Neighbourhoods of Mumbai 1: Matunga

Neighbourhoods of Mumbai is a series that will explore the different areas of Mumbai, their history, their sub-cultures, their architecture, the changes sweeping through them, and what makes them tick.

How difficult can it be to write about a place that I have known all my life? I would have said not very, till I sat down to write this post on Matunga, a central suburb of Mumbai. Read on with advance warning that it is a long post ! πŸ™‚

Matunga is where my mother grew up, where I spent a part of my childhood, and a place that is so much part of me and my memories that I’ve never given it a second thought. So when I heard about a guided walk of Matunga conducted by a fellow blogger and friend, Rushikesh of Breakfree Journeys, I was surprised and intrigued. Surprised, because someone found it interesting enough to conduct a walk, and intrigued because I wanted to know what exactly was being covered in the walk and if they would look at Matunga the way I saw it and do it justice.

On a Saturday evening earlier this month I went on the 2-hour walk that took me through the history of Matunga, its development, the different communities that are resident here, its architecture, it unique sub-culture, its eateries, the changes sweeping through it… Some of what I learnt on the walk was new to me, some of it was a literal walk down memory lane, and some of it was seeing the same place through new eyes. Join me as I take you on that Matunga walk and also share my memories and thoughts about the place.

Matunga 1
My maternal grandparents’ home … somewhere in Matunga

The etymology of Matunga is quite interesting and there are two main theories with regard to that and you can take your pick: (i) From the word “Matang” or elephant in Marathi. It is believed that the elephant stables of 14th century King Bhimdev were located in Matunga. (ii) From sage Matang of the Ramayana, who is believed to have settled in the area after his wanderings in the sub-continent.

Matunga was a swampy bog in the early days of the British occupation of the 7 islands, which would later become Bombay (now Mumbai). It must have been a miserable place at that time, especially during monsoons and summers, but was important from the defence point of view for the British, who built a military outpost in Matunga sometime in the 18th century. Illness and diseases were rampant in the area and casualties among the soldiers were high. In late 18th century, the military outpost was abandoned and the soldiers shifted to Ahmednagar.

After the British left Matunga, their army buildings and barracks fell into disrepair. Not much is known about Matunga of that time, except that it was occupied by the Koli, Agri and Kunbi communities who made a living from farming and fishing. Matunga was largely ignored by the British and this might have continued if the Bombay Plague of 1896 had not happened.

The plague killed thousands of people living in Bombay and thousands more fled the city in panic. Unsanitary conditions and overcrowding was deemed as the reason for the plague, and the city authorities decided that Bombay had to be decongested and civic amenities had to improve. This led to the setting up of the Bombay City Improvement Trust (BCIT) in 1898 through an Act of the Parliament.

Matunga, Mumbai suburb, Neighbourhood of Mumbai, Bombay, Five Gardens
A shady road in the Five Gardens area

The BCIT formulated the first ever planned suburban scheme in Bombay in 1899–1900 β€” theΒ Dadar-Matunga-Wadala-Sion scheme β€” with residential, commercial and mixed areas. As per the scheme, no building was to exceed three storeys in height, and all buildings had to have open spaces between them. The scheme also included parks, gardens and broad roads all of which didn’t just remain on paper but were actually executed. It was on the walk that I really appreciated why most of Matunga has such broad roads even today, and why there is a certain ‘space’ around buildings, not seen in newer constructions.

The BCIT could not implement their scheme immediately as land acquisition took time. Though available literature makes no mention of it, the resettlement of the Agri, Koli and Kunbi communities may have been forced and would have been more like an eviction rather than resettlement. If land was given to them at all, it would have been in far off places like present day Mahul and Chembur or maybe none at all.

When construction of the buildings finally began in the 1920s, it a new architectural style sweeping through Mumbai at that time was adopted β€” the Art Deco style. All buildings were well-designed and most flats were two- or three-room apartments with large balconies, good ventilation, and separate areas for drying and dressing. My grandparents moved into one such flat in an art deco building in 1939 and were there till their deaths in 1980.

Matunga, Art Deco, Architecture, Heritage

Matunga, Art Deco, Architecture, HeritageMatunga, Art Deco, Architecture, HeritageMatunga, Art Deco, Architecture, HeritageMy understanding of Art Deco is, but a few months old and it was amazing to see the buildings through that knowledge on that walk. Most people think that art deco architecture is only restricted to South Mumbai; actually it is found all over Mumbai.

Along with residential buildings, educational institutions also set up base in Matunga and even today they remain among the best known in Mumbai, for instance, Don Bosco School, Ruia, Podar and Khalsa Colleges, VJTI, SIW School…

Matunga, Don Bosco School, Exploring Matunga
Don Bosco School. My mother, uncle and one of my brothers studied here
Matunga, Khalsa College, Exploring Matunga
Khalsa College. One of my brothers, an uncle and an aunt are products of this college

The earliest communities to move to Matunga were people from the South, especially those from Palakkad and Travancore regions. These were people who filled the clerical and officer positions in industries and offices proliferating in Mumbai at that time. And with them came their cultural milieu β€” temples, hotels catering South Indian food, and stores selling South Indian provisions.

Matunga, Exploring Matunga, Asthika Samaj
Detail from the gopuram of the Asthika Samaj
Matunga, Mumbai, Don Bosco Church
Don Bosco Church
Mumbai, Matunga, Sakina Masjid
Sakina Masjid
Matunga, Mumbai, Ram Ashraya, Restaurant
Ram Ashraya. Perhaps Matunga’s most popular restaurant. Their pineapple and mango sheera are delicious
Matunga, Giri Stores, Mumbai
Giri Stores for all things South Indian

The 1940s to the early 1960s seems to have been the golden period for Matunga. It was the place to be in and many Bollywood stars and musicians lived there β€” K.L. Saigal, Raj Kapoor, Nalini Jaywant, Vidya Sinha and Geeta Dutt β€” before they moved to other suburbs. It was a time when roads used to be washed every day and the municipal authorities would come knocking on your door if you dried your clothes in public ! There was a tram service in operation, in addition to the BEST buses and suburban local trains for public transport. Music and dance classes flourished and Matunga was quite the hub for cultural performances.

It was also a time when the sense of community was strong and the various parks and gardens played an important role fostering that. Rushikesh mentioned that music would be played on gramophone records at King’s Circle (now known as Maheshwari Udyan) in the evenings and people would congregate there to listen to the music and also socialise. It was also a time when Matunga was very safe and my mother remembers returning home alone from Shivratri Puja at the temple after midnight. Why, I used to be sent on errands as a 6–7 year old alone !

The 1970s and later brought about changes in community patterns and profile. Real estate prices shot up making Matunga unaffordable for those in service and with growing families in need of space. The South Indians started moving out and the Gujarati business families, the only community who could afford to buy real estate, started moving into Matunga. This was also the time when Matunga had its own gangster β€” Varadarajan Mudaliar or Varadabhai. I remember the grand Ganesh pandal he would set up outside Matunga station every year and receive “offerings” from devoted followers.

Our family left Matunga and Bombay in 1980 and returned to the city in 1993, though not to Matunga. We found it changed in many ways and yet, the essence of Matunga remained and over the years every little change was noted. That Saturday walk with Breakfree was another opportunity to note the changes in this neighbourhood and also things that had remained the same.

Let me first share with you what has not changed.

Flower seller, Matunga, Mumbai
The flower seller. I have seen her selling flowers from the time I was a child. She used to be with her grandmother, then her mother and now she sells the freshest flowers I have ever seen. No trip to Matunga is complete without buying some flowers from her.
Five gardens, Matunga, Mumbai
Five Gardens. The play equipment has changed to something fancier, but the playground remains. I used to come here as a child.
Matunga Vegetable Market
Matunga Market. The vegetable and fruit sellers who are all from North India still manage to speak passable Tamil or Gujarati, the language of the customers.
Pavement Bookstalls, King's Circle, Matunga, Mumbai
Booksellers setting up their stalls on a pavement at King’s Circle in Matunga. 3 generations of my family have bought books from here

Then there is the smell of freshly ground coffee, of priests waiting outside temples, the flower stalls with over-sized garlands, silk saree shops, the gold jewellers… all these are still around.

But lots of changes have happened and some of them have changed the face of Matunga. The many shops that have closed down, the sugarcane juice stalls which have disappeared, traffic jams caused by too many cars and SUVs… the list is pretty long.

Matunga Flyover, Matunga, Mumbai
The tram line used to run here. Once that was dismantled, there was a road divider. This flyover has changed the landscape of the area.
Mumbai Monorail, Matunga, Mumbai
The second phase of the Mumbai Monorail skirts the edge of Matunga as the line veers from Wadala towards Dadar
Matunga, Redevelopment, Mumbai
Old art deco Buildings are being broken down and monstrous multi-storied buildings are coming up in the name of redevelopment.
Co-optex has shut down in Matunga. It is just one of the many shops that are shutting down, one by one, and giving way to newer shops.
Co-optex, one of Matunga’s fixtures from the time my mother was a kid, has shut down. It is just one of the many shops that are shutting down, one by one, and giving way to newer shops.

In the last decade or so, whenever I visited Matunga it was always to the market area to buy whatever stuff that my mother would ask me to get. It would be a nostalgia-filled trip and I would go back home happy. Occasionally, I would take friends or meet them at Matunga for their South Indian food fix and my nostalgia fix and both sides would return happy.

That Saturday, I was able to look beyond just nostalgia and look at change as something that is the natural order of things. For the first time, I saw Matunga beyond its market. I heard the complete history of Matunga and was able to appreciate and understand its development, its unique sub-culture, and the changes that have occurred and the changes that are happening.

Not that I approve of all the changes or the direction that Matunga is taking, but given the larger changes happening in society it is only inevitable. Unlike my mother who finds the changes disturbing and prefers not to visit Matunga, unless it is absolutely essential.

Thank you Rushikesh and Breakfreej for the wonderful walk that you organised in Matunga and about a place that I thought I knew inside out.Β  πŸ™‚

Kamala Kunj
In one of the flats in this beautiful building in Matunga, my mother and I used to have music lessons

Note: This was not a free walk and I paid the full fee for the guided tour.

81 thoughts on “Neighbourhoods of Mumbai 1: Matunga

  1. Brilliant. Well into the sixth decade of my life, the post brought back some really warm memories. My earliest remembrance of Matunga is the tinkle of tram bells as the gentle, lumbering behemoths passed my granparents building. Then there was Diwali time when youngsters would place caps on the tram rails, which would go off as the tram wheels went over them. You could get a clear view of Dadar circle from from the King’s Circle garden (about a mile away). To me, Matunga represents everything that was good about Mumbai. Where else in the world, can you find such diversity living in a small area. Yes times have changed and I suppose that is inevitable. I hate the flyover because it is a methaphor for the rushed lives that we lead.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Srinayan. I had hoped that the post would bring back memories for you. I think I remember seeing the clear view of the other Circle depending on where you were. Today, of course, you can barely see the Ruia signal from either circle !

      Do come back to read the rest of the posts in this series. πŸ™‚


  2. This is fantastic Sudha, I love history and when it comes with such good writing and images, I love it even more. I could visualise the time in the 40s when people were not allowed to dry their clothes in public! I am keenly looking forward to read more about other parts of Mumbai in your series: )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Siddhartha. I love history too, which is why I wonder why I didn’t write this sooner. πŸ™‚

      Matunga was quite the hep place, if all the stories that my mother and uncles and aunts tell me are to be believed. One of the things I didn’t mention in the post is how the planning of nearly a 100 years has stood well. There have been no road widening done here at all. The pavements are still free for walking, and it must be the only place in Mumbai to remain so. Also, Matunga had mixed sub-neighbourhoods in the sense that there would be a cluster of 3-4 buildings and a chawl as a sub-neighbourhood with people from different economic and social backgrounds encouraged to live together. My grandparents lived in one such cluster.

      I’m looking forward to write more in the series too. πŸ™‚


      1. That’s wonderful! Its great that this part of Mumbai is still safe from the real estate mayhem…

        Looking forward to read more πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thanks for the lovely post on Matunga where I grew up. But the same quiet, traditional & tranquil Matunga is being gradually destroyed by greedy builders in the name of development.

        Its becoming a very chaotic place

        God save us.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Welcome to “My Favourite Things”, S. Seshadri. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Peace and tranquility and city life will not go hand in hand. Also why blame the builders if the landlords and buyers are just as greedy?

          Whatever the reason, Matunga is no longer what it was and is a chaotic place as you have mentioned. But there are parts that are still what it used to be like and I hold on to it.


  3. Nice article and pictures. I too spent my childhood in Dadar (Five Gardens) and even then, trips to Matunga were not very frequent! Just occasionally, we would go and have a softie at King’s Circle to celebrate the end of exams. It makes me realise that I’ve missed seeing and experiencing so much – I’ve never eaten at Ram Ashray – and I hope to remedy that very soon πŸ™‚

    Rushi and his team are doing a fantastic job with their Mumbai walks, to familiarise people with their own neighbourhoods and city. Hopefully, with familiarity will come a sense of pride, sensitivity and a sense of conservation as well. Keep writing – I look forward to more articles on the other neighbourhoods of Mumbai.


    1. Welcome here, Bombaygyrl and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. πŸ™‚

      Five Gardens was my playground and Matunga was for everything else. πŸ™‚ I think most of us look upon neighbourhoods as just home and nothing beyond that. Even while writing the post I was pretty amazed with memories and information and stories about the place that just kept coming up. In fact, I was just not able to include some of the stories !

      Yes, Rushikesh and Breakfreej are doing a great job with their neighbourhoods walks and of places that not many people would think of as interesting. I mean, if I mention Matunga to an average Mumbaikar, the response is almost always “Filter Coffee and Idli Dosa Wada”. Sure it is that, but is is also much more than that. So much more.

      I will be posting the second of the articles in this series in mid-June. I fook forward to your comments on that as well. πŸ™‚


  4. Lovely post, Sudha!
    My dad had spent a few years in Matunga, and he would make it a point to take me to this area whenever we went to Mumbai (even if we were on a quick day trip from Pune!!!). Even today, he has tons of beautiful memories associated with Matunga.

    Looking forward to your other posts in this series.


    1. Thank you, Aladybird.

      My earliest memories revolve around Matunga and some of my happiest memories are from that place too. When I look back at the post, I always wonder how I did not manage to write about the place earlier. πŸ™‚

      Matunga was planned really well keeping in mind the future and almost 100 years later its planning still holds good. I’m surprised that no one looks at Matunga as a model for town planning, preferring instead to look at places like Hongkong and Shanghai. Another special thing about Matunga is that it started off as a cosmopolitan place and has retained that character even today.

      The next post in the series will be up sometime in mid-June and I look forward to hearing your views on that as well. πŸ™‚


    1. Welcome here Nishtha and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Ever since I ‘discovered’ art deco, I’ve been seeing them everywhere in Mumbai and have gone slightly click happy. I’m planning to do a post on Mumbai’s art deco heritage soon.

      Do keep visiting πŸ™‚


  5. Hi Sudha – I have been following your blog the last one month when I accidentally stumbled upon it when I was searching on something about Mumbai. My mother in law hailing from Palakkad also grew up in Matunga and had narrated so many different stories to me about Matunga – when I read your post it was like reliving what she had told me. I am so excited to read this and will be sharing a link with her so that she can also read it. She is now settled in B’lore and am sure this is going to make her very nostalgic…


    1. Hi Preethi. A very warm welcome here and thank you for commenting.

      I’m so happy the post resonated with you. I’m pretty sure that your MIL and my mother, uncles and aunts would have known each other – it wasn’t that large a community. I remember getting my cheeks pinched and my braids tugged by numerous mamas and mamis on the streets just for being so-and-so’s grand- daughter / daughter / niece ! I hated it at that time, but it was also a when people looked out for each other and how I could go alone on mini-errands unescorted as a 7 year old. Unthinkable today.

      I hope that your MIL enjoyed the post. πŸ™‚


  6. Having spent my life here in Matunga, this post was a delight. My 10 year old and me sat down to identify the buildings:-) And could get to quite a few. Will be sharing this post with my family as they are all connected to Matunga. I reside not far from the now defunct Co-optex / Giri Trading:-) How about a gastronomic walk in Matunga. That would be a huge hit I am sure.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Manish, don’t know how I missed responding to your comment. My apologies.

      A gastronomic tour sounds good. My favourite is Sharada Bhavan. What is yours?


      1. I love the sambhar & Mysore Masala at Udipi, the podi at Anand Bhavan, the Idli podi at Cafe Madras. So it is difficult to pinpoint on any one particular joint. A true blue Matungaite I am.


    1. Welcome to “My Favourite Things”, Pushpee and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Thank you also for for kind words. I hope that you will keep visiting. πŸ™‚


    2. There is a LOT more to Matunga than what the article describes, and I am not criticizing it in any way. The writer has done a great job, perhaps a sequel to this article is warranted.


  7. Fantastic. I grew up in Matunga. One of the few Telugu families amongst the Tamil and Gujurati families. My Grandfather moved to Matunga in 1942. My dad went to Don Bosco and I went to St. Joseph’s in Wadala and then Khalsa College. Your pictures of these places brought tears to my eyes — such wonderful memories. I remember the the Ganapathi festivals, the roadside movies that we organized, walking through Five Gardens on the way to and from school, King Circle (eating Bhaji Pau), the Udippi restaurants, the corner paan wallas, the Irani restaurants, cricket at Indian and Matunga Gymkhanas, the basketball competition at Indian Gymkhana, and of course going to Andhra Mahasabha to watch performances. I don’t quite remember all the buildings in your post but I remember Matunga market. There was a coffee/tea shop — Quality Coffee and Tea (wonder if it is still around). I wonder if Concerns (a cooperative store) is still around with the nearby Government ration shop (that had lines that lasted for days to get the monthly rations). I almost forgot the Aurora movie theater near King Circle. My goodness. I better stop. Thank you for a lovely, nostalgic and poignant journey you have evoked.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Sekhar, my apologies for responding so late to your comment. I don’t know how I missed it.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. I’m so glad it brought back such happy memories, some of which I remember too. Like the roadside movies – I saw Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi that way.

      And yes, both Quality Coffee and Tea, as well as Concerns are still around. Aurora Talkies is there too, but just. It is in a bad shape now.


  8. Wow! So many old memories come rushing back. Thanks for ringing in yesterday once more. I’ve spent my childhood and a fair bit of youth in Matunga. Due to growing family, we moved out in mid 80s. But even today, if we could afford it, we would have certainly loved to move back to Matunga. As far as I am concerned, no other place in Mumbai compares to the charm and the geniality of this place. One glaring example of how safe this neighborhood is, I experienced during one of the riots in the city during 80s, when from Dadar to South Mumbai, and King’s Circle to North Mumbai, every place was under curfew, except Matunga!


    1. Hi Ajay, nice to see you here after so long.

      I think all those who moved out of Matunga for whatever reason would move back at the first opportunity. That includes me as well, though surprisingly my mother, who grew up in Matunga doesn’t want to. She says that it has changed beyond recognition.

      I didn’t know about Matunga being curfew-free during the riots. Thanks for letting me know. πŸ™‚


    1. Hello Atul. Welcome to “My Favourite Things” and thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Nostalgia is something that I can understand and identify with, especially when it concerns Matunga. πŸ™‚

      Cheers and hope you keep visiting.


  9. You know Sudha I can what you were feeling while taking this pictures.Even the same feeling I have when I go to Jamshedpur,in Bishtopur where my maternal grandparents stayed(now my Mama’s family is staying at that house).Sometimes it brings tear into my eyes when I think about it.Playing with cousines and their children(even Rajaakka’s children too),listen old stories from Paati when they were in Rangoon.Playing cricket grandpa(which made my amma very angry.She used to say “Vidyu,do you want to become a cricketer?)Once I remember that I hit the ball so hard that it went to the neighbour’s terrace.Oh my grandpa’s book collection was superb.I and anna used to take them to Kolkata and never returned them(even if he asked we used to say that,”Jayalakshmi too it”or “It’s with Supriya”.Childhood days are superb is’nt it Sudha

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi Sudha!
    Happy Tamil New Year
    It was a real pleasure of mine to read this post.Actually I have a friend Padmini whose in-laws were based at Matunga.Here I am with a small description of the Lake Gardens area of Kolkata where my family is based.Hope you enjoy it.
    “I am from Lake Gardens”,this sentence is enough for my Tamil Brahmin identity in Kolkata and the next thing you here that is”Oh that mens you are a South Indian Brahmin”
    Actually you should say that I grew up in Lake Gardens which in many ways was like growing up in an agrahaaram.
    Lake Gardens was occupied by very few Bengali families during early 20th century.The are adjoining Lake Gardens which are Lake Market,Lake Avenew,Lake Place, Kalighta,Deshopriyo Park,Rashbehari Avenew are simply called “The Palakkad or Tirunelveli of Kolkata”.When my father Sri T.C.Subhramanyan Iyer,an orthodox Tirunelveli Tamil Iyer Brahmin from Tharuvai,brought up at Kolkata,shifted to Lake Gardens and built his house there in early 1940s he said that there were barely any Bengali family in the area.After the building of Veda Bhawan Samaj,the first Tamil Brahmin Association of Kolkata in 1940,the whole Tamil Brahmin population which was settled and scattered in different parts of Kolkata came to Lake Gardens.In the year 1940 itself there were 400 Tamil Brahmin families settled.Today there are around 1000 Tamil Brahmins (mostly Palghat Iyers or Tirunelveli Iyers) are settled in Lake Gardens.My eldest brother,Sri T.S.Vishwanathan Iyer,my eldest sister in law Smt. Rajalakshmi,their son Sri T.V.Chandrashekharan Iyer,daughter in law Vijayalakshmi along with their children Vishwanathan and Rajalakshmi are settled in Lake Gardens Kolkata and are living in the same house which my father built.My elder sister’s family is too settled in Lake Gardens Kolkata.
    We grew up in a society surrounding 2 Tamil Brahmin associations,3 South Indian temples and surrounded by Iyers so are doing the Tamil Brahmin children whose parents are settled in Kolkata today.I find no change.
    During Margazhi utsavam, when the whole Kolkata sleeps,in Lake Gardens,women clad in Madisar in Iyer way with dripping wet hair wait out side their houses and housing societies to watch bare bodied men,singing bhajans,clinking kartals,beating dholaks in time to their shaking bellies.We would circle around these Mamas and do namaskarams and go in for our daily filter coffee.You can see beautiful Kollam design outside every house.There was a procession from temple and association during festivals.
    In college,on asking when I said that I am from Lake Gardens,people used to say,”Ok the Madra”Do s of Kolkata.”
    Still nou you would see girls wearing long skirts(during festive season) or kurti legins or salwar with oiled,braided with bindi or red round mark of Kumkumam in it.
    Lake Gardens keeps a special place in the imagination of south Indian especially the TamBrahm community,because it is the land where our relatives came from their villages to make their fortune and settled here.Sri N.P.Ramachandran Iyer,after he settled in Kolkata in 1950s brought his siblings to Kolkata for better education.
    The best part was the set up of the”Iyer’s” at Rashbehari Avenew beside Komala Vilas,a SOuth Indian Brahmin resturent cum hotel,in 1968.It had every thing South Indian and needed for a SOuth Indian Brahmin home.And there you wont get to here Bengali but Tamil and not normal one Brahmin Tamil!!
    Often my Bengali friends used to ask me and still the youngsters of Lake Gardens get to here,’Don’t you have any Bengali here?Where ever our eye goes we get to see in the name plates writeen “this this this Iyer”or “that that that Iyer”‘.
    My grandmom Smt.Parvathy Chandrashekharan Iyer used to say that she never missed agrahaaram because our Lake Gardens is itself an”agrahaaram”!
    At Lake Market’s vegetable market,you would see women would slowly shift from Bengali to Tamil.Not just in Tamil,either Palakkad Tamil(if Palakkad Iyer) or normal Brahmin Tamil.
    Carnatic classes at Ambi Sir’s house.
    Hope you like it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One small change here.Actually today there are 1 lakh Tamil Brahmin families settled in Lake Gardens,Kolkata.


  11. Hi Sudha!
    Hope you like my above comment.
    I am here with a full description of Lake Gardens area of Kolkata.Hope you like to read to it.
    During 1910s and 1920s Kolkata had several companies both Foreign and Indian and many communities came to Kolkata to try their luck.So when opportunities came,along with other communities,the Tamil Brahmins from Tirunelveli district and Palghat district (who were Iyer Brahmins) flocked to Kolkata in search of livelihood.Most of them joined as clerks,accountants,engineers and officers.Our Tamil Brahmin community first made it’s first settlement in Ramakrishnapur in Howrah.Our neighbour Dr G.K.Sivaramakrishnan Iyer(of Lake Gardens)’s father Dr G.P.Krishnamoorthy Iyer father once told me that,he was born in Ramakrishnapuram at Howrah and the most of the residents of the area were Tamil Brahmins from Palghat.As most of the companies had their offices in South Calcutta(now Kolkata) so many Tamil Brahmins from Tirunelveli settled in Ballygaunge and Hindustan park areas of South Kolkata.In that period my grandfather,Sri T.S.Chandrashekharan Iyer,an orthodox Tirunelveli Tamil Iyer Brahmin from Tharuvai,along with his young wife Parvathy and small son my father Sri T.C.Subhramanyan Iyer came to Calcutta and settled at Ballygaunge.There many others like G.V.Raman Iyer,T.H.Kailasam Iyer,V.Srinivasan Iyer,R.Ramaswamy Iyer who settled in Ballygaunge.Every year many Tamil Brahmins flocked to the city and settled here.Ballygaunge became the second hub of the Tamil Brahmin community here.Miles away from home our community felt to preserve our cultural traditions and language.So in 1935,N.R.Iyer Memorial Educational Institute was set up and later became school National High School(which divided into NHS for boys and NHS for Girls from 1960)in 1938.South Indian Club was started in 1924 at Hindustan park.
    Lake Gardens area which is situated near Kalighat area in South Kolkata is located just adjacent the posh areas of the city was mostly empty and had few Bengali families there.As or Tamil Brahmin community was becoming larger day by day people needed and area for their settlement and to make it an hub.They found Lake Gardens and Lake Market are suitable as it was cheaper and thus the Bengalis sold their lands to the Tamil Brahmins and bought their houses in Ballygaunge.Most of Tamil Brahmins settled in Kolkata who were scattered over the cities flocked to Lake Gardens and settled here in 1940.My father too came.(Though Around 100 families stayed and are still there)The first 100 Tamil Brahmin families all from Tirunelveli planed to set up an association of theirs.So in 1940 was built the Veda Bhawan Samaj,the first Tamil Brahmin association of Kolkata by 100 TamBrahm families who were my father’s family T.C.SUbharamanyan Iyer ,T.H.Venugopalan Iyer’s,T.N.Ananthasubhramanium Iyer’s,T.S.SIvaramakrishnan Iyer’s,K.A.Anathakrishnan Iyer’s,N.V.Krishnamurthy Iye’sr,K.A.Vishwanathan Iyer’s…………………………etc.
    That was the area when several Tamil Brahmin officers who were posted at Rangoon came to Calcutta and setteld here.Seeing the growing Tamil Brahmin community,K.V.Narayanaswami Iyer a Palghat Iyer started the city’s first South Indian resturant Prema Vilas in 1940s.Soon S.Ramakrishnan Iyer started another SOuth Indian resturent and an Hotel Komal Vilas(which is still there in 1950s and also a shop “Palghat Store” in 1945.
    As Lake Gardens was getting filled up with the Tamil Brahmin families (mostly Tirunelveli Iyers and Palghat Iyers) settled in Kolkata,the other Tamil Iyer Brahmin families shifted to neighbouring areas of Lake Market,Lake Place,Lake Avenew,Deshopriyo Park,Rashbehari Avenew and Kalighat.The first SOuth Indian temple,Sri Shaashtha Samooham Temple was setup in 1950 and another Sri Ganesh and Sri Murugan Temple in late 1950s.Second TamBrahm association was setup by both Tirunelveli Iyers & Palghat Iyers in 1947 and the third one Shankara Hall was set 50 years ago.Soon Palghat Tamil Iyer Brahmins too started settling in Lake Gradens.In 1968 N.V.Chellam Iyer came from Palakkad and set up another Tamil Brahmin shop that shas everything essential for Tamil Brahmin family from religious books to spices,from Tamil Magazines to Coffee.As orthodox Tamil Brahmin ladies wear Madisar in house and also Tamil Brahmin ladies need Madisar for Pujas,Festivals and other ceremonies and also man need Panchagacham so a shop was setup in 1946 that sold Madisar and Panchagacham at Rashebhari Avenew and in 1960s it changed it’s name to “Jayashree”.There is also an association of Tamil Brahmin priests here. Our community has made the city’s culture more rich.Sivananna’s family,my eldest brother Sri T.S.Vishwanathan Iyer his wife Rajalakshmi,their son T.V.Chandrashekharan Iyer his wife Vijayalakshmi along with their children Vishwanathan and Rajalakshmi are settled in Lake gardens Kolkata.Even T.C. Vishwnathan Iyer too wants to settle in Lake Gardens in Kolkata.We have a school teaching Carnatic Music.During Shankara Jayanathi,Ramanavami there is procession.Procession from the Murugan and Ganesha Temple is worth watching.If you go to Lake Gardens or Lake Market area during Navartri or Ramanavami you would see women clad in Madisar saree in Iyer way and Men and boys clad in Panchagacham and girls in Pavadaai in streets.You know in my Akka’s batch there was a girl who learnt Bengali after getting married as she could’nt speak Bengali though being born in broughtup in the city.It is because we don’t need to speak Bengali in Lake Gardens(though we all repect and love Bengali language) if you know Tamil and still the scenario is same.The TamBrahm ladies from Kolkata can speak Bengali fluently but still you would see them during bargaining at lake Market’s Vegetable market slowly shifting from Bengali to either Brahmin Tamil or Palghat Brahmin Tamil(My eldest Mani does so though she was born and brought up in Kolkata and is the d/o T.A.Neelakanthan Iyer who is the eldest son pf T.N.Ananthasubhramanium Iyer).Today there are 4 lack Tamil Brahmin families settled in Kolkata which more than 1 lack Tamil Brahmin families settled in Lake Gardens itself and that is why it is calles”Madras of Kolkata” infact it shoud be called “An Agrahaaram of Kolkata!”

