Monday, July 15, 2013

Rajabai Clock Tower, Bombay University

- By Deepa Krishnan

I walked through Oval Maidan yesterday, and found the palm trees nodding their heads happily in the rains.

The Rajabai clock tower looked stunning, rising from a canopy of green (click on the photo to see it in large size, it is really gorgeous).
I walked up for a closer look. The tower is part of the Bombay University library, built by the famous Jain philanthropist and businessman, Premchand Roychand. He named the tower after his mother, Rajabai.
It was 6 pm in the evening, and the clock chimes announced the hour. The sound brought a smile to my face as I remembered the story behind the clock. Apparently Madame Rajabai, like all orthodox Jains, would eat her last meal of the day before sunset. Due to failing eyesight, she could not tell the time, so Premchand built her a clock tower, whose chimes could be heard from their house. What a nice story :)

To the left of the tower, I could see the High Court building, squat and solid, exuding an image of reliability. The Oval Maidan looked greener than I have ever seen it. This is really such a beautiful part of the city! 
As you can see from the photo above, I found a nice angle to photograph both monuments together, cleverly avoiding the modern Bombay Stock Exchange building (which otherwise ruins the skyline). If you look carefully, you can see part of the Stock Exchange hidden behind the Rajabai clock tower :D :D

And here's another angle, this time without the clever fiddling. You can see the Stock Exchange building right in the middle: a 1970's structure completely at odds with the other two. Sigh. That was before they had heritage zoning laws. 
The High Court and the University Clock Tower are from the second half of the 1800's, when the major building material was stone. Reinforced concrete only started being used in Mumbai's buildings in the 1900's (although it was first used in Paris in 1853). 

After the plague outbreak at the end of the 1800's, Mumbai began spreading northwards. The availability of concrete was a critical aspect of this northward growth. I've been walking around photographing some great Art Deco buildings in the city...mostly built from the 1940's onwards. I'll post them here sometime soon.


Mahesh Vijapurkar said...

Had lived in Kasturi Buildings, Churchgate for 20 years but could hear only late into the night when South Mumbai went finally to sleep. During the day, the hubbub of the muted it as if it was a silent clock. It seems, in the earlier decades of the 20th century, it could be heard right across the city up to Byculla.


Yes, I spent almost a month in this part of the city. Had a close look at the Rajabai Clock. It chimes so deliciously. A son building a Clock Tower for his mother is such a touching story. Premchand Roychand donated two lakh for this tower in 1870, which will be equivalent to thousands of crores of rupees now. What a great philanthropist !!!