A Foothold in Mumbai’s Past

These guided walking tours offer a great window into the Maximum City's storied monuments and colourful history.

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South Mumbai is one of Mumbai’s main historical quarters, best explored on a walk through its by-lanes. Photo by Dinodia Photo/Getty Images

You can often spend weekend mornings in the heritage districts of South Mumbai like Kala Ghoda, Fort, and Ballard Estate ambling along on narrow streets, gazing at buildings at least four generations old, while protecting yourself from flying tennis balls courtesy the games of gully cricket played in front of empty corporate offices. It is at this time these areas are their quietest best.

In recent years, an addition to this landscape has been clusters of people, armed with water bottles and caps and led by a guide. It is pleasantly more likely to be a group of locals than tourists who are attending walking tours conducted by a new wave of companies that are packaging, conveying, and championing the city’s past for its present.

If uncovering little nuggets of you city’s history ranks high on your weekend to-do list, here are three options you can explore to get started:

 

Alisha Sadikot – The Inheritage Project

Alisha Sadikot's Bandra walk introduces you to the neighbourhood's 400-year-old history. Photo courtesy: Alisha Sadikot

Alisha Sadikot’s Bandra walk introduces you to the neighbourhood’s 400-year-old history. Photo courtesy: Alisha Sadikot

It’s challenging to not be sucked into a degree of wide-eyed involvement at a walk conducted by Alisha Sadikot. Her walks include a stroll through 19th-century Byculla, Mumbai’s first swampy suburb, as well as the tony South Mumbai neighbourhoods of Ballard Estate and Horniman Circle. The Bandra walk traces the influences and communities that shaped its current state over a history of roughly 400 years. A post-graduate from School of Oriental and African Studies, London, she first began conducting walks in 2003 as a student in Mumbai. Things grew from there and her post-graduate specialisation in Museum and Heritage learning only helped further. The exceptionally well-informed Sadikot always has her tablet on her during these walks and will show you old photographs and maps of the city, creating a wonderful before-and-after visual. She also conducts walks through Byculla’s Bhau Daji Lad museum and Fort’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. Her most recent venture, “Walking with Words,” looks at the heritage district of South Mumbai through the words of diarists, novelists and poets, from Kipling to Rushdie. With a more consistent focus on tours for children, Alisha is also a great bet to educate kids about the history of the city beyond textbooks and classrooms (theinheritageproject.wordpress.com; walks Rs800-950 per person for a 2-hr walk).

Khaki Tours

Khaki Tour's urban jeep safaris introduce participants to Mumbai's history and everyone is given headohones so that they can hear the guide over the din of the traffic. Photo courtesy: Khaki Tours

Khaki Tour’s urban jeep safaris introduce participants to South Mumbai’s history. Photo courtesy: Khaki Tours

What started off as a series of free, public walks to the Banganga tank in Walkeshwar has evolved into a well-oiled machinery of organised walking tours.

With Khaki Tours, you can take a walk around Opera House and peek into the recently restored 100-year-old building; know about Colaba’s evolution from a fishing village and old British quarter into today’s backpacking and luxe district, and explore a much glossed over traditional middle-class Maharashtrian neighbourhood of Girgaon. Founder Bharat Gothoskar is a fountain of accurate, well-contextualised knowledge, which he happily shares in the walks he conducts. For those looking to do more, opt for one of their open jeep urban safaris or the more recent food walks. Even better, go on a “ghost walk” and learn about all the haunting legends tucked away in centuries-old neighbourhoods. The company also runs the Khaki Foundation, which is working towards restoring monuments and establishing a library of Mumbai’s history (khakitours.com; walks from Rs499 per person).

 

Some Place Else

Through the Many Walking Paths of Old Bombay 4

Some Place Else’s walk in Sanjay Gandhi National Park allows participants access to the park’s Shilonda area. Photo courtesy: Some Place Else

They offer cycling tours and the occasional trek, but Some Place Else’s walking tours are some of their most interesting takeaway, some are even designed as treasure hunts.  Their walk through Matharpacady, a Portuguese origin neighbourhood well off the beaten path thronged by tourists in Mumbai will show you a quiet neighbourhood which seems suspended in time. Its Grade III heritage status is courtesy its warm architecture: Peppered with colourful two-storied homes sporting sloping roofs  lined with Mangalore tiles and elegant grill patterns from intricate woodwork, this neighbourhood’s is well-preserved and untouched by the fast-paced urban development that most other areas in the city have succumbed to. The Dharavi walk is conducted by an enterprising local, who transcends external narratives of neighbourhood with a peek into its more interesting industrial units, while a nature walk through Powai allows attendees to take stock of the biodiversity of the area. The tour of Sanjay Gandhi National Park allows access to the park’s otherwise restricted area called Shilonda, where your naturalist guide helps you identify the flora and understand little things about the behaviour of the forest’s inhabitants (www.facebook.com/SomePlaceElseIndia; walks from Rs650 per person).

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

  • Sarvesh Talreja divides his travel time between bustling cities and meditative dive sites. He's occasionally spotted by mountains too.

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