Even as Mumbai today battles a depleting green cover, not many residents know that most of the prominent locations in the city are named after trees, by its earliest settlers — the nature-worshipping Kolis.
Parel, the thriving commercial district, is named after Bignonia Suaveolens or trumpet flower, which was once found in the area. The plant, Patal in Sanskrit, was called Padel by Kolis, which gave way to Parel.
“The earliest place names in the Bombay island group appear to be of Koli origin; they were Koliwadis identified in their locations by tree name or some native element, as the Kolis were essentially nature and tree worshipers,” reads the Greater Bombay District Gazette, compiled by the British.
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Dontad street in Dongri, is named after the Palymra or Brab Palm. A group of these trees in the area made people refer it as Sattad or Dontad, as it now known, says the Gazette.
Chinch Bandar near Masjid draws its name from the tamarind trees that dotted the seashore. Bhendi Bazaar takes its name from the plantations of Bhendi in the locality.
“A little westward of this location adjoining the Khadi along its banks were a couple of Ficus Glomerata, or Umbar, that has given the name Umbarkhadi or Omarkhadi,” the Gazette reads.
Fanasvadi in Kalbadevi draws its name from thickly grown plantations of various trees, such as the Artocarpus Integrifolia, or jackfruit. A thick plantation of Acacia Arabica or Babul, over which a shrine was later built, came to be known as Babulnath. A grove of Odina Wodier Colloquillu, locally called Kambal, gave way to what is now Cumballa Hill. The Tad palms below the hill of Cumballa became Tardeo.
The Gazette adds that the name Byculla, too, has been derived from a tree.“It is opined that the name Cassia fistula, called Bhava or Bhaya, may have combined with the word Khala or level ground to give the name Bhaykhala,” the Gazette says.
A tamarind-covered valley a little further down came to be known as Chinchpokli.