Aagla station “Sheev” Pudhil station “Sheev” Next station “Sion”

This is what we normally hear in the local trains, but have we ever pondered as to why this place came to be known as “Sion” in English and “Sheev” in Marathi?

For a really good break from the daily routine, get off that local train and take a tour into the calm forts and the buzzing Bazaars of Sion, right in the heart of the Mumbai.

THE ORIGIN:

The Name-  {Sheev}

Last within the limits of Bombay City and Island is the township which was called as “Siam” by Fryer and “Syva” by Simao Batelho (1554) which is a Portuguese corruption of the Marathi ‘Simwa” (sheev) which means the boundary or limit[1], ‘Sion’ was the boundary between the island of Bombay and Salsette.The Moor in “Oriental Fragments”, referred to the place as “Shiva” pronounced as ‘Sheo’, ‘Seo’, ‘Seu’ or ‘Siv’.

 

Further more{Sion}

In 1534, the Portuguese forced Bahadur Shah, The Sultan of Gujarat to quit Bombay. The Portuguese made grants of islands and villages of Bombay to the Franciscans and Jesuits. A Franciscans Priest then erected A Church of Nossa Senhora de Bon Coelho [Today Our Lady of Good Counsel] at Sion[2]. It is also believed that this Church,situated near the Railway station was built and named after the “Mount Zion” in Jeruselum. Zion when Anglasized came to be known more popularly as “Sion”.

“Sion” in Hebrew means “the highest point”, and as sion had a lot of hills and hillocks over looking the island of Bombay this area was called as “Sion”.

 

Sion as We see it today

The whole area of Sion in the earlier century was a desolate waste of saltpans guarded by the bare hills of the Antop, Raoli, and Sion. In the North of the Sion section lay a creek and a causeway, to it’s east was the harbor, on the west the Great Indian Peninsular Railway while to the south was the Sewri section. The south was a thickly populated area, while the open grounds towards Matunga were chosen as sites for Villa residences.[3]Except for the original settlements of the Kolis and a few barracks the area was practically habitation free.

The fact that Sion was sparsely inhabited is evident from the references in Bombay City and Island Gazeteers Vol. I that mention that rice was grown in the land between Sion and Matunga stations. Also the rice lands were used to grow vegetables in dry seasons. These vegetable garden lands being mostly in Sion, Matunga, Sewri and Parel.

The year 1872 saw an immense growth of population and continuous building operations giving rise to necessity for a fresh distribution of areas. Hence Sion was included in the “F” ward along with Mahim, Varliand other areas under the new Municipalty in 1865.The growth in population is easily evident from the rise in number of people daily commuting to Victoria terminus from just 25 odd people in 1880 to 441 people in 1908.

The Reclamation Scheme brought two large plots of land in Sion by filling them up with refuse and earth and raising them upto 2-6 feet.[4] Closely connected with this reclamation scheme was the new Harbour railway line from Sion to Mahim that was laid to greatly facilitate the traffic of the port.

Today the Sion section includes all the areas that lay north of the King’s Circle station, east of the main suburb i.e the central railway track and till the narrow strip of land on the side of the harbor branch of railways, south of the King’s Circle station till the Wadala station.

The whole of Sion comprised of 4,261.08 acres.

UNIQUENESS OF SION:

Three Railway Stations

Sion has access to three Railway Stations that is a very unique feature in Mumbai. It has Sion Railway Station of the Central Railway in the north, King’s Circle Railway Station of the Harbour Railway in the south, Guru Tehk Bahadur Railway Station of the Harbour Railway in the east.

Access Point-

Sion being situated in the heart of Mumbai acts as an access point to the various suburbs of Mumbai. One can easily commute to the western suburbs by road as Sion connects with Bandra, to the central suburbs by Kurla and to Navi Mumbai as Sion has access to Mankhurd.

A Planned Town-

Sion was planned under the Town Planning Act, 1966. Hence the Roads and the streets of Sion were numbered and not named. But in the last century many roads were named.

