India: Bungalows of Bandra - Bombay's Vanishing Heritage

Early 20th century bungalows in Bandra, one of the suburbs of Bombay (Mumbai).

Why visit? 
With the land prices in Bombay reaching stratospheric levels, these low-rise bungalows are slowly disappearing. The land they stand on is simply too valuable!

In Bandra, one of the Western Suburbs of Bombay. Map.

IN THE EARLY 20th century Bandra was a little village, about 15km north of Bombay. Although settled since the 16th century by the Portuguese (who built the first church and a fort) and before that by the native Koli people, this was a quiet village far outside the city where relatively affluent civil servants came to retire and live in comfortable bungalows and small houses. 

Fast forward to the 21st century. Bandra has become part of the city of Bombay (Mumbai), and has become one of the most desirable places to live for affluent Indians and well-to-do expatriates. The landscape of Bandra is changing as the low-rise buildings are being torn down to be replaced by high-rise apartment blocks...
Bandra today... the few low-rises will probably disappear in the next few years...
This is understandable given the value of the land and the money to be made but the result is that Bandra has been transformed from a rustic village to an area of eternal traffic jams and round-the-clock noisy construction...

Many of the old bungalows (the term is used loosely in India to refer to a single-family home, even if it has multiple stories) have already disappeared and those that remain are dwarfed by the glass-and-concrete tower blocks of today.

The bungalows reflect the various architectural styles in fashion in the early 20th century- from rustic mock-'ye olde English' cottages to cool Art Deco. 
This beautiful but dilapidated villa takes pride of place on a junction near St Andrew's church and Bandstand. 
One of my favourites. it's well-maintained with lots of detailed carving and wood trimmings. Perry Rd with Leo Rd. 
This one on busy Hill Rd features a large neo-classical pediment and typical 'Bombay Gothic' windows. 
A prime example of Art Deco elegance on Perry Rd, near St. Leo Rd.
Another favourite with a beautiful porch on Mt Carmel Rd. 
Bandra is traditionally a Catholic area. Many of the old Bandra families have Portuguese-sounding last names and English first names. This is also reflected in some of the buildings' names as well as the many crucifixes placed in the neighbourhood. 
The Ave Maria bungalow
Mendonca features a belated Christmas star and a little Maria grotto.  
St Sebastian who, as usual, looks like a gay pin-up. 
A Crucifix near Pali Market witnesses the area's Christian heritage. 
Not all the inhabitants were Christian though. 
This house belonged to a Muslim family... indicated by the inscription on the roof and the green colour. 
Although I can't know for sure, but it looks like this may have belonged to a Jewish family. Hill Rd opposite Mehboob Studios. 
Many of the houses feature beautiful stained glass windows and delicate ironwork. 

Unscrupulous developers try to buy these bungalows in order to use the land to build another tower... there are many legal disputes. As a result, some bungalows feature signs asserting the owner's rights and permanent guards. 
The sign say 'This Property is not for Sale'. The guard didn't like my picture-taking. 
Many of the buildings date from the 1920's en 30's when Art Deco was very much en vogue. There are some beautiful examples that have survived from that era. 
The high rises are crowding in!
Cool Art Deco lines one on Perry Rd. 
No 18 Mt Carmel rd. 
And lastly, a few other prime examples on Perry Rd: 
Peace Haven is often used to shoot movies. 
An eclectic European-style building. 
Another gem on Perry Rd. 
This one is carefully hidden on St Anne's Rd, on the backside of St Anne's Church.
And lastly, admire the creative metal grille of this door!
One of our readers, Neil Pereira, sent us this picture of his family home, Clamar Cottage, near Pali Naka, and built in the late '40s, early '50s. 

Getting there:
Bandra can be reached by train or car from South Bombay. 

The bungalows are spread on numerous roads. Check the following roads, but do wander into side streets to make your own discoveries. Perry Rd has some fabulous buildings. Streets leading off from here that are worth a look are St Alexious Rd, St Andrew's Rd, and St Leo Rd, as well as St Dominic Rd. (Now is a good chance to brush up on your knowledge of Catholic Saints.)

Then move down south, Mt Carmel Rd, and the area around Rebello Rd and St Sebastian Rd. 

