How a black horse without colonial baggage now gives its name to Mumbai’s arts district

FOR MORE THAN 50 years, since 1965, those who have come to Kala Ghoda, Mumbai’s arts district, have wondered about the identity of the dark horse that gave the place its name.

It wasn’t until 2017 that the horse reappeared in the area, but this time it was with a difference – it didn’t have its rider King Edward VII, who was there in his previous avatar before the sculpture was relegated to Byculla Zoo in 1965. .

While in most cases the old structures are restored, in this particular case the sculptor has created a new black horse whose 25ft tall statue was inaugurated by Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis in 2017.

Kala Ghoda takes its name from the black stone statue of King Edward VII (then Prince of Wales) mounted on a horse that was built by Jewish businessman and philanthropist Albert Sassoon. The statue was, however, removed from the enclosure in 1965 and later placed inside Byculla Zoo. Former President of the Kala Ghoda Association (KGA), Maneck Davar, said that in the 1960s, due to patriotic fervor, many colonial statues were put aside and King Edward VII and his horse had been taken to Veer Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan (Byculla Zoo) in 1965.

In the previous decade, as steps were taken to restore old heritage structures that had fallen into disrepair, it was also suggested to have the Kala Ghoda there so that people would know why the area was called Kala Ghoda . However, rather than wade into controversy by recovering colonial statues, KGA decided to simply recover the Kala Ghoda and not its rider.

“We didn’t want to use the original horse. So we had a new horse sculpted which was eventually installed on a traffic island on site and was inaugurated by CM Devendra Fadnavis in 2017. The original structure is still in the zoo,” Davar said.

A statement issued by the KGA at the inauguration of the structure read: “It has been decided by the KGA not to resurrect the past but to create the symbol of the future. Hence the “spirit of Kala Ghoda”, which embodies “the essence of art, culture and the free flow of ideas”.

The 25-foot-tall structure was designed by architect Alfaz Miller and sculpted by Shreehari Bhosle. The horse was erected in the parking lot opposite the Army and Navy Building and the David Sassoon Library.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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