Archaeologists and experts who were part of a major exploration project in the Salsette region, one of the seven islands that make up Mumbai, demanded on Saturday the setting up of a ‘Museum of History of Bombay’, which will exclusively showcase the city’s archaeological remains and antiquities. The demand was made by six student teams, headed by experts, who had presented papers on their respective findings in the region and conclusions.
Supervised by the Centre of Extra Mutual Studies (CEMS), Mumbai University, and Sathaye College, a first-ever systematic and extensive exploration drive was conducted in the Salsette region by five teams. The project, considered to be the biggest public archaeology in any urban space in South Asia, is in its second season this year.
While the first team, headed by Dr Sooraj Pandit, director of the Salsette Survey, explored temples and remnants of sculptures dating back to 6th to 10th century in the areas of Andheri, Jogeshwari and Goregaon. A second team, headed by Dr Kurush Dalal, explored the Thane Zone and found medieval sculptural members from the police line area and a few structures dating back to Portugal area.
Dr Dalal told Tejas Garge, director of the state directorate of Archaeology and Museums, said, “While the explorations, findings and study of materials found from various sites will continue, there is an urgent need to set up a museum for the history of Bombay.” Dr Dalal, who is also the deputy director of CEMS, said, “With rapid urbanisation and growth of urbanisations, development projects are leading to a loss of historical remains, sculptures, inscription tablets etc still present on those sites. These sites can be shifted to the museum and studied further.”
CEMS Director Dr Mugdha Karnik said, “There is a common notion that not much of Mumbai’s history was recorded before the Portuguese colonies were established here. However, through these exploration projects a lot many such pre-Portuguese era records are coming to the fore.” The third team, headed by Dr Abhijit Dandekar, many Mesolithic industrial sites in Manori, they also found British era quarters meant for salt pan workers in the area. Dr Dandekar said, “Getting people of these areas to talk was a challenge as most of them thought we were trying to get information of their lands, which would then be grabbed by a builder or they will be evicted for some government project.”
The team, headed by Prachi Moghe, explored areas between Dharavi, Bandra and Khar. She claimed to have “majorly studied the Muslim community” in the areas. During the course of the project, the team claimed to have found a 300-year-old Dargah of Haji Sayyed Shah Kadri in Dharavi. The team, headed by Vinayak Parab, explored Mulund, Bhandup, Powai, Kanjurmarg, Ghatkopar, Jogeshwari, Goregaon and Borivali. Last year, the same team had found various structural remains and artefacts in Aarey Milk Colony, which date back to the Shilahara and Yadava era between 750-1010 AD. These findings and discoveries shed light on the ancient trade route used by Buddhist monks and their source of livelihood according to the team.
Parab said, “The monks, much like traders, entered through Kanheri and went towards Mahakali Caves through Jogeshwari. We are of the opinion that Vihara Caves, now in Powai, was the central point from where they had diverted. However, there was always one question in mind their main source of livelihood. While scouting through and exploring these areas, we found that the Aarey Colony now, was the only area that was available for cultivation then in the vicinity of these habitations. Hence, we have concluded that like Nile Valley acted as a fertile crescent for areas in and around ancient Egypt, Aarey plays the same role.”
The CEMS has added a sixth team this year after a tablet was found in the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre bearing inscriptions of Hambirrao, dating back to 12th or 13th century. Based on these inscriptions, a team, led by Tejaswini Aphale, exploring the areas of Chembur, Deonar, Govandi and Ghatkopar. The Mumbai-Salsette archaeological project has been funded by the India Study Centre Trust. It is likely to continue for three more years.