Useful links:
Hindustan Times: The burden of history
Bombay Architecture Blog

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  1. There is another area in Mumbai that has lots of houses like those...I forgot the area's name though...I know it's near St Theresa's church...have you been there?

    1. Hi Jean Claude, where is St Theresa's church? Bandra? Or South Bombay?

    2. I think Jean Claude is referring to St. Theresa's convent in Santa Cruz (there is a St. Theresa's boy's school in Bandra). The church there is Sacred Heart's Church.
      I live in the vicinity of St. Theresa's school & church in Bandra, (in a bungalow that was built in the 1950's) and there are still a few other bungalows around. St. Theresa's church & school is just off Linking road.
      My place is closer to Pali naka... Another location for a few cottages would be Pali village... or what ever is left of it....

    3. Thanks Neil. I have seen a few bungalows in the Santa Cruz area but have no pictures of them. I do have a few of Pali Village- as you say there is not much left of it.

      BTW can you help resolve the question posted below by Joel Pinto? Is that image from Ranwar rather than the Pali Naka area? I'm not in Bombay now so can't check myself... thx!

    4. Joel Pinto is correct. That pic is of the Ranwar square. If ur facing the cross, and you took your left, you would go toward Waroda road. If you took your right, the road would fork into three roads.... the left option would take you to Mt. Carmel's church.. the centre option would take you to Supari talao (and the staute of St, Sabastian)... and the right option would take you past Rest Ranwar and towards the rear side of Mehboob Studios.

      This is the location of it on Google Maps... (Look for "Ranwar Village Square"),+Bandra+West,+Mumbai,+Maharashtra,+India/@19.0534089,72.8272123,233m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x3be7c940857eb0c9:0x9b64be44c9a0e39c?hl=en

    5. Thanks Neil. I went back to my original photos and indeed I could tell you were totally right. I mixed it up with a different crucifix near Pali Market. Thanks again for helping me resolve this. I have replaced the photo and also added a few more pix- hope you like them.

    6. Perhaps the St Teresa's you are mentioning is KHOTACHI WADI -- a sort of heritage village in GIRGAUM -- I was born there

    7. Hi 'Unknown', unfortunately Jean Claude never came back so we'll never know for sure... i believe there are several St T(h)eresa's in Bombay.

      Were you really born in Khotachiwadi? It would be great if you could look at and comment on our article about this area here:

    8. That surely sounds like Khotachi Wadi which is near St. Teresa's Church at Girgaon. There is a Portuguese influence over there too.

    9. That makes sense Aadil. Have you been to Khotachiwadi?

  2. I was born and brought up in bandra...but moved out of mumbai first for higher studies and then where my job takes me...but my heart bleeds everytime i go back....this is not the bandra I grew up maternal bungalow is the only one standing...surrounded by new high my dad often says...hava - pani sab band! These pictures brought back so many memories....I have had friends staying around Peace Haven and the other houses....

    1. Hi Reetzy, thanks for your comment. Yes you're right, which is why i wanted to capture these gems before it's too late. What road does your family's bungalow stand on?

      PS I've noticed a lot of traffic the past few days, most likely coming from sharing on Facebook. Could you post a link to the source pls? I'd much appreciate it.Thx

  3. Congratulations 'Minor Sights' on Bungalows of Bandra. Was lucky to receive it thru a friend who spotted my house there. There is a correction however. It is "Mendonca Villa " & not 'Mendonica' as you have mentioned. Thank you!

    1. Dear Ivan, thanks for pointing out the error. I have updated the text.

      Is there anything more you can share about this beautiful house? Did you grow up there?

      Also, as I said there is lots of traffic coming to this page from FB. Has it been shared on a public page and if so, could you get me the link? Thanks!

  4. The pic that says pali village is actually Ranwar village square. Both are very far away from each other. Also did not like your comment on St Sabastian. Be respectful to someones religious sentiments.

    1. Dear Joel, thanks for the comments. Rawar is the area around Warod Rd below Hill Rd, right? I love that area too- lots of great graffiti which i'd love to make a post about.

      My memory tells me the picture was taken off Pali Mala- which technically may not be Pali Village but it is definitely not Ranwar. I've search the web but can't find any conclusive answers. Of course, my memory may be failing me.

