is actually a cross made of two poles that are draped in a sari and given a painted mask that is topped with a gold-coloured tin crown. The make-shift idol stands (Fig 10, left) close to the sea such that the waves can touch it since “Khardevi must have her regular quota of sea water.” (http://www.timeoutmumbai.net/mumbai-local/features/mumbai-idols).  According to the same website the Khardevi temple stood on a hillock where the idol is now planted and was slowly buried under construction rubble. In the compounds of the Colaba police station (I don’t know how it got there) nearby there is a red mound with painted eyes. This mound is known as khada devi. (see Fig 10, middle; from http://www.aii.unimelb.edu.au/sites/default/files/tiffin%20talks%20booklet(web)_0.pdf ) which is said to be on the far left and is in “the company of the seven water spirits of Bombay”. The memory of khardevi probably lingers in the spot where it originally was and Khadadevi is at least a re[resentation of that koli devi.  
.
A local “Koli expert”, Sanjay Ranade, is quoted as saying that “... the mound is an ancient volcanic rock that was later covered with vermillion to prevent it from crumbling,” However, all over Maharashtra vermillion covered (now conveniently vermillion-colour-painted) rocks (see Gnostic Embrace of Warkaris in the Monsoon Season around Pune: Part III Kanifnath, Kanoba, and Syncretism of 21sr august 2010.).

The passage from my earlier blog came back forcefully to me when I was reseatching this blog. In “Glimpses of Old Bmbay and Western India” by Sheppard.
There is the very fine monument, in the Elphinstone Circle, to Cornwallis. Go when you will, yoii will see flowers placed on the open book, or garlands on the figures. This is not a new custom. In 1825 it was thought by the natives to be a place of religious worship, and they called it Chota Dewal. Government tried to stop this, and issued some vernacular notices that it was a mistake. But it was of no use, for when these feelings take possession of the natives they are not easily eradicated.

In “Govind Narayan's Mumbai: An Urban Biography From 1863” by Govinda Nārāyaṇa Māḍagã̄vakara there is another account of this veneration using an Indian loya;ist’s perspective..
 “In the front is an open space about five hundred hands square known as the Bombay Green. Our people refer to it as the chowk. In the centre of the Chowk, a small temple-like structure has been built and a statue of Lord Cornwallis, the Governor General has been installed there. ... ... Many of the labourers and the poor used to worsip the statue, and place coconuts and other offerings in front of it. Recently the government has put a stop to this craziness. Our people are truly hopeless! Truly naive! If they see any shape in a stone, they bring a coconut and fold their hands in respect. They do not bother to think.
In order to provide a clear view when attacked the English had cleared some area of land of semi-circular shape around the fort around 1770s. This area became the Esplanade and the Bombay Green. The Esplanade Road that ran through it is now the MG Road. The development of Bombay Green with its “temple” for Cornwallis (shown in Fig 11 top left) to the modern Chartered Mercantile Bank Building at Elphinstone Circle (now Homiman circle) is shown in Fig 11. Cornwallis’ statue is kept in a thatched hut in the bottom of Fig 11 top right (taken in 1870s). For some reason the green was reduced to a circle and a fountain placed in the centre and given more importance than Cornwallis. The views taken from where the Town Hall now is, shows St Thomas Cathedral at the back.
                   
The question that comes in mind is whether the flowers and garlands were not for Cornwallis, but for a distant memory of a place of worship. It would be remarkable if the statue of Cornwallis was actually near the place where Mumba devi temple stood. I have not been able to locate an image of the Mumbadevi pagoda on the internet. I have located an image of a pagoda (Fig 12 left) from 1826 in an article “Sidis attack and defeat English in Bombay-1689 A.d., Bombay History” by one Yakub Khan. The dome of the pagoda is similar to that under which Lord Cornwallis’ statue stood. The speculation is whether Cornwallis’ dome stood near the place where Mumba devi stood.

Another perspective on the location of the Church gate of old Bombay Fort. Mumbadevi was located outside the walls of the fort near the church gate. A perspective of the gate with respect to the St Thomas Cathedral is given in Fig 12 left. This is consistent with the location of Church gate near Flora Fountain (indicated by blue circle in Fig 13 left).  It is the area towards the north that was cleared and became Bombay-Green/Esplanade and now Azad Maidan. Looking at the different perspectives in Fig 11 top it would seem that the Cornwallis’ dome was not exactly where the fountain of the Elphinstone circle is now located. The dome seems to be more towards the left, more towards the Church gate nare Flora fountain.

I have not had access to records. I can only guess from information on the internet
In some descriptions, the temple of Mumbadevi was constructed at Bori Bunder that currently makes the site of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Boribunder is also close to Cavel. The Mumba devi temple was also close to Nossa Senhora d'Esperansa,  a Portuguse church built by Franciscans before 1600. This church is said to have been near the tank that belonged to Mumbadevi. Both the Portuguese church and Mumbadevi are early non-British establishments which were outside the walls of the of Bombay fort and therefore lacked protection unlike the old Thomas Cathedral of British which was within the fort walls near what was then called Church gate. It is apparent at that time, the British had scant respect for things other than their own. John Burnell’s book written  around 1710 it is mentioned that the “… gallows and Phansl Talao (gibbet pond or gallows tank) were on the site of Victoria Terminus.” The phansi talao and gallows tank where public hangings took place was also near Mumba devi. The sites of the present Bombay Muncipal Corporation building is said to be built near the saite where phansi talao was..

While searching for information on the Elphinsone Circle, I came acrpss an article entitled “A Joint Enterprise: The Creation of a New Landscape in British Bombay (1839-1918)” by Preeti Chopra, Associate Professor of Architecture, Urban History and Visual Culture Studies Department of Languages & Cultures of Asia, and Design Studies Department University of Wisconsin published in governance. In that artilcle she writes about Elphinstone circle.
The native public adapted to the new circle, which replaced the chakri or circle where children played. The fountain was erected on the exact spot where a well of spring water existed and was named after the well’s donor.The well was a spot where passersby— cotton and opium brokers, clerks, and strangers—quenched their thirst. The old tamarind tree, where “groups of all kinds of men” gathered at noon or in the afternoon to rest and refresh themselves in the 1850s, was not cut down and in 1920 was frequented by men on a daily basis between noon and four o’clock.

The reference to the “old Tamarind Tree” is important since it marks an important spot for various popular activities. A report of 1803 mentions that adhoc auctions were held under the tree. The old map of 1849 specifically marks out the tamarind tree. One map of Azad Maidan shows a tree (Fig 13 middle). I have superimposed the 1849 map on the map of modern Mumbai after fitting the contours of each to the bay and Worli area. This is shown in Fig 13, right, with the location of the tamarind tree from the 1849 map being shown by a red circle. The agreement is surprisingly good considering the roughness of the fit and the uncertainty of the 1849 mapping.

The point of interest is that the koli area in the 1849 map stretches right into the area where Azad Maidan or Bombay Green begins. This would be consistent with Burnell’s descriptions of “... Colorey [Kollwada], the inhabitants being fishers, and joineth in point of government with those of Dungary” The locations of the pagodas bak of the town and the locatin of the tank would now be consistent with the location of the phansi talao (gallows) or the portugese church or the dome for Cornwallis on the Bombay Green.


Mother Universe may not care about the name we give her

The worship of Mother Universe does not de[end on the name or form given to her. They may have mispronounced Mahadevi Amba to mumbadevi, The kolis woeahipped the stone with the neme they had in their mind and with the rituals their community had in mind. It perhaps was a distraction if their idol of worship had a definite shape. It would not have mattered to them what their acual object of worship was deemed to be as long as they had their mind quite clear. The kolis converted easily. They easiy converted to Portuguese Catholicism, The sol kolis could convert to mahadev kolis. They could also convert to Vedic worships under Shivsena’s patronage, It did not matter. Nor did it matter to them that Mumbai got her name from them.

The history behind the name of Mumbai should not matter to us. Nor will it matter to Mumbadevi,

When I go to Mumbai the next time, I will be little richer in the knowledge of her history and curious about it. If I walk around Homiman circle and feel a little shiver down my spine, I will be wondering whether I was in front og Mumbadevi or on the gallows near gibbet pond.
















3 comments:

indhu M said...

Thanks for sharing!!
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Radha N said...

e " John Burnell’s book written around 1710 it is mentioned that the “… gallows and Phansi Talao (gibbet pond or gallows tank) were on the site of Victoria Terminus.”
This quote is from a book written in 1710 when there was no sign of Victoria Terminus, not even in the dreams of any one. So this is a gross error either of typing or of inadvertent mix of two different quotes.
Paral, परळ in Marathi is a shallow basein-like utensil. Parel was and is a low-lying area,and during rains, it was the first place to get flooded. Hindmata area was during rains always in waist-deep water, in my memory.
in Marathi,it is very common to describe or name any place from its geographical features. e.g जूं. जुवें,जुहूं,जूं-चंद्र etc. Or,मिर्‍यें,काशी-मिर्‍यें, मिरा रोड, मिरा बंदर,भाट/भाटी,दांडा/दांडी,चौपाटी/सातपाटी, आगशी/आगाशी/अक्से, भरड/भरडा etc. जूं means a high amidst watery low lands, a semi island. मिर्‍यें-मिरे-मीरा means a moderately high hilly area near sea shore, surrounded by water on two-three sides.भाट/भाटी is a fertile island formed in the river or creek,amply irrigated, rich with coconut, betel nut and paddy farming. दांडा/दांडी is a strip of sand formed on the shore by the waves.आगशी is open terrace like level field either leveled, or built with limestone (चुनेगच्ची).It is derived from आकाश i.e. open sky.पाटी is again a strip of sand but a little wide and level strip. भरड means a barren, coarse piece of land. (continued)

Radha N said...

continued from above comment...
In my opinion, many of the commentators on history of Mumbai seem to be handicapped due to lack of knowledge of local languages i.e. Marathi and Gujarati, and their dialects and usages therein. otherwise,Parel couldn't have been thought to be derived from पडेल tree,भायखळे from bahava बहावा and माझगाव from मत्स्यग्राम.Almost all the villages in the old seven islands were fishing villages. Then why only the name माझगाव should come from मत्स्यग्राम?The fishing jetty भाऊचा धक्का) is a pretty recent development in the history of Mazgaon. It has got nothing to do with the name Mazgaon. The name comes from the word 'मध्यग्राम' It means 'the middle' village. The word 'माझ/मझ/मंझ is very common in Hindi. Marathi and Gujarati.like माझघर in Marathi meaning the middle or central room, मंझली दीदी means the middle sister etc. If one looks at the map of seven islands before reclamation,one will realize that Mazgaon lies exactly in between northward extension of eastern arm of Mumbai island and the Parel island.So it is a 'middle' island lying in between. It had a very fertile agro-land, excellent mangoes grew here and were even sent to Mughal court.Fishing was not the major and only activity in this 'middle' village.