Devyani Nighoskar


18 Jun
This Exciting Heritage Walk Explores 250 Years Of Mumbai's Fort Area's History Through Maps

Looking at a map often invokes a sense of nostalgia of childhood. Filling in maps for social studies class, spending hours scanning the atlas or going on treasure hunts with self-drawn maps, trying to locate the ‘X’ under which all the goodies are hidden. While the old, crumpled sheets have now been replaced by Google Maps on our screens, our association and response to mapping begin at an early age and continue lifelong.

The art of mapping started about 15,000 years ago in the form of cave paintings of stars and landscapes. Maps were used by wanderers and traders to tell stories of strange and beautiful lands, while it was used by conquerors to vanquish further.

The city of Bombay was one that was frequented by voyagers and vanquishers alike. Its charm translated into the plethora of maps that were drawn of the island city. But Mumbai, today, is much more than its seven islands, brutally transformed through a development hustle directed by urban planners and colonial honchos. Its walls have been broken down to accommodate thousands of migrants that come to the ‘Maximum City’ to make their dreams come true. Perhaps it is hard to denote the shifting nature of the city on maps. So, what happens to them? Do they remain mere archives? Or can they still be used innovatively? What are the new techniques of mapping that keep in mind urban development, expansion and design? How does it draw from ancient methods?

Plan of Bombay. Image Source:
Fort's Kala Ghoda area. Image Source:

We discuss the answers to these and much more in a unique mapping heritage walk around Mumbai’s Fort area, organised by Sahapedia through its outreach programme, 'India Heritage Walks' on June 29, 2019. The walk explores 250 years of history of Mumbai Fort area through maps.

A precinct in South Mumbai, the Fort area, today, is a thriving business centre. The area supposedly gets its name from Fort George, a defensive fort built by the British East India company around the Bombay castle. Fort George was built in the year 1769. The walk shall cover the area that extends from the docks in the east to the Azad Maidan in the west, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) in the north and Kala Ghoda in the south. Boasting of grand old colonial buildings adorned with beautiful art deco architecture, the Fort area has an interesting history whose initial narrative takes shape in its old maps.

An old map of Fort. Image Source:

Although ancient professional cartographers used sophisticated mapping techniques, modern day tools simplify the tedious process for the common man. Apart from record keeping, mapping also gives tremendous insight into the geographical history of a place and its former footprints. This walk discusses these narratives, while comparing the area to other fort cities around the world and their circular nature.

Each participant will be given a large A3-sized map that has a broad outline of the Fort area. They will be encouraged to fill it up with the sites they see, the landmarks they visit and the stories they hear, and interpret it accordingly. As we walk around the Fort area, the participants shall understand city patterns through the changing nature of Fort’s history, and through the roles of town planners and urban development. They will also have a chance to understand how old maps overlap with modern ones.

Finally, through the mapping activity, the walk will try to answer one poignant question: ‘What happens when the walls of these forts are broken down?’

Bombay Reclamation Plan. Image Source:

The insights to these questions are held by Neethu Matthew, an architect and urban designer, and Urvashi Chudawala, a master’s student from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), who shall be leading this walk. Mapping enthusiasts, history aficionados and vivacious storytellers, both of them are well versed with the city and spirit of Mumbai, and have conducted several walks on the oral histories and architecture of the city.

So, come join us as we map an area of one of the most complex and cultural cities in the world, and learn about its interesting history in the process.


This guided tour is free.


For more details and registration, click here.

To understand more about mapping on Sahapedia, click here.

Feature Image Courtesy: