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Mumbai Shilpgram: Rural Theme Park Injects Usable Open Space in Choking City

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on 15 days ago

A city usually pictured as crammed with people, numbed by concrete and jammed with traffic, choking with pollution and gasping for breath, yet forever on the move with no time to stand and stare, is still looking out for fresh air to breathe and open space that supplies it. The oft repeated clamour for public open spaces in the city mercifully finds some form of response in the creation of a Dilli Haat style rural theme park created at a 13.8 acres site off the JVLR which opened to the public this month. The Matoshree Meenatai Thackeray Shilpgram inaugurated on 14th October 2018 in Mumbai is designed to showcase the rural life of Maharashtra along with its traditional trades and handicrafts in a lush park where families can find entertainment.

© Courtesy of internet resources

Yes, a significant addition was made to Mumbai’s public open spaces this month in the form of an artisans’ village or ‘Shilpgram’ installed in a verdant and sprawling landscaped park. Fashioned along the same lines as the iconic Dilli Haat, this venture aims to educate city dwellers about rural lifestyles, crafts and trades while providing an opportunity to catch a breath of fresh air and wholesome outdoor entertainment for all ages and sections of society. 

The seven acres of Shilpgram have been landscaped in vivid varieties of local as well as ornamental trees, shrubs and lawns and laid out in variant sections as metal work, wood work, textiles and other handicrafts displaying the corresponding trades.. The ‘baara balutedar’ system or the division of trades and crafts into 12 categories as traditionally practised in most of rural Maharashtra has been adopted as the guiding theme. Life-size sculptures of typical craftspeople, traders and artisans belonging to each of these 12 categories are placed all over the village surrounded by their typical homes and other lifestyle accessories. Shops, gazebo, rides for children and eatery kiosks populate the facility and add vivacity to it

The park is planned to be used for hosting temporary art exhibitions, for which managerial provisions are yet underway. An amphitheatre at the centre of the park creates opportunities to hold workshops, lectures and entertainment shows. Just a few metres inside its traditionally designed imposing entrance gate, the park boasts of a freshly designed sound and laser light show at a dancing fountain which has been attracting thousands of visitors from the very first day. 

‘Shilpgram’ or ‘arts and crafts village’ is an idea originally floated back in 1989 when the first Shilpgram was built in Udaipur to showcase the craftsmanship of rural western Indian states including Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The success of this first venture continues till date, riding on events like an annual Shilpgram festival in addition to regular or daily activities and attractions. Taking a cue from this success, many Shilpgrams have sprouted in cities and towns all over the country, but a handful of them like Sawai Madhopur, Awadh (Lucknow), Bhuj and Udaipur have made a significant mark as tourist attractions.  

This theme park was conceived in 2015 and created by the end of 2017 by the garden committee under the tourism department of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation. The process was marked by some hiccups, like the protest from Poonam Nagar residents against the alleged usurping of a garden originally allotted to and used by them to accommodate the parking for this Shilpgram. But the persistence and political will exhibited by the Shiva Sena and its corporator, Shri Anant Nar, has resulted in the completion of the park at a final cost of Rs. 32 crores and its inauguration this month by the Yuva Sena leader Aditya Thackeray threw it open for public use. The park founders in the BMC are still grappling with issues of its management and maintenance, decisions regarding entrance fee charges, etc. which, we hope, will be resolved efficiently and satisfactorily to pave the way for a long, sustained availability of this public facility for deserving Mumbaikars.

Designer : Garden Committee, BMC
Photography :internet resources

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