      Also, if you could tell me how you ended up on tshi page, that would be appreciated. Thx.

    2. Hi Joel, you were totally right. I mixed it up with a different crucifix near Pali Market. Thanks for pointing this out. I have replaced the photo and also added a few more pix- hope you like them.

  5. The comment on st Sebastian is unacceptable may I know what is your rationale for posting such a comment

    1. Dear Warner, I have had a few comments about the St Sebastian picture above. Thanks for writing in.

      I am perfectly aware of who St Sebastian was (assuming he ever existed- none of us were around 1800 years ago). I have nothing unkind to say about him.

      What we know for sure is that a man shot by numerous arrows in real life is unlikely to have looked like that statue- he would be a miserable mess and it would not be a pretty sight. However, the artist who made this statue, like many artists before him, has chosen to prettify it, and make him handsome, attractive, muscular, with good looks. That's a choice.

      Portraying him this way appealed of course to those attracted to strong, beautiful male bodies. Women, but also gay men. Here's what Wikipedia says:

      ' The earliest gay icon may have been Saint Sebastian, a Christian saint and martyr, whose combination of strong and shirtless physique, symbolic arrow-pierced flesh and rapturous look of pain have intrigued artists, both gay and straight, for centuries and began the first explicitly gay cult in the nineteenth century. Journalist Richard A. Kaye wrote, "Contemporary gay men have seen in Sebastian at once a stunning advertisement for homosexual desire (indeed, a homoerotic ideal), and a prototypical portrait of tortured closet case."
      Due to Saint Sebastian's status as gay icon, Tennessee Williams chose to use the saint's name for the martyred character Sebastian in his play, Suddenly, Last Summer. The name was also used by Oscar Wilde–as Sebastian Melmoth–when in exile after his release from prison. Wilde, an Irish writer and poet, was about as "out of the closet" as was possible for the late 19th century, and is himself considered to be a gay icon.'

      So there's the rationale. Whether you like it or not, St Sebastian HAS functioned as a symbol/lust object for homosexual men throughout the ages.

      Nobody is denying you the right to believe in St Sebastian, or to be a Christian. This article was written, in case you hadn't noticed, with a clear love and admiration for the Christian community of Bandra.

      Yet you, partly through ignorance, chose to be offended and as a result want to restrict others in what they can say and write. Please, try and be more tolerant.

      By all means, practice your religion, but keep in mind that all religions contain elements that may strike outsiders as slightly absurd. At Minor Sights we believe all religions have both elements that are admirable, but we also reserve the right to point our the funny elements in every one of them.

      Isn't love for others, including for those who think/are differently, the central tenet of your religion?

      Best regards

  6. Enjoyed the article. I live in bandra (born & bred in bandra) and it was great to see all the lovely bungalows that we have taken for granted all these years.... You missed quite a few (mine, for but ofcourse, I understand that it is impossible to have all of them featured here.

    And, btw, I found Minor Sights thru a link posted on a Facebook page

    1. Thanks Neil. I do have a few more pictures- can't say if yours is among them. I'll see if I can add a few pictures. Or you can send me a picture of yours! Contact details on the 'about this site' page.


  7. Hi Minor Sights,

    Thank you for this absolutely lovely article!
    I've stayed for the better part of four years in Bandra, and these houses are a throwback to the Bandra that was when I was a child - including the stories and salacious scandals that occurred within!

    There are other houses like this in Matunga's Parsi colony area as well, and I daresay much better kept (can't be too sure now though).

    I'll be coming back to this blog often, for more such content! :)

    p.s. I came here through a link published on Facebook
    p.p.s. LOL'ed at the St Sebastian comment - and I am Catholic. Thank you for sticking to your guns. A religion which cannot welcome civil discussion is dangerously intolerant, in and of itself.

