|Architectural style||Neo Classical and Gothic Revival|
|Town or city||Mumbai|
|Cost||Rs 47000 (9000 pounds sterling)|
|Structural system||Sculpted in imported Portland Stone|
|Design and construction|
|Architect||Richard Norman Shaw|
Flora Fountain, at the Hutatma Chowk (Martyr's Square), is an ornamentally and exquisitely sculpted architectural heritage monument located at the southern end of the historic Dadabhai Naoroji Road, called the Mile Long Road, at the Fort business district in the heart of South Mumbai, Mumbai, India. Flora Fountain, built in 1864, is a fusion of water, architecture and sculpture, and depicts the Roman goddess Flora. It was built at a total cost of Rs. 47,000, or 9000 pounds sterling, a large sum in those days.
The fountain originally intended for the Victoria Gardens, is now surmounted by the figure of Plenty ("Courtesy of Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries."). History of the Flora Fountain is traced to the time when the Old Mumbai Fort was demolished in 1860 as part of the then Governor, Sir Bartle Frère’s efforts to improve civic sanitation (municipal improvements) and the urban space requirements of the growing city. Prior to this demolition, the Fort had been built between 1686 and 1743 by the British East India Company with three gates (the Apollo Gate, the Church Gate and the Bazaar Gate), a moat, esplanade, level open spaces on its western fringe (to control fires) and residences. A small road called the Hornby Road, named after the then Governor of Bombay (Mumbai) between 1771 AD and 1784 AD, also existed at the old Fort area. Consequent to the demolitions, the Hornby road was widened into a broad avenue and on its western side commercial plots were developed to build new commercial buildings in Neo Classical and Gothic Revival designs. The Hornby Road, now named as Dadabhai Naoroji Road (D. N. Road), developed into a veritable sight of colonial splendor with Crawford Market linked to the Victoria Terminus anchoring the northern end and the Flora Fountain, forming the southern end of the Mile Long Road. The Flora Fountain was erected at the exact place where the Church gate (named after St. Thomas Cathedral, Mumbai ) stood before its demolition along with the Mumbai Fort. It was constructed by the Agri–Horticultural Society of Western India, out of a donation of Rs 20,000 by Cursetjee Fardoonjee Parekh. Designed by Richard Norman Shaw, it was sculpted in imported Portland stone by James Forsythe. A white coat of oil paint has to some extent marred the antiquity of the structure. The fountain was originally to be named after Sir Bartle Frère, the Governor of Bombay at the time, whose progressive policy had resulted in many of the great public buildings of Mumbai. However, the name was changed before the fountain was unveiled as Flora Fountain, named after Flora (mythology), a Roman Goddess of flowers and the season of spring; her majestic and pretty Portland stone statue adorns the top of the fountain. The four corners of the fountain are decorated with mythological figures. The fountain was originally intended to be built at the Victoria Gardens at Byculla but, in 1908, the grass plot and the palm trees that had camouflaged the fountain were cleared for creating space for pedestrians and horse–traffic between the tram lines and the kerb of the fountain.
From the time the Flora Fountain was built in 1864 and until 1960, the chowk (square) where five streets meet (hence, also known as the Picadilly Circus of Mumbai) and the fountain stands now, was named as the Flora Fountain area. But in 1960, to commemorate the martyrdom of the brave people who laid their lives in the turbulent birth of Maharashtra State at the square, it was renamed as the Hutatma Chowk with an impressive stone statue bearing a pair of torch holding patriots. The Flora Fountain, surrounded by the British Victorian era heritage buildings, is very much part of the chowk and has been declared a heritage structure and it continues to charm visitors with its beauty and with its spray of water. It sits admirably well alongside the Hutatma statue which adorns the chowk. (Picture depicts the two structures). It was the decision of the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly that recommended to the Government to take necessary steps to erect as early as possible a memorial at Flora Fountain in Bombay in commemoration of the sacrifices of the persons who died on the police firing at Flora Fountain in Bombay in the month of November 1955.
The large sized signboards and hoardings erected around the Flora Fountain precincts marred the beautiful view of the fountain and also of the other heritage buildings surrounding it, in spite of the Heritage Regulations of Greater Bombay, Act 1995 in force to stop such activities. The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) and public spirited people of the area conscious of the developing chaotic conditions in the area took action to redress the situation. With the help of a group of architects appointed by MMRDA, a report titled “Dadabhai Naoroji Road Heritage Streetscape Project”, which addressed the problems and provided designs and plans, was prepared by the MMRDA. But action on ground was initiated by the architects who prepared the report in association with the local shopkeepers, occupants and commercial establishments in the street and the local municipal officer who implemented, voluntarily, the regulation of the shop fronts and signage; the expenses for relocation and redesign of the shop signs were borne by each individual establishment. The L.G. and Cine Blitz hoardings, which used to display latest film gossip, at the fountain were targeted for relocation, apart from other hoardings along the Dadabhai Naoroji Road. The pilot project’s plans fructified and resulted in the setting up of a citizen's association (of the various occupants, owners, corporate establishments and shopkeepers on the Dadabhai Naoroji Road) called “The Heritage Mile Association”, as a non–profit group, with the objective to restore the heritage character of the Dadabhai Naoroji Road through public participation and private sponsorship. These efforts have also resulted in the UNESCO’s “Asia-Pacific Heritage Award of Merit in the year 2004” bestowed on the MMRDA. A public spirited doctor by profession filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in 2002, in the Bombay High Court, against the proliferation of hoardings in the city. The court directed the Heritage Committee to look at the feasibility of hoardings in heritage areas. The Heritage Committee passed a resolution that said “that all hoardings on individual heritage buildings or in heritage precincts must be removed.” The Bombay High Court in its judgment of May 5, 2004, upheld the Heritage Committee’s resolution and ordered that the billboard agencies should remove all hoardings from heritage precincts in the city within four weeks.
Nostalgic writing by a cricketer, an unnamed resident of Mumbai who played street cricket in front of the fountain in his youth, reads that the fountain at the centre of the Mumbai city evokes feelings:
The Centres of the world are well etched in the mind: the New York City’s Time Square and the Paris’s Champs Elysee, London’s Piccadilly circus. Even now I feel a curious magic about Mumbai’s Flora Fountain. We called it the heart of the city and so it was.
A Glass and concrete jungle;
In its midst always
With hope filled face,
A dream of spring in her matchless eyes,
holding in both hands stone flowers.
About her, in all corners,
Iron butterflies fly round and round
And lifeless insects play
The Fountain is in the heart of South Mumbai within walking distance from Shivaji Terminus and the Church Gate Railway Stations. The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) operates open–air tourist buses to give an aerial view of the iconic fountain and the city's unique distinctive historical, aesthetic and architectural identity depicted in the largest representations of the grand neo–Gothic style of architecture and also numerous ones of Indo-Saracenic architecture. Local cab system, auto rickshaws or local trains run frequently in Mumbai providing the other means of transport to the location. The area surrounding the fountain gives excellent shopping opportunities in departmental and other stores for ethnic artifacts and glamorous products. Within a radius of 2 mi (3.2 km) of the fountain, visitors can also see the most impressive institutions and buildings namely, the University of Mumbai, the old Secretariat, and the famous Gateway of India, the Bombay High Court (built in 1879 in the Venetian Gothic style characteristic of all of Bombay's public buildings put up in the 19th century), the Central Telegraph Office, the old Secretariat (built in 1874) and many other heritage buildings.
Flora, sitting at the top of the fountain, is a moot witness to the noise pollution created by the huge traffic which passes through and the Vendors who sit all around the square selling just about everything in the sweltering heat.
- Heritage walk
The Mumbai Heritage Walks (MHW) Group, founded in April 1999 as a marking of the World Heritage Day, by the city architects, arrange guided walks of different sites in Mumbai to provide an insight into Mumbai's architectural heritage, and announce a schedule every year for the walk. The charges for participation are nominal. In the year 2004, the Group had arranged a walk along Flora Fountain – D.N.Road – V.T. – B.M.C. HQ and again in February 2009 they organized a 'Heritage Mile' running along ‘the one of its kind’ streetscape, which is an impressive example of formal urban design and planning in erstwhile colonial India. The walk was on February 10, 2009, as part of Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2009, starting from the Flora Fountain to Crawford Market to Victoria Terminus and surrounding Fort precinct covering en–route the landmark monuments such the Vatcha Agiary, J. N. Petit Library, Bombay Mutual Building and several others.
Flora Fountain in Mumbai
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