Mumbai Lens: The Cotton Exchange Building at Kalbadevi

In the busy Zaveri Bazaar area of Mumbai, near the Mumbadevi Temple and at a road intersection stands this multi-storied building.

Cotton Exchange Building, Urban Heritage, Mumbai, Bombay, Kalbadevi
Source: Wikimapia. Please click on the picture for full details.

At first glance, the greyish brown facade is quite unappealing and unimpressive to look at and gives no hint of its importance or the history associated with it. A passerby might just walk past the building or maybe, just maybe, glance at the large signboard which says ‘Jewel World’ before walking on.

It is only when one looks up and sees a relief panel (the band behind the white board) running around the building and understand the narrative it depicts that things become clear. The band depicts the story of cotton and this building is, or rather was, Mumbai’s Cotton Exchange.

It begins with the sowing of cotton and reaping the harvest…
Cotton Exchange Building, Urban Heritage, Mumbai, Bombay, Kalbadevi

… after which the the cotton is transported to the warehouse…Cotton Exchange Building, Urban Heritage, Mumbai, Bombay, Kalbadevi

Cotton Exchange Building, Urban Heritage, Mumbai, Bombay, Kalbadevi

and then onward by train to textile mills…
Cotton Exchange Building, Urban Heritage, Mumbai, Bombay, Kalbadevi...to be converted into cloth and then weighed, packed… Cotton Exchange Building, Urban Heritage, Mumbai, Bombay, Kalbadevi Cotton Exchange Building, Urban Heritage, Mumbai, Bombay, Kalbadevi… and finally exported by ship or steamer from the ports.Cotton Exchange Building, Urban Heritage, Mumbai, Bombay, Kalbadevi

Though the shallow relief panel of the ‘story of cotton’ is visible from the ground, I doubt whether many people notice it. I certainly didn’t and if it hadn’t been pointed out to me while on a walking tour of Bhuleshwar in August this year, I would not remained unaware of it.  The walk was conducted by Kaiwan Mehta, author of Alice in Bhuleshwar and one of my teachers from Jnanapravaha. The Cotton Exchange building was the last ‘stop’ in the walking tour and when Kaiwan pointed out the relief I was stunned. I had passed the building many times, but had never looked up or noticed the relief or known about it or the building.

Considered to be one of, if not, the world’s oldest cotton exchanges, the Mumbai Cotton Exchange was founded in the mid-1850s, before the country’s stock exchange came into existence in 1875 ! Formally called the East India Cotton Association, the Cotton Exchange building at Kalbadevi came up in 1938.

The building is testimony to the tumultuous fortunes of cotton trading and textile industry of the region. Trading at the Cotton Exchange stopped years ago and the textile mills strike in 1981 and their subsequent closure virtually wiped out cotton trade in Mumbai.

Today, the building and its history is in danger of being wiped out as well. The Cotton Exchange building is owned by a jewellery company now and part of the relief is hidden by signboards with nails having been driven into the relief to fix it. I wonder how long it will be before everything disappears, much like the cotton trade and the textile industry itself?

Is this the end of an era?


Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as I explore the world around me and share “My Favourite Things” with you.

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.


7 thoughts on “Mumbai Lens: The Cotton Exchange Building at Kalbadevi

  1. I have always watched this building n number of times and every time in fascination. I never noticed these murals in as much details as today. what an appropriate name for cotton trade. Lovely observation..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In spite of living in Mumbai for so many years, I haven’t been to this side of the city much. I have probably been to this part 3-4 times and hadn’t noticed this till I went on this walk. I was so excited that I just had to share it here on the blog.

      Thank you so much for commenting. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bombay is filled with the Charms like this One above 🙂 you have captured the Essence of the Life then so beautifully. So very love to Capture sights like this ! Will love to go for Walks like this *

    Liked by 1 person

I'd love to hear from you.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s