There’s a plethora of reasons to pick Khopoli, located on the fringes of the city, for a weekend drive. It’s sad that its past is not one of the little industrial town’s big draws, for sitting right amid the steel rolling mills and the processed food units is a slice of rich, multi-hued history.
Known as Campolee to the British colonisers, this nook in the Sahyadris is home to a temple that is at least two centuries old; an equally old water reservoir that continues to supply water to local villages; a railway line, part of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway dating back to the 1850s, as well as India’s first privately owned hydel plant that has been generating energy since 1915.
“The temple of Vireshwar was built in the 18th century, but it’s the nearby reservoir that shows the foresight of the then Maratha administration,” says a local villager. The temple and the stone reservoir are said to have been built in the era of Nana Phadnavis. “However now, visitors are only interested in the amusement park or purchasing weekend homes in the region,” the local added.
According to the state Gazetteer, the reservoir, built some time between 1790 and 1800, is nearly 18 acres. Back in 1856, just three years after the first train ran in India, the GIPR line was extended from Victoria Terminus to Khopoli, with stations at Dadar, Kurla, Titwala, Badlapur etc. Presently, Khopoli station overlooks its history almost entirely.
From Campolee to Khopoli, the journey has been part industrialisation, part resort development in the town.
There are scores of units producing every thing, from metal alloys to chemicals and paper, in the region. As the city reaches out to make space for itself within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Khopoli has more people than ever and a simultaneous loss of its sense of history.