Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao has discovered a 150-metre long underground British era bunker inside the Raj Bhavan complex at Malabar Hill. Officials from Raj Bhavan said the bunker had been closed for several decades. The Governor, who visited the bunker along with his wife and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Tuesday, has decided to consult experts from various fields regarding its preservation.
The bunker, spread over an area of more than 5,000 sqft, has rooms bearing the names Shell Store, Gun Shell, Cartridge Store, Shell Lift, Pump, Workshop, etc. There are also scores of lamp recesses in the gangway of the bunker, said an official.
“About three months ago, when the Governor was informed by old timers that a tunnel exists inside Raj Bhavan, the Governor asked to have it opened,” said an official.
Public Works Department staff were surprised after they broke open a temporary wall that closed the entrance to the bunker on the eastern side. “Instead of an underground tunnel, an entire barrack with 13 rooms of different sizes was found. The bunker opens with a 20-ft tall gate and a ramp on the western side. There are long passages and small-to-medium rooms on either side,” explained the official.
“Even though the bunker was apparently closed after Independence, it was found to be surprisingly intact. Interestingly, the entire underground bunker has a drainage system and inlets for fresh air and light,” added the official.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the Bunker late in the evening Tuesday. He later tweeted pictures of his visit and described the tunnel as an “amazing discovery” by the governor.
Raj Bhavan, formerly known as ‘Government House’, served as the residence of British Governors since 1885 when Lord Reay turned it into a permanent residence. Prior to 1885, the Malabar Hill residence served as the Summer Residence of the British Governors and the Government House at Parel served as the Governor’s residence before 1885.
Historians say such bunkers are well known in military history. “It is good that the present Governor is taking interest in history. Such bunkers used to be an escape routes for the then Britishers to hide in an emergency. Also, a tunnel has been found below the government post office in Fort. So, it was common in those era,” said Deepak Rao, a historian.