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  12. It was indeed a pleasure for us to read this beautiful post.You have done a great work.And Vidya you too have done a great work on giving this beautiful comment

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Sudha!
    Good evening.Hope you like my above comment.I am here with the history of Lake Gardens area of Kolkata.Hope you like it.
    Thank you Sivanna for liking my comment.
    The area of Lake Gardens is situated near Kalighta area in South Kolkata and is today one of the posh localities of the city.But what was it’s history?How it became the Tamil Brahmin hub of the city?Let me tell you
    During 1910s and 1920s there were several companies in Calcutta both foreign and Indian.Several communities came to the city to try there luck.So when opportunities came,many many Tamil Brahmins from Tirunelveli and Palghat districts flocked to Calcutta to join their jobs.Most of them were clerks,accountants,charter accountants and officers.The Ramakrishnapur area in Howrah became the first hub of the Tamil Brahmin families settled in the city.Dr G.K.Sivaramakrishnan Iyer(of Lake Gardens)’s father Dr G.P.Krishnamoorthy Iyer once told me that he was born in Ramakrishnapur in Howrah and most of the residents were Tamil Brahmins from Palghat districts.As most of the companies had their offices in South Kolkata so many Tamil Brahmins settled in Ballygaunge and Hindustan Park areas in South Kolkata.Miles away from home our community felt the need to preserve our cultural traditions and language.Thus was born the N.R.Iyer Memorial Educational Society in 1935 by Sri N.R.Iyer.In 1938 the name was changed to National High School(later in 1960 it was divided to National High School for Girls and National High School for Boys).
    The Calcutta South Indian Club was started by many Tamil Brahmin families settled in Kolkata in 1924.In that period my grandfather Sri T.S.Chandrashekharan Iyer,an orthodox Tirunelveli Tamil Iyer Brahmin from Tharuvai,along with his young wife Parvathy C and small son,my father Sri T.C.Subhramanyan Iyer came to the city and settled in Ballygaunge area.The Ballygaunge area was soon becoming the another Tamil Brahmin hub of the city which had more than 100 Tamil Brahmin families who were G.V.Raman Iyer’s,R.Rajagopalan Iyer’s,T.H.Kailasam Iyer’s,G.G.Parameshwaran Iyer(Sivanna’s Grandfather)’s etc.
    The population of Tamil Brahmin families was increasing day by day and there were not enough place for the Tamil Brahmins to settle in Ballygaunge are and Hindustan Park area (and also it became a bit costly).So they found Lake Gardens suitable to make it a hub of Tamil Brahmin population.There wear very few Bengali families in Lake Gardens.During late 1930s and early 1940s Tamil Brahmin families settled and scattered throughout the city flocked to Lake Gardens and settled here.The Tamil Brahmins bought lands from the Bengalis and inturn sold their houses in posh areas which was profitable for both of them.In 1940 many Tamil Brahmin families such as my father’s and many more shifted to Lake Gardens and settled there.(Though still other Tamil Brahmin families stayed back in Ballygaunge where they had settled).In the same year my father built a house”Lakshmi Vilas” in Lake Gardens and settled here.
    Mostly the Tamil Brahmin families from Tirunelveli district settled here.During 1940 itself there were 400 Tirunelveli Tamil Iyer Brahmin families were settled in Lake Gardens area of Kolkata.In that year the first Tamil Brahmin association of Kolkata,The Veda Bhawan Samaj was set up by 100 Tirunelveli Tamil Iyer Brahmin families namely T.C.Subhramanyam Iyer’s,T.H.Venugopalan Iyer’s,T.N.Ananthasubhramanium Iyer’s,K.A.Vishwanathan Iyer’s,T.J.Lokenathan Iyer’s,N.V.Krishnamurthy Iyer’s,T.S.Sivaramakrishnan Iyer’s…………………………………………………………………………..etc.
    By late 1940,Lake Gardens was getting filled up with Tamil Iyer Brahmin families from Tirunelveli district and Palghat district (and still is).And the population of the Tamil Brahmin community too was increasing day by day.So other Tamil Brahmin families settled in Lake Market,Lake Place,Lake Avenew,Rashbehari Avenew,Deshapriya Park and Kalighat areas of Kolkata which were located beside Lake Gardens.And so Lake Gardens and Lake Market became the hub of Tamil Brahmin community.The second Tamil Brahmin association Thiyagaraja Hall a.ka. R.R.Sabha was established by both Tirunelveli Tamil Iyer Brahmin and Palghat Tamil Iyer Brahmin families 50 years ago.The first South Indian Temple Sri Shaashtha Samooham Temple was built by 7000 Tamil Iyer Brahmin families settled in Lake Gardens,Kolkata near, Veda Bhawan.The next south Indian temple Sri Ganesha and Sri Murugan Temple was set up in late 1950s in Lake Gardens by 15000 Tamil Brahmin families settled in Kolkata(the population doubled only within few years.
    The first South Indian resturant Prema Vilas was set up by K.V.Narayanaswamy Iyer,a Tamil Brahmin from Palghat who was a clerk,in 1940s.The next South Indian resturant was set up by another Palghat Tamil Brahmin S.Ramakrishnan Iyer who was an accountant.Sensing the need of the growing Tamil Brahmin community he set up a Shop named Madras Stores and a hotel Komala Vilas (which still now stands proudly 75 years old).It is still now famous for it’s TamBrahm cusine.Still now if you go to Lake Gardens during any festival like Ramanavami,Navarathri,AVani AVittam etc you would see Tamil Brahmin ladies clad in Madisar saree in Iyer way,Men and young boys in Panchagacham and girls in Pavadai in the streets.The processions from the Sri Ganesha and Murugan Temple,Shaashtha Samooham Temple is worth watching.As orthodox Tamil Brahmin ladies wear Madisar everyday and also Madisar and Panchagacham is needed for Festivals and Religious ceremonies and in Family Functions,a shop called SOuth Indian Cloth store was set up in Rashbehari AVenew in 1940s.It later changed it’s name to “Jayashree” and still running very well and is selling Madisars and Panchagacham for Tamil Brahmin families.In 1968 a Palghat Tamil Brahmin man,who was a clerk opened a shop name “Iyer’s” at Rashbehari Avenew which sells everything essential for a Tamil Brahmin family.From Religious items to Spices,from coffee to Tamil magazine.My eldest brother Sri T.S.Vishwanathan Iyer,his wife Rajalakshmi,their son Sri T.V.Chandrashekharan Iyer his wife Vijayalakshmi along with their children Vishwanathan and Rajalakshmi are settled in Lake Gardens,Kolkata.Even Vishwanathan too wants to settle in Lake Gardens,Kolkata.Same is with my elder sister and elder brother too.
    Today there are 4 lack Tamil Brahmin families settled in Kolkata with above 1 lack Tamil Brahmin families(most Tirunelveli Iyers and Palghat Iyer) are settled in Lake Gardens,Kolkata.
    Even today you would find Tamil Brahmin ladies from Kolkata,born and brought up here,can speak Bengali fluently vigourously bargaining at Lake Market’s Vegetable Market slowly shift from Bengali to Tamil,not only the normal one but either normal Brahmin Tamil or Palghat Brahmin Tamil.My Mani does so though she is from a Tirunelveli Tamil Brahmin family settled in Kolkata and born and brought up in Kolkata(T.N.Ananthasubhramanium Iyer’s eldest son T.A.Neelakanthan Iyer’s daughter) though she can speak Bengali fluently and respects the language.
    Our Tamil Brahmin community enriches country’s cultural capital,Kolkata.And that is the reason why Lake Gardens and Lake Market are known as “Madras of Kolkata” infact “Agarahaaram of Kolkata!”

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  14. Wow! That is a lot you shared about the TamBram diaspora in Kolkata. It is obvious that you have a deep emotional connect with the city. I have strong family ties to both Matunga and the Lake Market Rashbehari Avenue areas and have been witness to discussions on which branch – Matunga or LM/RBA – of the TamBram community remained truer to its roots. The debates were mostly lighthearted but taken very, very seriously during matchmaking. Generalizations were based on individual quirks and were often unfair. However, the discussions underscore the fact that adaptation and acculturization of TamBrams in Kolkata and Mumbai proceeded along different trajectories determined by the local conditions. For this reason, I feel that your posts here merit separate space and a distinct identity. How about Vidya Shankar Iyer’s blog, evocatively named β€œMallikai and Kanakambaram (Jasmines and Crossandra flowers) in Deshapriya Park”?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Oh Thank You so much Sir that you liked my comment.Yes I do have a deep emotional connection with the city of Kolkata.This is the city where I was born,I did my schooling my college,I got married,my children were born and brought up here and I am still living here.My eldest brother’s family his son’s family are settled in Kolkata,my elder sister’s family is settled in Kolkata her son’s family,my second brother’s family are all settled in Kolkata and Yes you can call us Kolkatan TamBrahms!!
    Yes I have heard about the discussions as one of my friend was married off to Bombay.I hope you are Sudha’s elder brother.
    And about the blog I have to ask either my son or daughter to open one for me.And thanks for the name.If I make one,definately I would name it so.
    Thank You

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wonderful! I have similar memories of Matunga. My grandparents were from Karnataka and had shifted base to Bombay in the 1940’s. My mother and her siblings grew up in Matunga. Their house was in B I T Buildings, right opposite Don Bosco Church and School. They went to the Kannada School in Wadala. One of my aunts studied at the Khalsa college. I and my two brothers and five of my cousins were born in Dr. Karina Karen’s hospital in Matunga in the late 60s and early and late 70s. We used to visit our grandparents once in 2 – 3 years. When my younger brother was born, I and my elder brother too joined the Kannada school for 6 months. I remember the walk from Matunga to Wadala everyday, making Marathi friends in the neighbourhood, going to the temple everyday with my grandfather and cousin sister for the coconut pieces given to us as prasada, the oily, saffron paste that we used to smear on our foreheads. Outings to the Five gardens, Dadar, Matunga market, king’s Circle. I still remember the park in front of our house in the B I T compound, the iron benches., The trees, bushes,, cashew trees in the compound and how we used to play with children in the neighbourhood, the malai at Dadar and kulfi at the Five Gardens. My last visit to Matunga as a child was in 1980.

    I visited Mumbai in 1998 with my five year old daughter, my niece and my parents to see my grandmother. By then, they had shifted to Vasai. I happened to visit Mumbai last year as my daughter joined TISS at Chembur for her masters. My mother was also with us. We visited Matunga also this time. The B I T buildings we were born and grew up in have made way to sky high apartments. I could not recognise the place! I hope to visit Matunga again soon. Thanks for those wonderful memories. I shall share this with my mother, my siblings and cousins and aunts and my daughter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome here, Lakshmi. Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful memories of Matunga here and also for commenting your appreciation.

      Matunga has changed a lot and even though I visit it once a month or so, I find more buildings disappearing and old shops giving way for new. I know that change is inevitable, but it is not always nice.


  17. I remember Matunga since I was 5 years old. We used to have a farm and parrots used to visit where at present the Matunga Gymkhana is. The Gymkhana and SIES school was not built.

    I remember K P Krishnan used to teach football to kids in rainy season and gives us hot coffee and warm italli at the gymkahna. Those days italli was as big as dinner plates and cost 50 paisa. I remember Society and Concerns next to Bajan samaj temple where they provided unlimited meal for Re 5. Concerns used to give dabba sets for Re 5. The bigger the dabba sets the more they filled. People as far as Chembur and Mulund used to come to eat there. I will never forget soceitys onion sambar and tall stainless steel glass of butter milk.

    Well about 80s textile strike and emergency military tanks did roll in Matunga Bhaudaji road.
    Aurora movie theatre showed english movies every summer. They used to bring To sir with love and woodstock.

    Don bosco school is piece of haven in matunga I spent my childhood there. Trams used to run in the middle of king circle garden and the fountain was lit with colored lights. Well DIVALI is the best time in matunga: everybody with a smile and happy. Well dussra Mami chundal and amania vatan kom who will forget that. You can be tamil gujarati and marathi at the same time in matunga:
    Dussra mami chundal you are tamil
    Dussra dandia rass you are gujarati
    Ganapati you are marathi and go wild to the beat of drums

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Harry. Welcome to my blog. I really appreciate your taking time off to read this post and share your own memories of the place. The multicultural and multilingual atmosphere of Matunga has declined considerably, but the place still has ab unbeatable charm. πŸ™‚


  18. You took me on a nostalgic trip to Matunga. I remember often walking there and enjoyed roaming around. What a feel of Mumbai. The post is educative and now I know why the roads are so spacious and the buildings are such an architectural wonder. Mumbai is one place that gives you an identity and sense of belonging. Those were the days. There are certain things that shouldn’t change for it lends a unique charm and identity to the place.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If wishes were horses, then nothing would change. Besides, how would we wallow in nostalgia?

      Change is inevitable, but I wish it would be for the better not the worse. Sigh!

      Thanks for sharing your memories, Vishal.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Good article.
    But no discussion on Matunga is complete without mentioning the ubiquitous Aurora cinema.,
    They shifted from classic Hollywood movies to MGR and other Tamil movies.
    The SIES school provided the educational base for many successful managers.
    Religious discourses by orators like Anantharama Dikshitar and the leadership shown by institutions like Shankar Mutt with Venkateshwara Dikshitar moulded the outlook of the large South Indian community. Shanmukhananda and Bharatiya Arts Societies made every effort to encourage the best of artistes and culture.
    Over the years, though, it is very obvious that Matunga lost its soul.
    Kalyanr ex Matungaite now in California

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome here, Kayan. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. And if you are the one who shared it on a facebook page which resulted in so many likes, then thank you once again.

