Mumbaiwale: See how Central Railway stations get their colourful names

History and mystery come together on the Central and Harbour lines when it comes to the names of the stops

Updated: Sep 01, 2018 01:12:53

By Rachel Lopez


Pop quiz: What was India’S first railway?

Think carefully. Most people will answer with the usual. They’ll talk of the first journey from Mumbai to Thane on April 16, 1853, how the train left Bori Bunder at 3.35pm, how it had 14 carriages, 400 guests and took an hour and 15 minutes to reach Thane. The geeky will supply the locomotives’ names: Sahib, Sindh and Sultan. Or that it was sent off with a 21-gun salute.

They would be missing the point.

That Mumbai-Thane ride was merely India’s first commercial passenger service. Railway tracks and lines had been operational in several parts of the country for more than a decade, primarily to transport goods and materials. As early as 1837, the Red Hill railroad line was ferrying granite in Tamil Nadu, using animals and locomotives to pull the carriages.

In 1845, a railway had been set up to cart stone to build a dam over the Godavari near Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh. By 1851, the Bengal Public Works Department was using steam locomotives to build an aqueduct over the Ganges Canal in Uttarakhand. So there’s no clear first-train.

But the station names on Mumbai’s Central Railway lines carry history and mystery. Take a look.

Masjid: No, Masjid is not named after a mosque. The word refers to the 222-year-old Gate of Mercy Synagogue, built by Samaji Hasaji Divekar (also known as Samuel Ezekiel) on the street that now bears Samuel’s name. The synagogue is locally known as the Shaar Harahamim or Juni Masjid.

Sandhurst Road: Nobody is called Sandhurst. The station is named for William Mansfield, the first Viscount Sandhurst, who served as the city’s governor between 1895 and 1900. He’s the one who set up the Bombay Improvement Trust (BIT) to clean up the city after a plague attack, clearing slum and private land to build broader roads, new buildings and better-ventilated areas.

Byculla: One name, many theories. Byculla may be derived from bhaya (ground) and khala (low) indicating a low-lying region. Or it may mean the threshing ground of someone named Bhaya. Or some kind of threshing ground that may have once had a bhaya or amaltas tree.

Chinchpokli: All theories point to the fact that chinch is Marathi for tamarind, meaning this is where there was once a tamarind grove.

Currey Road: Named for Charles Currey, agent of the Bombay Baroda and Central Indian Railway from 1865 to 1875.

Reay Road: For Donald James Mackay, 11th Lord Reay who was appointed Governor of Bombay from 1885 to 1890.

Cotton Green: The original Green was a maidan at Horniman Circle and its adjoining areas. It’s where bales of cotton were piled up before they were loaded on to ships at the docks. The holding area shifted to the reclaimed Sewri-Mazagaon area, where a cotton exchange building was built. Hence the name.

Wadala Road: Don’t bring wadas! But consider how Wadala is linguistically linked to Worli. Vadali or Varli could mean vad or banyan tree forest ( with ‘li’ tacked on to mean village, just like Kandivli and Borivli). It’s possible that Wadala has a connection to banyan trees as well.

Sewri: Could this be the garden of Shiva? The old names Sivadi or Sivavadi point to it. Or it could mark a boundary or edge using the word Sheev, just like the local name for Sion.

Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar: Called Koliwada until 1977 in reference to fisherfolk settlements. The new name honours the ninth of the Ten Gurus of Sikhism, and was christened to represent the Partition refugees who settled here.

Sion: In Marathi, they call the area Sheev (with a nasally vowel, so it sounds different from Shiv). The word means boundary, and the area once marked the edges of the islands of Bombay and Salsette.

Kurla: Probably from kurli the local word for crab, which were probably abundant in the locality at one time.

Ghatkopar: In Marathi, ghat and kopar literally mean corner of the mountains, illustrating the edge of the mountain range.

Kanjurmarg: Records mention an ancient revenue-earning village called Cawnjoor. The station opened in 1968 but no one quite knows what it means.

Thane: From the Sanskrit word stana, meaning place. The word is often used to denote a stop or stopover, so it’s pretty apt for India’s original terminus.

First Published: Sep 01, 2018 01:03:50


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