Mumbai’s colonial quarter has long been its most charming precinct and now there’s reason to celebrate it even more. Four monuments in India, three of which are in South Mumbai, have been recognised at the UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation held on 14 October in Penang, Malaysia. The Vikram Sarabhai Library in Ahmedabad won an award of distinction while the Knesset Eliyahoo Synagogue and Our Lady of Glory Church in Mumbai received Awards of Merit. The Flora Fountain won an Honourable Mention.
The UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation are held annually to acknowledge the efforts of individuals and organisations that are actively involved in protecting monuments and heritage buildings in the region. The Indian awardees this year are Abha Narain Lambah for the Knesset Eliyawoo Synagogue; David Cardoz and Ainsley Lewis for the Our Lady of Glory Church; and Vikas Dilawari, who was a consultant for the Brihanmumbai Corporation’s restoration project at the Flora Fountain.
Noting the significance of the synagogue to the Jewish community in India, the award recognised the temple as a testament to the cultural plurality of Mumbai. It lauded the technical proficiency with which the 19th-century Classic Revivalist monument– once in a state of dilapidation–was restored. The architect of the restoration activity, Ms. Lambah believes that the award is a validation, 10 years after she pledged to conserve the monument back in 2009. “When we started out, funding was a nightmare— the corporate sector shied away from the prospect of restoring a religious structure and there were no signs of government funds. But when the JSW Foundation, Kala Ghoda Association, and Monuments Fund decided to join, things started turning around.” Dubbing Mumbai as India’s ‘Capital of 19th and 20 th -century architecture’, she has her sights set on the David Sassoon Library for her next project.
Not too far away from the synagogue lies the Flora Fountain was under restoration since 2016 and unveiled earlier this year. The award noted the significance and artistic beauty of the Victorian-era fountain which was the third such site to be restored after the Willingdon Fountain and the Mulji Jetha Fountain.
An experienced heritage conservator, Mr. Dilawari told us that the fountain is one of the most iconic monuments he has worked on. “It was a great team effort between the BMC, INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) conservators who helped restore its appearance, and plumbing agencies that worked on correcting its functional issues. Now that this monument is restored, I am hoping to work on the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay and the Royal Bombay Yacht Club.” He resonated with Ms. Lambah, calling Mumbai a treasure trove for heritage lovers and urged travellers to explore the city’s many monuments, planned spaces, and buildings.
Tanay Gokhale enjoys writing and follows what he thinks is an eclectic mix of interests. Especially passionate about travelling with good music and a book to boot.
Sanjana Ray is that unwarranted tour guide people groan about on trips. When she isn't geeking out on travel and history, she can be found walking around the streets, crying for Bengali food. She is former Digital Writer at National Geographic Traveller India.