    1. Thanks MDS. I haven't made it to the Parsi Colony yet. Only to Cafe Madras in Matunga...

  8. Thank you Minor Sights ! I live on st Leo's road in a bldg which was once a bungalow! You helped me appreciate the quaint bungalows we still have left in our midst but also wonder, if they will outlive us! I for one will definitely look at all those you pointed out with renewed interest and appreciation. Thanks

  9. Hi,
    Thank you for Minor Sights.
    Both my wife and I, in the late 50's early 60's were born in Bandra and stayed there for most of our childhood and youth till we moved abroad in 1991. I stayed at Kooka Villa at Bandstand. I studied at St. Stansilaus and my wife at St. Joseph's.
    There were some lovely Bungalows on the stretch from St. Andrews to Bandstand - most are now gone.
    Maybe your readers should send you some old pictures so you can post Bandra as it is "now vs then"
    A lovely era gone by - once everybody knew everybody - now as one of the commenter's as posted "hava pani sub baand!".
    Still go back once a year to visit folks - but its not the same any-more. Now its hard to cross the road at the Mehboob Studio Gardens, and its faster to walk from Mehboob Studio to St Peters Church rather than drive; cycling as I once used to school everyday is impossible!
    Look forward to more picture of Bandra of the 60's to the 80's until the Raheja's and other builders destroyed it!!
    Congrats on the good work - a labour of love indeed!
    PS - I came to this site through a link a friend emailed me!
    PPS - Admire you for sticking to your stand on St Sebastian. By stating facts you are not being "disrespectful"! To bad if your readers feel affronted. They should read about Pope Francis and what the Vatican says about homosexuality.

    1. Dear Dinyar, thank you for your kind words and also your moral support regarding the St Sebastian controversy (I received quite a few complaints that weren't fit to print ;-). )

      I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures of times gone by.

      I'd be happy to post some pictures of the olden days. My contact details are on the 'about this site' page.


  10. I lived in Bandra a long time ago and absolutely loved it ! Jitekar Villa at the foot of Mount Mary
    Road. .which, like most of the old beautiful houses was demolished in order to make room for modern flats. My neighbours were Imtiaz and Amjad Khan, both well known on the Indian screen. I left Bandra for the U.K. when I was 19 years old but Bandra never left me..It never will.
    Colleen Barber.

    1. Thanks Colleen. Do you ever get to go back for visits?

  11. What a wonderful reminder of the glorious past. Sadly the market forces have taken over and this beautiful heritage will fast disappear.
    I have been to these places often as I live in Bombay.

    What I am witnessing is that the tide of destruction has already set in, and these beautiful houses will soon disappear.

    A very painful experience to see them go one by one.

    Sudhir Shah.

    1. Thank you Sudhir. Glad you enjoyed the article.

  12. Give us a sequel. As Dinyar who was my neighbour, says, there were many bungalows at bandstand and three still survive_Sister Bungalows, Kekee Manzil and Villa Vienna now called Manaat and where the iconic Sharukh Khan lives. Wipro founder Aziz Premji's old house also exists _ all these on BJ road.Up Kane Rd is the Vazirali's bungalow and past Mount Mary church is the lovely cottage where Bimal Roy's family still lives.

  13. Lovely houses. You can find similar houses in Bangalore cantonment area also. But like Bombay, the bungalows in Bangalore and chennai are also disappearing when the real estate vultures swoop in.

  14. Great to be treated to the sight of so many heritage bungalows,these are invaluable reminders of the past that lives on today.Here in Pune there are several beautiful old colonial bungalows particularly in Camp cantonment area as this is a historic area where many Christians and Parsis used to live.There are also many old wadas in old Pune City area which are traditional Maharashtrian buildings. Being a city with a long history it also has lots of other old buildings throughout the city ,many are still in use as govt buildings,educational institutes and churches.

    1. Thanks Jo! I haven't made it to Pune yet... I hope I'll have a chance soon!

  15. I don't think St. Sebastian deserves that comment that he " as usual, looks like a gay pin-up. Would like to see that changed. Otherwise, it was nice to see the homes of Bandra.

    1. And we would like you to read the comments (and our answer above). This has already been addressed.

  16. Hi, I'm from Bandra. Born and brought up. Reside on Hillrd. I wonder, if anyone from bandra, has a photo of somnath lane bungalow that stood from 70s to early 80s? the bunglow was either named partker or H.V. Fraswani. One was us and other was a cathlolic's neighbour. please do ask aroundgrandfathers, parents,friends or neighbours. Trying to find that photo plus entire front and backside where the well was of entire somnath lane. contact incase anyone has. thanks


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