 

PLACES OF HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE:

Our Lady of Good Counsel Church

the church

The early origins of this Church situated adjacent to the Sion Station is very obscure. In the Portuguese times the chapel NS de Bom Coelho was attached to the Church in Parel but later in 1719 when confiscated by the Government it was attached  to the St. Michael’s in Mahim.

However Fryer in his accounts (1675) does not clearly state or point to there being a Chapel in Sion, neither does Tieffentallen mention to a Chapel in Sion in his list of Bombay Churches (1750). But we find mentions to a Chapel in Sion for the first time in the Carmalite Archives and in the Government reports of 1841. Hence from historical records we can conclude that the Chapel in Sion was built sometime in the late 17thcentury or the early 18th century.

From the documented records we know that the Chapel became a Church in 1950 when it was made into an independent parish on 8 of July 1950. Fr. Damian Brady OGM was appointed as the first Parish Priest. Fr. Anthony D’Souza OFM is the current Priest of the Parish. In 2003 the Church had 3494 number of Parishioners. The Church also runs a school that is now celebrating its Diamond Jubilee (75 years).  The first passed out batch of the Matriculation (10th) was in 1960. [5]

 

SION FORT-

sion fort canon

The Sion fort on a small conical hill is situated in the north of the Bombay Island. It held an important place while the Marathas possessed the Islands. Later it was an outpost of the British dominion in the Western India for about 100 years. It commanded the passage from Bombay to the neighbouring island of Salsette. It was one of the three main forts of Bombay the other two being the Worli fort and the Mahim fort.[6] The position of the fort on the ridge is of great strategic importance for it has a view of the entire island of the city of Bombay.

The fort was rebuilt in 1673 by the British as the need was felt by the East India company to fortify the island of Bombay as it was a thriving center for trade and shipping. The fort during the British times housed a guardhouse meant for the soldiers to reside in, a parade ground and the guns were strategically located to cover the Mahim in the west and Trombay in the east. According to the locals there was a secret tunnel built by the Portuguese at the base of this fort that connected to the nearby creek and there is another legend that says that the tunnel served as a passage to Mahim through Dharavee. In the beginning of the 19th century parts of the Sion fort were blasted to construct the GIP Railway Line, the Sion causeway and the Sion-Trombay road.[7]

The grounds around the Sion fort have been converted into garden named after Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru or popularly known as the Sion gardens. The fort is classified as a national monument and is under the control of the Central Government.

The height of Sion Fort was 239ft.

sion fort1

 

The Duncan Causeway

board showing _Duncan Causeway_

There were many breaches between the seven disparate Islands of Bombay. These breaches were filled up by building four main causeways. The breach between the Sion, the eastern limit of the Island of Bombay and the Island of Salsette was filled by building the Duncan/Sion causeway. Prior to the construction of the causeway ferry boats plied between the two islands.

The project to build the causeway began in 1798 and finished in 1805 at a cost of 5037 pounds i.e Rs.50,370. In 1826 under the administration of Mr. Mountstuart Elphisone, its breadth was doubled and it was otherwise improved at a further outlay of 4000 pounds i.e Rs. 40,000. The Sion causeway was 935 yards long( 5,751ft ) and 24ft wide, and the roadway was raised to a minimum height of 9ft above the swampy ground. It was used in all the seasons of the year and during the dry weather there was great traffic.This causeway was originally built under the direction Captain W. Brook and the addition and the improvements were carried out by Captain W. A. Tate. [8]

Maria Graham (1812) writes in her journal about an inscription she saw on a small house that stated that the causeway was begun in 1797 and finished in 1805 at the cost of Rs.50,575.[9] The house and the inscription it had engraved on its wall is not to be found anywhere today.

Till 1979 the Road was called as Duncan Road, named after the Governor of Bombay who built it. Later it was renamed as NS Mankikar Marg. The Municipal Sewage Pumping Station, Sion( Udayachan Kendra ) is situated on this causeway.

