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Pyaavs of Mumbai: A Brief Look

Location

Pyaavs or drinking water fountains are found in Fort, Colaba, Masjid Bunder, Byculla, Dadar, Matunga and Sion. This essentially covers the old island city of Bombay and its peripheral areas. To find them, one has to walk through the bylanes of Mumbai and experience a pyaav trail. Apart from Mumbai, pyaavs are also found in cities like Pune and Nashik in Maharashtra. An interesting parallel are drinking water fountains from Jammu, where they are popularly known as Nalka.

 

Time period

19th and 20th century (1865 to 1943 - as per the pyaavs that have been documented till date)

 

Total Number

It is difficult to quantify the exact number of pyaavs, but according to the studies and surverys done till date, the number is not less than thirty. An important caution here is to not mix these up with another large set of ornamental fountains that also prevails in various corners of the city.

 

Description

Pyaavs are architectural heritage and history markers. It is highly likely that Mumbaikars have encountered some of these in their everyday life, just round the corner, but failed to notice or understand the utilitarian values associated with them. Gothic, Nagara, Indo-Saracenic, a small petite pedestal or a gigantic edifice, pyaavs are an amalgamation of various archietctural styles, forms, shapes and sizes. There is no one distinct style that they follow, but instead they borrow from a variety of styles that were prevalent in the city or perhaps the country at the time. Any quintessential pyaav has a spout and a spill-over water trough. These two requisite elements make it a unified water dispenser.

 

Conservation and Restoration

The first pyaav to be conserved in the city was the Keshowji Naik Fountain in Masjid Bunder, followed by others like Mancooverbai Pyaav at Horniman Circle while Kothari Pyaav near the GPO building in Fort is on the verge of completion. The conservation movement for pyaavs is gaining momentum in the wake of which Kalachowki Pyaav, Vithal Koli Pyaav at Prabhadevi, a pyaav at Shivaji Park and many others are being restored. It is thanks to the efforts of MCGM, private owners, trained officials, architects and heritage enthusiasts that such a positive revival of pyaavs has been taken up.