Elphinstone Road to Prabhadevi: Why is Mumbai changing its name? (2023)

Along Mumbai's busy western railway line, which carries three million passengers a day, Elphinstone Road Station has always been the poor rural cousin of neighboring Dadar Station, with better connections and a lively atmosphere. After it opened for passengers in 1867, only two of its four platforms were used by S-Bahn trains, while the other two silently witnessed the passage of express trains. The two platforms used were narrow, almost always dirty, lacking basic services such as clean bathrooms and benches, and the taps ran dry most of the year. The station ended up being used by workers in textile mills and engineering factories in this central area of ​​Mumbai, including the now demolished Elphinstone Mill.

When power plants and factories were demolished to make way for gleaming corporate towers in the early 2000s, there was a marked shift in passenger traffic and hordes of businessmen in suits and briefcases crowded the station. Elphinstone Mill has given way to the gleaming India Bulls compound. As the area has transformed into a financial and corporate hub over the past decade, little has changed at the station. The platforms remained filthy, the access roads poorly lit and the station itself did not convey the history of the region. Now with the decision of the state governmentchange his namefrom Elphinstone Road to Prabhadevi, the station also loses its historic – albeit colonial – name. Another connection to the city's formative past is superimposed on contemporary political populism.

To be more specific, what the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, has been doing for the last three weeks is toponymic populism - toponymy is the study of place names. On the north side of the western railway line is Oshiwara Station, named after the river that now flows through the suburb.renamedRam Mandir. Oshiwara, the area, has become a mix of antique shops, upscale neighborhoods and illegal shacks. It was only natural that when the long-awaited railway station was finally completed this year, it would take on the local name. But no, it had to be Ram Mandir.

(Video) Mumbai reacts to Elphinstone road’s name change to Prabhadevi.

In a move that would have made the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray proud, Fadnavis immediately responded to the demands of the self-proclaimed Maratha leaders and made further name changes. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the terminus for all Central Railway trains in South Mumbai, and Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport are now called Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport. The addition of the Honorable Maharaj was necessary to pay due respect to the Maratha warrior, the prime minister argued.

Prabhadevi is one of Mumbai's prominent tutelary goddesses - the others are Mumbadevi, Mahalaxmi, Gamdevi, Shitladevi - as well as the name of a mixed middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhood. But neither the Temple of Goddess Prabhadevi nor the surrounding area is close to the station. In fact, those heading towards Prabhadevi prefer Dadar station. But who should argue with populist or toponymic moods?

It doesn't stop there. There are calls for Grant Road Station in south Mumbai to be renamed August Kranti, after the historic Maidan of the same name (originally Gowalia Tank), where the tricolor was created calling 'Leave India' to the British regime in August 1942. And Charni Road Station as Gamdevi. Also Dadar as Chaityabhoomi, the name of Babasaheb Ambedkar's cremation place, is visited by numerous devotees every 6th of December on the anniversary of his death.

the name of the game

The political, or more specifically, election games played with this renaming frenzy are not lost on most people. With less than two months to go before key local elections in Mumbai and neighboring cities like Thane, and with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party making every effort to uproot the Shiv Sena-controlled corporations, Fadnavis is clear in his executive powers to take up the call to action. local feeling.

(Video) Elphinstone Road station in Mumbai renamed as Prabhadevi station - #Maharashtra News

For decades, Shiv Sena has positioned itself as the voice of the Maharashtrian and Marathi speaking people. The BJP, on the other hand, was the party of businessmen and traders, traditionally from the Gujarati, Marwari and Jain communities. Sena's decent performance in the 2014 Lok Sabha and general election meant that the BJP had to think beyond the Modi effect and make itself attractive to Maharashtrians.

BJP leaders recognized that the archetypal Sena sympathizer - practitioner of his sons of the earth theory, the guy who would do anything for Thackeray and the party - might be happy with the symbolism. Hence the renaming of the Elphinstone Road station, the preparations for the Bhoomi-Pujan of theMulticrore-Denkmalto Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj on the Arabian Sea, and, a few steps further, aMonumento a Thackeray.

Dalits have not been forgotten. The Fadnavis government launched the Ambedkar memorial project on a 12 hectare plot of land in the Dadar area. Election season is often the time for symbolic gestures and announcements. But even by that cynical standard, this government has gone too far.

As for the dimly lit and poorly equipped Elphinstone Road station, perhaps there would be less reason to argue against the new name if renaming it Prabhadevi somehow magically improved its facilities. But substantial changes to accessibility and usability are not on the agenda here. Fadnavis will point the finger at the railway authorities to modernize the station's facilities. But the name change? That was the easy part.