 

 

 

Garrison or an Ammunition dump-

garrison with ts entrance

Garrison with its entrance

A garrison, octagonal in shape is still standing on this causeway right next to the Municipal Sewage Pumping Station, in what is now known as the Jadhav Wadi. It was a once a high structure as the locals testify they could not touch its ceiling but now it is barely a 6ft in height. It had six to seven openings or posts to fire, as can be seen from inside. But on the outer side one can witness only three-four openings.  It has now been converted to a home by a Marathi local named Jaganath Swami, who lives there on rent along with his family. The rent is paid to some Arun kaka who lives in the konkan region. The garrison has now been painted in pink from the interior. When I enquired about the garrison from the locals they asked whether I could arrange to demolish it as it was occupying space for a potential hutment. Not to mention that they could have demolished it but for the fact that they could hardly drill into the ceiling to fix a fan, and hence thankfully the garrison still stands to its reputation that it was built strong as a protection against the attacks.

This structure lies on the Causeway which connected the islands of Bombay and Salsette. What the structure actually is in still a great mystery. The locals however claim that the structure is built by Shivaji. However as it is built in cement, it is unlikely to be built in that era.

However a reference in the Bombay Gazeteers mentions a letter written in 1737 which proposed a need to protect the defenseless south border of the Bombay Island. And as result a few out-forts or military posts were built along Sewri, Dongri, Sion, Mahim, Rewa and Dharavi area.[10]

garrison from inside

Garrison as seen from inside

 

The Milestones In Sion-

Basalt stones, originally three or four feet tall, marks miles from St. Thomas’s Church, which in 18th century was the city-center. The stones that lay were on the country path connecting Bombay to settlements it later incorporated. These milestones Grade I Heritage structures in Mumbai. Two out of the grand total of 13, counting from the St. Thomas’s Church, are located in Sion.

 

VIII Miles fromSt. Thomas’s Church.

The milestone lies on the following postal address. However it was relocated to its current place when the main road was broaden. The place of its original location is unknown.

225, BrijBhuvan, Tamil Sangham Lane,

Road No. 30, Scheme No. 6.

Sion( East ) , Mumbai-400002.

Ix miles

IX Miles From St. Thomas’s Church.

This milestones lies in a very sorry state, broken and used by the locals as a sitting bench or as a dining table by dogs. This too has been relocated many times from its place as mentioned by the locals, who themselves have shifted it twice. It is now found on the following postal address.

Bombay Municipal Corportion, Duncan Road,

Jadhav Wadi, NS MankikarMarg,

Udanchan Kendra sion( sewage pumping station ),

Chunabhatti, Mumbai-400022.

This Milestone now lies inside the premises of the Sewage Pumping Station, as requested to the authorities by me, as the locals were planning to have it blasted into smaller pieces and make “patavarvanta” (grinding stones) out of it.

 

SionKoliwada/ GTB Nagar-

The koli’s of Sion are the original inhabitants of Bombay. Hence the place where they live in sionwas called as Koliwada. After partition many refugees from Sindh and Pakistan settled in these areas. Hence many Sindhi colonies came up. Due to which this area also came to be known as Guru TekhBahadur Nagar. 25 buildings and chawls were built around the years 1947-50 for accommodating the refugees from Pakistan and Sindh.

Dada Sai Moolchand, a Sufi Saint built a temple for the upliftment of the poor in the community. After his death a Trust has been started to carry out his work. The samosa of the Wadhwa family living in GTB Nagar is very famous. 50 cinemas houses all spread across the city and suburbs are supplied the A-1 brand of the Wadhwa’s samosa.

 

Rewa Fort-

Another Fort in Sion. This Fort is right next to the Sion Railway Station on its east side. At its foot there are the Railway Quarters of Sion. And There is also a Social Welfare Center attached to the Sion Railway Colony. At the apex of the hill there is Ayurvidya Prasakar Mandal and Ayurveda Mahavidyalaya. The Ayurvedic Prasarak Mandal formed in 1949 after the Decree of consent of theHon’ble High Court of Bombay. The Mandal was supported by the “Seth Ranchoddas Veerjevdas Santarium trust” and “Seth Veerjevandas Mandhavdas charitable medical dispensary trust”. Both the donor trusts had started small scale activities on the Rewa hills in 1891 and 1895.

