City architects and BMC are restoring drinking water fountains that dot the stretch from Colaba to Masjid Bandar.
While the poetic expression ‘Thy thirst repose to quench handful of life’ may read like a page out of a Shakespearean play, it’s actually an inscribed line from a newly restored water fountain at Masjid Bandar. As Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation takes the initiative to restore centuries-old drinking water fountains across the city, architects and conservators have joined their hands to restore the legacy.
Out of 25 fountains from the 18th century, three fountains or pyaavs have been restored while others are in process. “Pyaavs, are the architectural and history makers and it is highly likely that Mumbaikars may have encountered some of these in their everyday life but failed to notice or understand the utilitarian values associated with them,” says Rahul Chemburkar, an architect who restored the Pyaav at GPO and Masjid Bandar.
The stretch between Churchgate to GPO and from Crawford market and to Masjid Bandar has six different Pyaavs with architecture ranging from Gothic, Nagara and Indo-Saracenic while some have an amalgamation of various styles, forms, shapes and sizes. “There isn’t a distinct and uniform style, but they borrow from a variety of styles that were prevalent in the city or perhaps the country at the time,” explains Rahul adding that some fountains have birds and animals such as peacocks and nandi bulls, adding a mythical touch to the design.
The trough in Masjid Bandar was built in 1876 from Malad stone, Porbandar limestone, and red Agra stone. Nitin, a carrier, is a regular visitor of the newly restored Keshavji Nayak Pyaav and says, “This is my area of work, the water is clean and it helps in summers.” A local resident Nathulal has even begun serving water from the restored fountain to the locals. “I have been coming here for last 13 years and I now serve water to the thirsty. People have started recognising me and now leave a donation after drinking water,” he gushes. The one on the premises of Crawford Market will also be restored in the coming months.
A short walk away is the Kothari pyaav, nestled between trees near GPO’s Kabutar Khana. While the fountain is easy-to-miss even for those who frequent the area, Santacruz resident Sunil Yogi has been a frequent visitor for the last few years. Sunil who works in a corporate firm nearby says, “It’ll be good once this Pyaav is restored, I come here every day to watch the birds and find this fountain fascinating. Surprisingly, the government has woken up now to give it a new shape.” The restored fountain will have purified water and shall be available in two months.
The restored Pyaavs will also be maintained by the supervising agencies. “We are not just restoring these Pyaavs but we’ll be the custodians and maintain it. This way, we are trying to give it back to the society,” says Rahul.
The tradition of building pyaav began in 18th century when water charity was commemorated in the loving memory of dear ones. Today, it is heart-warming to see these edifices being restored to their original glory. “They are socially and culturally part of our city. Maintaining them well can also attract many tourists,” concludes Rahul.