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Parel or Lower Parel (Portuguese name: Parella) is a neighbourhood of Mumbai. It lends its name to two railway stations (Parel and Lower Parel) on the Mumbai Suburban Railway. Parel West is also known as Elphinstone due to the Elphinstone Road railway station that lies in close proximity to the neighbourhood. Many of the cotton mills in Mumbai and housing for their employees were in this area until the turn of the century when most of these mills were shut down.
Lower Parel, which too was once dominated by textile mills till the 1980s, morphed into a posh locality as part of the redevelopment of Mumbai mills. The area is now dominated by luxury skyscraper apartments, upscale restaurants and pubs, premium office space, luxury hotels, and boutiques.
Parel was one of the original seven islands of Bombay (now Mumbai). It belonged to the 13th century kingdom of Raja Bhimdev. When the Portuguese conquered Bombay, they gave the authority of this area to the Jesuit priests. 'Parell' remained with the Jesuits until they were confiscated by the British, after the priests sided with the Sidis during their battle with the British in 1689.
In the 1770s, William Hornby, the Governor of Bombay, shifted his official residence to Parel. This area then became one of the poshest areas of the city. In 1867, tanners and dealers in dry fish were relocated in this area. By the 1870s, several cotton mills had been established in the reclaimed lands in Parel (West). Gradually, Paral became very polluted. In 1883, the Governor's wife died of cholera in the Government House. Two years later, the Governor's Mansion was moved to Malabar Point. During the plague epidemics of the 1890s, the old Government House was leased to the newly founded Haffkine Institute. After the plague epidemics, mills proliferated in this area. In 1915, the Parel Bridge was built with linked the Western and Central Railway stations. It became an industrial area and in addition provided space for mill workers.
Parel has seen an influx of huge enterprises in the compounds of the long-gone cotton mills. A five star hotel, ITC Hotel The Grand Central, Mumbai - The Luxury Collection, is located in Parel. During the time the cotton mills were operating in Parel, many thousands of mill workers called Parel home. Parel was also home to several cultural activities which died down/were reduced on account of the shifting of families out of the areas as family sizes started increasing. Now, the cotton mill jobs have long disappeared and large cotton mill real estate is being recycled into ultra-expensive gated communities. Parel has thus become an area where lower middle class and rich live side by side. The world's tallest residential building, World One, is currently under construction.
Parel also has hospitals like KEM hospital (Municipal corporation hospital), Tata Memorial Centre(specializes in treatment of cancer), Wadia Hospitals (one for Children and one for Women), and MGM (ESI hospital). It even has the Mumbai Veterinary College and the Bai Sakarbai Dinsha Petit Animal Hospital. Maharshi Dayanand College of Arts, Science, and Commerce is situated opposite to Mahatma Gandhi Hospital on Dr. S. S. Rao Road. Parel village also has an important monolithic staue called Baradev. The statue is a Grade I Heritage Monument protected by The Archaeological Survey of India. There is a Chandika, Vyagreshwari, and Shiv Temple nearby. (The Shivlingam and some statues are stated to date back to 600 AD.)
Parel happens to one of the fastest developing neighborhoods in the world (outside of Guangdong / Shenzhen, China). The land of the cotton mills have been redeveloped into large stand alone housing buildings such as Ashok Towers, Dosti Flamingos, Ashok Gardens, Kingston Towers, and Kalpataru Habitat, shopping malls like High Street Phoenix and a 5-star hotels like the The Grand Central, Mumbai and the Four Seasons. Parel has seen property price appreciation in excess of 8 times. The monorail project passes through Parel on the eastern side along G D Ambekar Marg.
Lower parel also houses Palladium, the only luxury retail center in the city. This shopping center is right below the 45 storey Shangri-La tower. The mall houses brands like Ermenegildo Zegna, Bottega Veneta, Bally, Etro, Canali, Jimmy Choo, Burberry, Hugo Boss, Paul Smith, and many more.
Literature and Popular Culture
" ... the ayah, sitting in the moonlight at the doorway, lulled him to sleep with an interminable canticle such as they sing in the Roman Catholic Church at Parel." From Rudyard Kipling's short story, Baa Baa Black Sheep, published in 1888.
- Star Track; Times of India Mumbai; pg-2; 21 April 2006
- D'Cunha, Jose Gerson (1900). "IV The Portuguese Period". The Origins of Bombay (3 ed.). Bombay: Asian Educational Services. p. 265. ISBN 81-206-0815-1. Retrieved 2009-01-04.
- Death of an Industrial City: Testimonies of Life Around Bombay Textile Strike of 1982 Indian Labour Archives