(Video) It's Prabhadevi Now, Not Elphinstone Station In Mumbai

History of Urban Geography

One or several toponymic changes attest to the political agenda in action. Renaming of Marathwada University in Aurangabad to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar University in the 1990s, various government programs named after the late Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Mahatma Gandhi and the current dispensation changing many of them to honor their ideological icons, the renaming of Aurangzeb Road in Delhi and the relocation from the Prime Minister's official residential address from 7 Race Course Road - not even a Colonial or Mughal cat - to 7 Lok Kalyan Marg points to a shift in political power.

Elphinstone Road to Prabhadevi: Why is Mumbai changing its name? (1)

This is not a new phenomenon. Newly independent India visibly threw off the British yoke. The public arena was a potent arena for and for propaganda. Communist regimes in Europe began altering cityscapes to reflect their policies in the 1940s. And when regimes collapsed in the late 1980s, their memoryscapes became the target of protests and eventually purged or changed to reflect new realities. In Hungary, for example, the city government of Budapest decided not to demolish more than 40 communist-era statues and monuments, but to move them to an open-air park called Statue Park on the outskirts of the city, but the move took place.

Erasing, demolishing, relocating and renaming are all elements of the dramatic visual manifestations of changing political order that countries and cities experience from time to time. Of these, renaming streets, buildings and landmarks is perhaps the least dramatic, but no less iconic. The intention is always the same: to detach the place from the past and try to change its historiography to reflect current political ideologies. The Portuguese Bom Bahia became the British Bombay, which was reintroduced as Mumbai by the Shiv Sena in 1995-1996.

But does this distort and/or obliterate the past, the city's formation process and its creators, and the city's history told through its geographies? Yes, say the city's advocates, who say the ideal would be a balance between living with non-traumatic symbols and landmarks from the past, reflecting new ideologies in other ways. City historians, archivists and researchers and local voices together would be in a better position to decide on name changes than politicians arbitrarily exercising their executive powers.

(Video) Mumbai in for another round of rechristening

Despite this, streets, buildings and urban landmarks exist simultaneously in two domains – the physical and the historical, where citizens use them, engage with them, mark personal landmarks and remember them; and the second in which they are present in maps, official records, government documents and the like. The two don't always overlap and merge into one.

A street, an area, a landmark is given its locally popular nomenclature and reflects this urban geography. The formal name is often an impertinence. For example, Oshiwara Station. Or Prabhadevi area. It is undetermined whether the original temple of the goddess was at the current location. The original temple in Kotwadi was destroyed by the Portuguese, writes documentarian J Gerson da CunhaThe Origin of Bombayin 1900. But the locals discovered the devious plan and hid the idol of the goddess in a well in another location, where it remained for 200 years before appearing in the dream of a Palm Garden owner, a Pathare Prabhu. to reinstall them. This is the current location of the temple.

What does this have to do with Elphinstone Road station, you may ask. This was named after John Elphinstone, governor of Bombay between 1853 and 1860. More famous than he and more involved in shaping Bombay and the founder of the city's educational institutions was his uncle Mountstuart Elphinstone, governor from 1819 to 1827. As Fadnavis will rename the prestigious Elphinstone College that bears his name?

The Prime Minister might want to remind you that upcoming name changes include Dadar, which means stairs or bridge in the local language, and Charni Road, which takes its name from the vast areas of pasture (charni) for livestock there. It is an irrefutable reality that Bombay was a colonial city, which historian and author Gyan Prakash describesfables of mumbaias an urban project that "embodied and represented colonial conditions", represented by industrialization built with cheap labor, Gothic buildings, architectural styles and sculptural designs of the European past, and so on. This colonization, he and other urban historians argue, involved suppressing the dominant cultural meaning that local people had for places.

(Video) Another Name Change In Mumbai? Does It Really Matter?

This might help us understand, if not understand, why Bombay was renamed Mumbai. But this does not explain why Elphinstone Road should be renamed Prabhadevi or Oshiwara changed to Ram Mandir. Current toponymic changes will no doubt be recorded in official records and maps, but they are difficult to accommodate in the realm of the public imagination and language. After all, how many name Mumbai's majestic Marine Drive decades after it was renamed Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Road?

Elphinstone Road to Prabhadevi: Why is Mumbai changing its name? (2)
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  • Bombay
  • Elphinstone Bus Station
  • Prabhadevi
  • rename
  • names and nomenclature


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