Mumbai is rife with markers of its colonial past. One building emblematic of the British architecture, which we frequently come upon in South Bombay, is the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) building.
In 2021, this building was opened to the public for the first time in over a century, inviting the public to explore where the city is run from. We are guided through the building’s architectural history and the foundation of the municipal corporation through a tour held every weekend by the heritage foundation Khaki Tours, in collaboration with the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC).
F W Stevens was only part of the building’s foundation. Vyankoo Balooji Kalewar was the supervising architect, who managed to have it built under its Rs 11,88,082 budget. The labourers came from the Telugu-speaking Kamathi community, who had settled in the neighbourhood now known as Kamathipura – named after the community.
The municipal corporation was formed in 1865 headed by Sir Arthur Crawford. As a result of the American Civil War, Bombay was made part of the globalisation era. The city lowered the walls of its fort and money started flowing in from the harbour since Bombay was a suitable stop for the cotton and tobacco coming from America, making up for the ports blocked due to the war.
In its initial years, the corporation was stationed in Girgaum, after which it moved to Rhythm House and then to the Army and Navy building in Kala Ghoda. It was only in 1884 that the foundation stone of the present headquarters was laid.
Citizens must report at Gate no. 2 of the BMC building, 15 minutes prior to the tour. A government-approved identity card is necessary.
Sabah Virani was a reporter for the Mumbai chapter of Citizen Matters, interested in matters of labour, policy and history. She is fascinated by the gradual swell of change in institutions and ideology over time. Sabah holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and has previously worked at All Things Small and Fifty Two.
In the interludes, she can be caught reading, watching movies or driving, rather fast.