There is R H Ayurvedic Hospital at foot of the hill towards it northeast direction. On the top it also houses a hostel for boys from the Ayurvedic Mahavidyalaya. This Hostel is the Sanitarium Built By Runchordas Vurjeevandas in memory of his son in 1889 AD.

the saniarium

The fort also has a few houses of the native Kolis and some from Pathare-Prabhu community. They still leave in very village like houses with chickens roaming around their front yards and with wells and tiled roofs. The fort also has a Sai Baba Mandir and a Shankar Mandir on its top.

This fort is one of the links of fors which were built by the British to fortify the island city of Bombay on its northern front. The other forts of the link being the Mahim Fort, The Dharavi Fort which is also known as Kala Killa, the Rewa Fort, The Sion Fort, The Sewri Fort and then the Wadala Fort. It is also said that there was a tunnel connecting these fort together, but however no evidence of such a tunnel has been found.

A native from the Pathare-Prabhu community Mr. Jagdish Ramrao Mantri( Born: 1936 ), was kind enough to narrate to me the Sion of his times and the changes that he had seen and what he recollects to have heard from his father.

Some of the extracts from his narrative are as follows,

“ Our house was the last on the island, the end of the city limits, a Customs office, like an octroinakka then, was right next to our house. It marked the end of the city limits and Sion…Later Masala Girnya (grinding mills of masala) were found there on the Duncan causeway and we had to pay taxes even if were to visit these grinding mills…There was no highway or any road leading up to Sion. No taxis or Tonga walas used to come from Dadar to Sion even in 1946. We had to walk all the way sometimes. The road was built in 1954… I remember my father used to scold us if we roamed around outside our homes after dark for the streets used to be empty and foxes would prowl around in the dark. Sion then was a jungle, not what you see today… The area where the highway is constructed had lime quarries back then ( chunya chi vakhare )…Hence the area beyond Sion is known as ChunnaBhatti..Inmates of the Thane jail were brought here for hard labour as a part of their rigorous imprisonment…My family has always lived in this house.”

the last house within the city limits of  bombay(duncan causeway)

Surely his house still has the old charms to it, with the wooden and glass chandeliers, wooden chairs and tables. Wooden cupboards stocked with old books and herbs that his grandparents used as medicines (that are now bottled away and not used ). His house also has a number of Tablas and old bronze and copper vessels. Various paintings of Swamis and Gurus hang on the house walls. There is also a painting of Moses showing the Ten Commandments and one of the Jesus. The house now lies on the Sanitarium Trust Property.

 

Sion Hospital-

The Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital is more commonly known as the Sion hospital. The hospital was called as the “ Indian Military Hospital” and was taken over by the corporation in 1946. The “Dharavi Military Group of hospitals” during the World War II was started here with only 50 beds. In 1953 the hospital got the new status of being a Teaching Hospital[11]. Hence this hospitals first batch was of the students transferred from the Topiwala National Medical College. Later in 1958 it was converted into a Civilian Hospital by Dr. R. G Dhaygude. Dr. S. V. Joglekar was its first superintendent.

The Hospital has the bed strength of 1048 beds. But generally the patient number exceeds the bed strength and there are additional beds and mattresses on the floor. The hospital has a very active Trauma Service with a special Trauma Ward and Special doctors for emergency. This hospital also has Central Ambulance Services and Coronary Ambulance Services for cardiac patients with fully equipped ambulance for minor revival facilities in case of emergencies. And these ambulances also have surgical staff on them for carrying out minor cardiac surgeries. Such services provided by Sion Hospital were first of its kind in India. The Sion Hospital also provides for free treatments to the poor. These include treatments in Cardiology, Peadiatrics care and Kidney Dialysis Unit.

The current Dean and the Head of the College is Dr. AvinashSupe. ( M.S., M.H.P.E. ).