      Yes, Aurora is integral to Matunga but I have no memories of it as my family was more into theatre and music, which meant Shanmukhananda.

      Thanks for sharing some of your memories here. πŸ™‚


  20. Kalyan – thanks for bringing out the other salient features of our good old Matiunga – having spent over 50 years in this great suburb we are so happy to see this coverage – thanks to the group who made this possible – Rajaram Iyer – 1954 batch of SIES School and 1958 batch of Ram Narain Ruia College, Matunga -presently in Saratoga, California

    Liked by 1 person

  21. My heart is filled with nostalgic memories after reading this article… I’m so touched that I read not only the entire article , but each and every comment as well… Matunga is close to my heart as this is the place I grow up. We used to stay just behind the Ruia Collage in building called Lamda Building. The name of the building comes from the surname of the landlord of the building… Most of the building in Matunga are run on pagdi system were the property belong to landlords who would lease it to the tenants. This β€œpagdi-kirayadar” system was launched before independence in order to avoid paying excessive taxes to the British. Under this system, verbal agreements played a major role in property transfers where in the tenants were given a slip of rent payment and further tenants made payments in full to the landlord.
    Simply put, the system akin to any other renting system that is prevalent across the world i.e. landlord and a tenant. In this system the only deviating factor is that the tenant becomes a part owner of the house and not of the land. This tenant continues to pay rent to the owner as long as he is not sub-renting the premises. Additionally, the tenant has the option to sell the said property while giving a percentage of the gross amount to the owner. This percentage varies from anywhere between 30-50%. The rent paid under this system is very nominal and and gives good returns to the tenants whenever they sell the flat.
    The reason why I brought up this point is due to this system many people like us who love Matunga so much could easily sell and move out of Matunga. Like all of you I too would also love to settle down back in Matunga. But looking at the current real estate rates one can only dream of it.
    Okay!!! Coming back to reality.. It was great reading your post Sudha. Thanks a lot for posting.. Will wait for your next one…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome to my blog, Nishit. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. And even bigger thank you for such a long and informative comment. You have explained the rent control act so well !

      In the meantime, let us continue dreaming of living in Matunga one day πŸ˜€


  22. It is true that matunga was previously mini south India where u got all seasonal item like tamarind avvaka mangai kanni mangai jack fruit etc . Even u forgot to mention how vadhyars used to configure around bhajana samaj and sankara muttham. many hotels like saraswati hotel are not there. I rember how we used to hop in to the tram which used to go little slow. Even most VIP used to take the Ambedkar road to go to airport. They used to go in open car without much security. But now it is slowly changing with the cost of living.Now Mulund and dombivili is taking the place of matuga.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome to my blog, Ramakrishnan Raman. Thank you for sharing your memories of Matunga with me. Regarding your comment on my forgetting to mention vadhyars, they are not part of my memories or interest.


  23. Even u forgot to mention how the Tamil brahmins established the south Indian bank at star of Cochin building opposite to asthika samaj which was swindled by today’s gready politician eating away the hardly earned money of several south Indian families.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Hey, you made my building so famous. Thanks xD . Also, five gardens is not shady. Please correct it and dont use such words. But it was great reading about the place i’ve lived in for all these years. Cheers!


    1. Welcome here Dee and thank you for appreciating my post. But I’m puzzled about your comment on removing the word ‘shady’. Why should I do that when it means the road is full of shade provided by trees? I think you are confusing the word for something else and have not understood the word in the context I have used it.


  25. Matunga means
    I) The​ unchanged Amba Bhavan, filter coffee & tge benchmarking South Indian snacks
    2) Aurora theatre and is box….felt like a king sitting in one of them !!!
    3) Flower ganpati, near phool galli, and of course the grand lighting right from Kings Circle to Matunga station
    4) Shanti & Madhu book depot … books galore
    5) Matunga market purchasing of rainy shoes /sandals
    6) The tranquil lanes when one steers away from the main market road
    7) Old book sellers around Kings Circle
    8) Tranquility on Khalsa-VJTI- five garden backplane (Gurudutt/ Madan Puri) lane
    9) Filmfare award nights – superstars thronging Shanmukhananda Hall
    10) Finally, the marathi sugarcane wallahs – breather after market shopping.with mother
    As kids, we used to say

    Very fond memories of this cultural cauldron, bang in the middle of Bombay !!!

    Warm memories,

    Amit Mehta (Bobby)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome here, Bobby. I’m absolutely delighted to read your comments. Let me share my memories vis-a-vis your list.

      I) My favourite is Sharada Bhavan
      2) Can you believe it that I have never been inside Aurora Talkies? 😦
      3) Yes to all things related to flowers.
      4) I bought my school books from Madhu book depot and stationery from Mahavir.
      5) Yes to this too. And the raincoats had to be Duckback !
      6) Yes. And the trees and birdsong as well
      7) Three generations of my family have bought books from the second hand book sellers around Kings Circle
      8) Yes to the Tranquility on Khalsa-VJTI- five garden lane
      9) Never seen any Filmfare night, but have heard a lot about it from my mother and aunts.
      10) Alas, the sugarcane juice wallahs have all gone, except one. And that’s a big shame.
      As kids, we used to say
      MATUNGA, TERA NAAK KAATUNGA ☺️ –> We said that too !


  26. no history of Matunga would be complete without referring to Daxini Brahminwadi (build in 1919), matunga railway workshop, matunga fatak and Dr Bhatavdekar’s clinic


  27. You made me nostalgic. Being a product of SIES School, thought that was an icon and landmark of Matunga πŸ™‚ Also, am surprised to learn that your mother studied at Don Bosco; thought this school is only for the boys! – Ramesh V (New Jersey)


    1. Hello Ramesh, welcome to the blog and thank you for stopping by and commenting. Don Bosco was a coed till 1949 or 1950 till the girls were shifted, first to St. Joseph and then to the Auxilium Convent. My mother was the from the batch of girls to pass out from Auxilium.


  28. Dear Ms. Sudhagee,
    Very interesting and Nostalgic article.
    Been born and brought up in Wadala/Matunga area this article brought several rememberances some are which are listed below.
    1. I did my schooling at Sambar Idli Wada Society High School (SIWS) as used to be called by nearby Kannada School, St. Joseph and Andhra School kids.
    2. Used to earn good pocket money during Avani Avittam going with our gang from house to house singing “Avani Avittam Komanam….”.
    3. Used to get caricatured by boys from “superior” Don Bosco and other convent boys. Took revenge on them when I got into IIT without attending any classes and also got scholarship at IIT.
    4. Used to jump/climb over head of others to get the cheapest movie ticket at Aurora ticket counter along with Annas from Dharavi. Same at Rivoli theatre.
    5. Used to stand with my father at the Petrol Pump next to Aurora to hear Cricket commentary and look at live score board.
    6. One rupee Dada Dosa at Madras Cafe at King’s Circle.
    7. Playing Harmonium and Bongo at Ganesh chaturthi festival near Matunga Post Office.
    8. Guarding self and family’s chappals at Asthika Samaj, Bhajana Samaj from chappal chors.
    9. Sometimes getting dinner tiffins from Concerns while waiting to see how mamas were eating chapati soaked with Sambar on top.
    10. Going to paanch garden with school mates ( especially love garden) to see if any couples hiding behind hedges.
    11. Keeping tab on free meals serving dates at local temples so as not to miss free food.
    12. Reading books for free at standing library at king’s circle roadside second-hand book shop till shooed away.
    13. Ordering one Pani kum chai at Kooler Irani restaurant till the fan above is switched off and we were driven away.
    14. Imitating singing of Mami’s who used to come to our house during Navaratri Golu and singing karnatak songs.
    15. Fighting with pav wala boys from St. Joseph who sometimes played funny with SIWS girls and boys.


