Rome was not built in a day, and India definitely not. Our centuries-old culture, languages and heritage sites are intact and relevant even in these contemporary times. From the Mughal architecture to the relatively recent British monuments, India treasures all the iconic structures that make her who she is today.
However, even as we speak of India’s iconic structures, it is also a fact that there are certain heritage structures which have been forgotten by time. An example of this, are the milestones discovered in Mumbai recently. The basalt milestones are around 5 ft tall each and marked the distance to St Thomas Cathedral in South Mumbai.
These five feet glorious icons were once just another structure on the road, used to indicate horse carriages or bullock carts how far they are from the cathedral.
But today, the 200-year-old structures are a piece of our history for us.
Years of road construction and maintenance work had buried these milestones deep in the ground. So much so, that their indications were not clear to a wandering eye. Two milestones discovered near Kemp corner, for example, were four feet under the ground.
The MCGM (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) has now shouldered the responsibility to find these milestones and restore them. Rahul Chemburkar, a consultant architect with MCGM, told The Better India that MCGM has a proper list of all the milestones that have been uprooted, broken, buried or even stolen.
Umesh Nagarkar, a civic official from Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee, told the Hindustan Times,
“According to old maps with the MCGM, there are supposed to be 16 milestones, but only 11 have been discovered, and only one has been restored.”
Rahul explains that the restoration project is going to be a very comprehensive process. “The Heritage Cell will execute this comprehensive identity approach towards the milestones,” he told TBI. “The plans of restoration approved by the Heritage Committee will be executed by the cell through appointed heritage consultants.”
These efforts have been taken on a personal as well as governmental level, where individuals and private organisations have been involved in the identification and restoration process. MCGM is also planning on making this a heritage project.
Umesh Nagarkar, told The Better India, “These milestones have been acknowledged and identified since the 1990s.
Sometimes by co-incidence and sometimes under deliberate efforts, we have discovered them in various parts of Mumbai. Although they were neglected for a few years, we now have special forces to locate the remaining milestones and properly identify them.”
After identification, the heritage cell will make appropriate efforts to restore them. After this, the MCGM plans on placing them in their original locations, with a steel plaque card bearing identity information.
Nagarkar told TBI that since a few milestones are missing from their original locations, the heritage committee will soon take a call on what needs to be done in those places. They are yet to decide what needs to be done on locations where the milestones once were, but now other structures stand.
He further informed us that in case a citizen comes across such milestones, they can inform the heritage committee of MCGM who will then take necessary steps for their restoration. The rightful owner of these historic pieces is the MCGM, which will take complete care to restore them.