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Friday, December 03, 2021

A road steeped in history: First named after viceroy’s daughter, then a community leader

Once a narrow, winding lane stretched by slum dwellers T H Kataria Marg now sees heavy traffic passing through it every day.

Written by ANUSHKA JAIN | Mumbai |
May 31, 2018 4:36:12 am
Kataria Marg Matunga TH Kataria Marg at Matunga is an important thoroughfare in the city. Santosh Parab

The TH Kataria Marg in Matunga — connecting the 90-feet road in Matunga East to the Veer Sawarkar Marg in Dadar’s Shivaji Park — has gone from being named after a Viceroy’s daughter to a community leader. The street, named after the president of the Bhagnari community, Takandas Hemraj Kataria, forms an important thoroughfare of the city, buzzing with sounds of traffic and various businesses along the road.

“Around 1947, the Bhagnari community first began migrating to India after we began facing economic distress and pressures for forceful conversion. In Mumbai, T H Kataria was the very first president of our Bhagnari Panchayat then. It was he who helped us migrate safely and around 1961, built the Kataria colony on Veer Savarkar Marg for Bhagnari families to stay. He also financially assisted poor families to afford housing in the colony,” said Ramesh Poplay (66) , member of the Shree Bhagnari Panchayat.

“In 1966, he was given a Congress ticket to contest elections, which were due in 1967. However, he died that year, but to honor him, Congress politicians renamed Lady Hardinge Road as TH Kataria Marg in 1969. They could not rename the nearby Veer Savarkar Marg since he holds huge significance in Maharashtrian history, so they renamed the neighbouring Lady Hardinge Road,” added Poplay.

In his book Bombay Place-names and Street-names, Samuel T Sheppard while writing about why the road had been named after Lady Hardinge said, “On September 23, 1914, the Municipal Commissioner (Mr. P.R. Cadell, I.C.S.) reported to the Corporation that the new 60 feet road, constructed from the B. B. & C. I. Railway Matunga Level crossing past Lady Jamsetji Road to Mahim Bazaar Road” has been completed and will be open to traffic as soon as lamps have been erected. The road is already 3,100 feet long and will ultimately be extended across the two railways and joined to the Improvement Trust Road on the east of the Matunga Station. On the west side it may ultimately be possible to continue it to the sea. It is thus an already important road and in its present condition is one of the prettiest in Bombay.”

“He thought it would be a suitable perpetuation of the memory of Lady Hardinge’s visit to Bombay so shortly, before her lamented death, if the road were to be named after her and he proposed therefore, with the sanction of the Corporation, to call the road the ‘Lady Hardinge Road’.’’ In moving that the road be named Lady Hardinge Road, Sir Bhalchandra Krishna said that it would be a fitting thing to do so, as Lady Hardinge’s memory was held so dear in the city. Lady Hardinge, a daughter of Lord Alington, was born in 1868 and died July 1914: she married Lord Hardinge of Penshurst-Viceroy of India 1911-16-in 1890,’ the books read. Lady Hardinge died at a nursing home in London in 1914.

In the current day and age, not only has the road been a haven for communities migrating from Balochistan but it also holds a 200-year-old temple dating back to the early 19th century and one of Mumbai’s only three Akharas thus, being rich in history. Constructed in 1782 AD, Shree Kashi Vishweshwar Temple on the road is owned by the Dadobhai Jaggannath Trust. Mansi Naik (50) who is the manager of the temple said, “We repair the temple from time to time, but a major renovation had occurred five to six years ago. There are pujas twice every day, once in the morning and once in the evening for the idols of Lord Shiva, the goddess Laxmi and the god Kal Bhairav. It is very popular with the locals.” Further west from the temple along the road, is the Sai Vitthala Temple which is said to be 20 to 25 years old. “The idols were placed here 60 years ago and a temple was constructed around it only 25 years ago,” said Nitin Shetye (59), the temple priest. “Every year on November 30, we take out a procession in honour of its founding day. About 4,000-5,000 people come here to have food that we serve.”

Poplay, who observed these processions, said, “Every year on that day the temple is lit up and there is a huge celebration.” Apart from its religious significance, the street is also a harbour for patrons of the art of ‘Kushti’. Lal Bahadur Shastri Vyayam Shala, an Akhara constructed by the Central Railways, lies right at the eastern end of the Matunga flyover on the road. Established in 1974, the Akhara came to be after a demand by then leader of the Central Railway employees’ union Murlidhar Pandey, who was a great patron of the sport. “About 25-30 people come here to practise regularly, and there is a huge demand among children to practise here as well. In this Akhara, Arjuna Awardee’s like Kaka Pawar and Rahul Aware have practised along with well-known, international award winning players like Namdev Batre, Rangrao Hane and Bapu Lokhande,” said Deepak Kamble (35), a pehelwaan at the Akhara.

Further eastwards on the road, stands the railway staff quarters. Shravan Kumar Verma (48), a labourer who lives right next to the quarters in the Meghwadi Chawl, said, “Before Independence, the quarters were occupied by British families. Those working for them were given the adjacent plot that is now Meghwadi Chawl, located next to the quarters. From those handful of servants, now 123 families occupy the chawl.”

Once a narrow, winding lane stretched by slum dwellers T H Kataria Marg now sees heavy traffic passing through it every day. Sada Pujari (54), who owns a shop on the street, said, “Not a lot has changed on the street. However, it has become a lot noisier.”

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