 

The Mahatma Gandhi Market-

The famous Gandhi Market of Sion is perhaps Asia’s largest retail cloth market. It is situated near the King’s circle Railway Station of the Harbour Railway Track. It was started in 1949 by the displaced persons from Pakistan, Sindh and Punjab after the partition under kutccha sheds near the Bus Depot near Rupam Cinema. In 1960 the Municipal Corporation developed this into a pucca market. The space under the railway foot-over bridge was allotted to construct shops. The average area of a shop is 8ft x 6ft. The total area of the market is 2648 sq.ft. And the market has about 250-300 shops. The market also has Merchant’s Welfare Association. The administration of the Gandhi Market now falls under the BMC markets’ office in Dadar. The current Market Inspector is Mr. G.S.Adrekar.

 

Shanmukhanand-

The Shanmukhanand Sabha was established by a band of lovers of classical music and dance on 14thApril, 1944. The Sabha with the initial membership of Rs.500 was amalgamated with similar organization “Fine Arts, Bombay” in 1950. Hence the new organization came to be known as the “Shanmukhanand Fine Arts and Sangeet Sabha”. The Shanmukhanand auditorium is the biggest and the most magnificent one in Bombay. It has a seating capacity of 1,552 on the ground floor, 896 in the first balcony and 564 in the second balcony. Which makes a total of 3,012 seats. It is the largest fully air-conditioned auditorium with the best and the latest acoustics.[12]

The Sabha has also establishes schools to impart and propogate classical music. The Sangeet Vidyalaya, the school of the Sabha, imparts education in Karnatic vocal as well as instrumental music. It also imparts education in Sitar recitals and Hidustani classical music.

The main object of the institution is propogation of classical music, dance, drama and fine arts and also provides relief for the needy persons. It also holds music competitions and publishes a quarterly journal called as “Shanmukha”.

The Sabha also has various health and hygiene initiatives. It organises the various medical relief camps. The Sabha also has a Medical Relief Cemter that is equipped with a Pathalogy Laboratary, X-ray Clinic, E.C.G. Unit, Dental Clinic, Eye Clinic etc.

 

The Archaeological Survey of India-

The ASI has its office functioning with effect from the 1st December, 2004 in Sion. Now it has become the Mumbai Circle office from 28th December, 2005 with its Head Quarter at Sion Fort, Sion (E), Mumbai. This office ( Circle ) has a total 117 monuments under its jurisdiction. And over eleven Districts namely Kolhapur, Mumbai City, Mumbai-Suburban, Pune, Ratnagiri, Raigad, Sangali, Satara, Sindhudurg, Sholapur, and Thane of Maharashtra under its jurisdiction.. There are eleven Sub-Circles located at Alibag, Elephanta, Janjira, Junner, Kolhapur Mumbai, Pune, Sholapur, Raigad, Vasai and Vijaydurga.

 

 

 

Bibliography:

 

The Times Archives.

The Gazeteers of Bombay City and Island.

The Maharashtra State Gazeteers, Greater Bombay District.

The Bombay Gazeteer of Bombay Presidency.

Origin of Bombay- Joseph Gerson Cunha.

The Bombay Explorers.

www.olgcchurch.com

www.ltmgh.com

www.asimumbaicircle.com

www.shanmukhanand.com

 

 

[1]The Gazeteers of Bombay City and Island, Vol. I, P.29

[2]MridulaRamanna, “Colonial Sion”, Bombay Explorers No.32, June 2000, P.16

[3]The Gazeteers of Bombay City and Island, Vol. I, P.46

[4]The Gazeteers of Bombay City and Island, Vol. I, P.63

[5] Information as gathered from the Parish Office, and its official web site http://www.olgcchurch.com

[6]The Gazeteers of Bombay City and Island, Vol. I, p. 46

[7] Joan Dias,”Sion Fort”, The Bombay Explorers No. 8, 1988.

[8]The Gazeteers of Bombay City and Island, Vol. I, p. 366.

[9]AbanSetha, “The ninth milestone of Bombay: Sion causeway”, The Bombay Explorers, Vol No. 49, June 2010.

[10] The Gazeteers of Bombay City and Island, Vol. 26, Part II, Chapter- IV, P.279, 280, 281..etc

[11]Maharashtra State Cazeteers, Greater Bombay District. Vol. III, p 194.

[12] The Maharashtra State Gazeteers, Greater Bombay District, Vol. III, p. 309.

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