One of the most important commercial and business areas in Mumbai, the road stretching from Dadar to Lower Parel known as the Senapati Bapat Road, was once the heart of textile mills operating in the city. Named after freedom fighter Pandurang Mahadev Bapat, the road is today lined with tall buildings and swanky new restaurants and malls with the abandoned mills along this stretch having given way to new development.
For most people in Mumbai, though, this road is better known as Tulsi Pipe Road, which once served as the main water carrier for those living south of Mumbai.
“This road was earlier known as Tulsi Pipe Road owing to the water pipe, which used to carry water from Tulsi Lake. Later, it was named after Pandurang Mahadev Bapat as he probably worked in this area. This road runs along the railway line from Dadar to Lower Parel and while it was entirely dominated by textile mills at one point, it is now dotted with malls like the Phoenix Mall and offices, especially around Lower Parel,” said historian Deepak Rao.
Popularly known as Senapati Bapat, Pandurang Mahadev acquired the title of Senapati, meaning commander, as a consequence of his leadership during the Mulshi satyagraha. From 1921, he led the three-year farmers’ protest against the construction of the Mulshi Dam by the Tata company. The dam was eventually constructed, though.
Bapat studied at Deccan College and then travelled to Britain on a government scholarship to study engineering. During his stay in Britain, he was associated with India House, spending a majority of his time learning bomb-making skills.
“This road was earlier named after the pipeline which carried water to Malabar Hill and surrounding areas in the 1890s. It is a long stretch of road and the locality where Phoenix Mills stands today was a major area for agitations with Bapat participating in two such meetings led by Subhash Chandra Bose. He gained popularity after the Mulshi movement,” said Vishwas Patil, chief of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority who has written a book about the surrounding area in his book ‘Lust for Lalbaug’.
Besides Mumbai, Pune too has a Senapati Bapat Road. On August 15, 1947 — India’s Independence Day — Bapat was given the honour of raising the Indian national flag over the city of Pune for the first time.