The Bunker Museum is located inside Raj Bhavan – the official residence of the governor of Maharashtra. The underground structure built during the British rule was used for defense and to fire cannons at the time of war.
As explained by Mr. Umesh Kashilkar, Public Relations officer at Raj Bhavan, ‘the Bunker is a recent find and was discovered by Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao in 2016. For many decades, there were stories that a tunnel existed somewhere under the Governors Bungalow but no one gave a serious ear to it. During one of his routine walks, Mr. Vidyasagar observed a section superimposed on the rock wall. A team from Public Works department was invited and instructed to bring down the wall. And to everyone’s surprise, they found a tunnel. After conducting a thorough audit of the structure, the government decided to restore it and set-up a Museum inside the Bunker an open it for public view’.
Highlights of the Bunker Museum:
- Total area of the 19th century Bunker is about 15000 square feet.
- The bunker has 13 rooms of varying dimensions.
- The Bunker entrance is 20 feet tall and resembles a fort.
- The Bunker has rooms bearing names – Shell Store, Gun Shell, Cartridge Store, Shell Lift, Pump, Central Artillery, Workshop etc.
- It has a drainage system with inlets for light and fresh air.
When I stepped inside the Bunker, I could feel the lack of oxygen, but you won’t faint unless you are one of those delicate souls. Our guide had informed us prior about low oxygen levels and she kept reminding us to keep walking until we reached the other end.
A visit to the Bunker Museum is almost like a time travel back to the British era. To engage with tourists, the government has planned various themes like virtual reality experience, cannon-firing experience, history of Raj Bhavan and a glimpse of the forts of Maharashtra. I noticed some of the themes were unfinished and still to be completed.
Walking Tour of Raj Bhavan:
The Raj Bhavan is spread over 47 acres of land and surrounded by Arabian sea from three sides. It boasts of heritage bungalows, a forest with peacocks and a variety of flora and fauna. The grand estate has served as ‘Governors House’ of Bombay since 1885. It is categorized as Grade I Heritage Precinct and regarded as the ‘Queen among the Raj Bhavan’s in India’
The morning tour begins with a walk towards the Sunrise point open gallery where the view is simply breath-taking. The Sunrise point is an ideal place for yoga under the first rays of the sun. Tourists are given 45 minutes of peaceful time at this point and one can soak in the pristine environment away from all worries.
Few minutes away is the Devi Temple dedicated to a goddess called ‘Sagar Mata’ meaning ‘Sea God’.
Next to the temple, is the entrance to the Bunker Museum. Once you exit from the Bunker, the guide takes you to ‘Jal Vihar’ – which houses the conference hall and the media room where the dignitaries gather for official meetings and ceremonies. Other Bungalows in the complex are Jal Bhushan, Jal Chintan and Jal Lakshan which are reserved for high profile visitors like the Prime Minister and the President. These properties are not included in the tour.
A walking tour or Raj Bhavan can be pre-booked from their website rajbhavan-maharashtra.gov.in at fee of INR 25/-. The group size is limited to 20 people only and a visitor has to report at 06:00 am with a photo – identity card (passport in case of foreign nationals). The tour timing is from 06:30 to 08:30 am with light complimentary break-fast which includes Tea/Coffee and cookies. Open from Tuesday to Sunday (excluding public holidays). Mobile photography is allowed.
Tour Flow Summary:
Arrive at Raj Bhavan Main Gate – Security Check – Briefing by administrative staff/guide – Walk towards Sunrise point yoga gallery – Walk to Devi temple – Enter Bunker Museum – Exit Bunker Museum – Walk inside Jal Vihar – Knowledge sharing by Public Relations officer – Walk back towards main gate with photography opportunity near the helipad lawn.
Raj Bhavan is a VIP area so avoid carrying bag packs or any kind of luggage. There is no professional guide and the tour is co-led by one male and one female administrative staff from the governor’s office. There are no cycle stands outside Raj Bhavan so one has to lock the bicycle somewhere close to the property. Cabs are easily available from Churchgate railway station.
Google map location: Raj Bhavan, Malabar Hill
More photos with description:
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai