(The Almost Complete) History of Raj Bhavan, Mumbai

Do check out The Almost Complete Series for more historic places of Mumbai

G.P.S. Coordinates – 18°56’42.2″N 72°47’38.6″E

Introduction

Mumbai’s Raj Bhavan is the official residence of Governor of Maharashtra. Located in the plush Malabar Hill Area of Mumbai it occupies 50 acres of surroundings which includes many heritage bungalows, trees, large lawns and a beach.

Raj Bhavan Area

Approximately 50 Acres of Raj Bhavan

The Raj Bhavan has a precious collection of beautiful carpets, paintings, exquisitely carved doors and elegant french styled chairs and sofas with intricate portraits on them.

History

The place Malabar Hills could have got its name from the Pirates of Malabar (Refer the book The Pirates of Malabar, and An Englishwoman in India Two Hundred Years Ago ). As the coast of this area was a witness of major Naval Battles between the British Raj and Maratha Navy (which were also known as Pirates of Malabar at that time) (F.Y.I. Malabar Coastal region was accounted as the coastal area from Goa to South of India). The exact location of the Raj Bhavan is known as Malabar Point. This was the 3rd residence specially made for the Governor’s of Mumbai.

The First residence was Manor House (1665 – 1757) which lied at the heart of Bombay Castle between the Town Hall(Now Asiatic Library) and Old Customs House.

Mr. John Spencer’s (Youngest Son to the 3rd Earl of Sunderland) House was purchased as a new residence for the Governor in 1757. But the Governor Richard Bourchier (1750 -1760) wanted to stay away from the already congested area.

The Second Residence was located in Parel (1757 – 1897), where the Haffkine Institute now stands. It was then converted into Plague Hospital.

It is recorded that the Malabar Point was an occasional retreat for Governor William Medows (1788 – 1790) and Sir Evan Nepean (1812 – 1819)  who used to live in a small room in this area (probably a Hunting Lodge) . In 1880, Sir Richard Temple had already initiated the formal transfer of Government House from Parel to Malabar Point.

The early residence and office was known as Marine Villa, Sir Richard Temple had already shifted to this place. When the wife of Governor James Ferguson (1880 – 1885) died in Parel due to plague, the official residence was permanently shifted to Malabar Point.

Architecture

The Raj Bhavan consists of 5 Buildings.

1. Jal Bhushan

Built by Governor Mountstuart Elphinstone, the commanding citadel of Jal Bhushan is built on the foundation of a pretty cottage. Reginald Heber described this place as “a pretty cottage on a rocky and woody promontory actually washed by sea spray”.

Mountstuart Elphinstone built this place with French furniture, artistic wooden carpentry and exquisite paintings on the wall which magnifies the charm of Jal Bhushan. It also houses paintings by many Indian Masters.

2. Jal Chintan

Jal Chintan was once known as Point Bungalow. Jal Chintan resides at the edge of the cliff. It is the official residence for the visiting Prime Minister of India. It is said that it was Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s favourite abode.

3. Jal Lakshan

This residence is preserved for the President of India. Sir Bartle Frere had commissioned Theodore Jensen to paint a series of Maratha Warriors after the Mutiny of 1857. These paintings were then placed inside the building for a political standpoint which would make the leaders of India less hostile and make them accept British Sovereignty.

Jal Lakshan also has grand receiving rooms where the guests are invited to join the President who find themselves seated on grand furnitures gilded with Gold.

4. Jal Vihar

Jal Vihar is a Banquet Hall. The carved screens are designed to separate the dining area from the reception hall. The vaulted ceilings are now crowned with Ashoka Lion Emblems. The priceless persian carpets are inlaid with ancient motifs to give a look of Mughal Era.

5. Jal Sabhagraha

Jal Sabhagraha is the serene Durbar Hall of Raj Bhavan. It is a venue swearing ceremonies and other occasions.

Flora & Fauna

The Raj Bhavan houses 108 species of plants and trees, 35 species of butterflies, a huge variety of marine shells and many other plants and animals. The details of all Flora and Fauna found inside Raj Bhavan can be read in Flora & Fauna of Raj Bhavan-Mumbai by Naresh Chaturvedi

Do check out The Almost Complete Series for more historic places of Mumbai

Other Information

The place has its own Helipad and a swimming pool inside the mangroves which is cool.

Tourist entry is not allowed  in this place which is a very sad thing for history buffs.If someone has information on how to get entry inside the Raj Bhavan with official permissions and who to contact that would be really appreciated

References

Old Rajbhavan Mumbai Website

New RajBhavan Website 

The Pirates of Malabar, and An Englishwoman in India Two Hundred Years Ago by John Biddulph