    1. Welcome to my blog, Mr, Krishnamoorthy and thank you so much for taking the time to share your memories of Matunga here. Many of the memories you have shared are familiar as my uncles have told me about them. But what is new to me is the “Reading books for free at standing library at king’s circle roadside second-hand book shop”. The second hand book shops are still there, but the Library is gone. I have used the Library at Kings Circle as a child, but it was never to read there and only to exchange books.

      Thank you once again. πŸ™‚


  29. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s in Matunga. Currently live in the US and have very dear, fond memories of my childhood spent in Matunga. Here are a few:
    -playing non stop with building friends every single evening after school
    – Shardha bhuvan, ramashray
    -dizzying, intoxicating smells of matunga market. I can still feel and sense the smells of gajras, filter coffee, aggarbattis
    – visiting different temples with my friends
    – taking bharathnatyam dance classes
    -visiting each and every ganpati during ganpati festival
    -building killas/ forts with friends during diwali break
    -growing up in the most charming, shady area of bombay. I was very proud to call matunga home.
    – going to the main road to watch ganpati procession and all the dancing
    -watching movies roadside during ganpati season
    -watching street cricket matches
    I could go on and on πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Sudhagee: Absolutely brilliant and takes me through the entire 60 years of my life spent and still spending here. The lovely art deco buildings (one pic of Jagdish building right next to mine which is now redeveloped and yet another one a few buildings away) remain etched in my memory besides the well planned houses.
    The well spread out expanse of 5 gardens with its shady (not as in doubios) trees, sweet and sombre surroundings interspersed with the hustle and bustle of the Matunga market, alive at as early as 5am. The early morning Suprabatam, with resonating sounds of the music and drums of all the mandir’s lining the flower stalls really bring out the simplicity of this then suburb, now mainstream Mumbai.
    The cross section of religious communities which live in great harmony yet in their own designated areas define this beautiful town. The Maharashtrian Hindus in Hindu colony towards Dadar, the Parsees in Parsee colony again edging Dadar, the Christian’s monopolising Wadala and the South Indian Hindus in Matunga market and Wadala were the crux of the neighborhood.
    The finest quality of fruits and vegetables specially brought in daily from Tamil Nadu and Kerala (specially the coconuts, ethekas or bananas, tapioca, and other vegetables peculiar to the south region) still throng the market place. The fish and meat markets situated in wadala serve the non vegetarian sections.
    Restaurants like Sharada bhavan, Amba bhavan, Cafe Mysore, Ram Ashrey, Anand Bhavan and Cafe Madras still serve the best authentic coconut chutney and sambhar as accompaniments which can never be the same any place else.
    Iconic Structures still line the great expanse of Matunga like the Shankar Mattam Mandir, Don Bosco Church and School, Aurora Cinema, Parsee Fire Temple.
    Sports and Educational institutions like Indian Gymkhana, VJTI, ICT, St. Joseph’s, Auxilium, J.B.Vaccha, IES, NKES, Andhra School, Ruia and Podar College, Welinkar ‘s throng the area for Education.
    Not forgetting the 5 gardens, Napoo garden, Parsee gymkhana, Dadar Union maiden (from where many a criketer was groomed) and the many more gardens the area has for giving it that truly pretty and expansive picture.
    And finally to say that you are still in the city and yet away from it.
    My entire family lived in Matunga. My parents came here in 1947. My 4 sisters studied in J.B. Vaccha but are married and settled abroad, while I studied in Don Bosco and still live in this beautiful place.
    A truly amazing suburb to live in.


  31. Beautiful write up along with some nostalgic pictures. Felt like I just payed a visit back to my childhood days.
    The entire landscape from Maheshwari udyaan to Dadar is filled with a rich variety of cultural backdrop arising due to the fusion of Tamil, Gujrati, Maharashtrian and Parsee population, which was apparent in the food culture… The highlight being the variety of nostalgic South Indian eateries around Matunga and Kings circle… One cannot get over the aroma of the filter coffee while passing the Udipi corner.
    The construction of new buildings is inevitable eventually and perhaps the present generation will hold back the current landscape as nostalgic 20 years from now. But the beauty of what used to be a little less chaotic Matunga will remain in our memories forever.
    Thank you once more Sudhagee for a trip down the memory lane.


  32. I have been living in Matunga since birth i.e. 33 years of my life. I have never known the history of Matunga prior to reading this blog. I cannot imagine myself leaving this place ever. Matunga is a brilliant combination of lush greens, open spaces, amazing south indian restaurants, temples of various religions, possibly the best educational institutions and connectivity to the entire Mumbai. Thank u Sudhagee for this beautiful post about my Matunga.


  33. Nostalgic. Going down the memory lane. No place can replace the sanctity of Matunga.
    Going to the temples during festival was a real pleasure. They use to take the idol of the lord in a beautifully decorated chariot through all the main streets and we used to throng to the streets to have a darshan though it will be quite late.
    Going to the garden opp ruia college and swing fast in the jhoola, the double decker buses coming one after another and running from this stop to the other and missing both the buses at times, carrying big umbrellas during the rainy season and walking through the footpaths which is hard to see now, can go on and on.,
    Your article really took me back to my unforgettable childhood days.
    Thoroughly enjoyed.


  34. Nostalgic. Going down the memory lane. No place can replace the sanctity of Matunga.
    Going to the temples during festival was a real pleasure. They use to take the idol of the lord in a beautifully decorated chariot through all the main streets and we used to throng to the streets to have a darshan though it will be quite late.
    Going to the garden opp ruia college and swing fast in the jhoola, the double decker buses coming one after another and running from this stop to the other and missing both the buses at times, carrying big umbrellas during the rainy season and walking through the footpaths which is hard to see now, can go on and on.,
    Your article really took me back to my unforgettable childhood days.
    Thoroughly enjoyed.


  35. Fantastic article. Brought back a flood of memories. I was born and raised in Matunga. I left Matunga for higher studies, career prospects, etc nearly 25 years ago, but to this date I strongly believe there is no other place that I can identify as HOME.

    One question though – Don Bosco is an all boys school. Are you sure your mother studied there? :).


    1. Hi Blanqui. Thank you for stopping by and commenting.

      I’m very sure that my mother studied in Don Bosco. However, I’m not sure you are from Matunga? For you don’t seem to be aware that Don Bosco was a co-ed till about 1951/52 when Auxilium Convent was set up and the girls were shifted there. My mother studied both at Don Bosco and Auxilium.


  36. Sudhagee,
    I was also from Matunga lived in Giri store building. Then it was an Irani Hotel and the hotel owner lived in my building. Giris had a very small shop outside the hotel. When the hotel owner died Giri bought the property.
    One more small mistake in your article. Your mother could not have gone to Don Bosco school as it was only boys school


    1. Welcome to my blog, Meena. I have heard the story of Giri stores from my mother.

      Do not be so quick to point out mistakes, especially when you do not have the complete information. πŸ™‚ You may have known Don Bosco as a boy’s school, but it’s history is much older. Don Bosco was a co-ed school till about 1952, when all the girls were first shifted to St.Joseph’s Convent in Wadala and then to the newly opened Auxilium Convent. My mother was a student of both Don Bosco and Auxilium so I’m sure about what I have written.


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