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Shivaji Park

Shivaji Park is the largest park in Mumbai. It is situated in the Dadar area of Mumbai. Like the Azad Maidan and August Kranti Maidan (formerly Gowalia Tank Grounds), it is also of historical and cultural value because of the amount of political and social gatherings it has witnessed, both in pre- and post-independence Mumbai.

The park is named after the legendary 17th century warrior king of the region, Chhatrapati Shivaji. The park was created in 1925 by the Bombay Municipal Corporation, in the days of British India. By naming it thus, the British authorities acknowledged Shivaji and the reverence his name commanded amongst the local Marathi population. Ironically, in his time Shivaji had also foreseen the ulterior motives of the British East India Company and challenged the growing British presence in India.

Besides being a venue for gatherings of freedom fighters in British India, after independence Shivaji Park has been the focal point of the 'Samyukta Maharashtra Chalval' (struggle for a consolidated Maharashtra) that led to the present Maharashtra state being formed in 1960. During this period, the legendary writer, journalist, playwright, poet and social leader Acharya Prahlad Keshav Atre led this movement, addressing crowds of lakhs at this ground, earning him the distinct title of 'Lord of Shivaji Park'. Also, on India's victory over Pakistan in the 1965 war, then prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and defence minister Yeshwantrao Chawhan addressed a 'Vijaysabha' (victory gathering) at this very ground. Shivaji Park has also been integral to the political gatherings of the local party Shiv Sena, and has witnessed numerous other political rallies.

The ground is flanked around its edge by a katta (low boundary wall on which one can sit), which is a popular hangout for young and old Mumbaikars (people of Mumbai) alike, and it can often be difficult to get a place to sit here on an average evening. The walk-way around the ground perimeter is crowded with people taking walks, especially in the evenings. The circumference of the park works out to about 1.3 kilometers.

Roughly in area, the ground bustles with budding cricketers throughout the day. Around the park, one finds numerous institutions/attractions such as the Samarth Vyayam Mandir (gymnasium), Shivaji Park Nagarik Sangh (established in 1947), Shivaji Park Gymkhana (club), Children's Park, Nana-Nani Park (Gran'pa-Gran'ma park), Scout's Pavilion (which also doubles up as a popular venue for marriages), Udhyan Ganesh Mandir (Ganesh temple), The Bengal Club and a library. The walk-way is lined with huge rain trees that offer respite from the scorching afternoon sun.

Though there are numerous entrances to the park, the most prominent is the one on the east side of the ground intended only for pedestrians. A bust of Meenatai Thackeray, late wife of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, has been placed at this entrance. Previously a bust of Ram Ganesh Gadkari was present at the very same spot.

If one notices the grand statue of Shivaji adorning this maidan (ground), it is surprising to note that this is one of the very few statues in which Shivaji is depicted without having drawn out his sword. Instead, Shivaji is shown simply leading the way with his arm outstretched. A creation of 1966 out of funds collected from the local population, this statue is a rare example of the pacifist policies of the then state government of Maharashtra, in independent India. It was considered a sensitive issue by the government to let this statue depict the confrontationist posture of Shivaji, who had fought many battles against the Mughal Empire.

The surroundings of this park have many buildings dating back to the mid-1900s, and the Shivaji Park Residential Zone is today some of the most sought-after and expensive real estate in Mumbai. This predominantely Marathi neighbourhood is home to many well-known personalities from literature, theatre, commerce and sports. Some of its prominent residents include Manohar Joshi, Raj Thackeray, Anup Jalota as well as the Mayor of Mumbai, Shubha Raul. Others such as Sachin Tendulkar were born and brought up here.

In modern times though, one relates Shivaji Park more with being the cradle of Indian cricket, with its innumerable cricket academies like those of late Anna Vaidya and Ramakant Acharekar which produced several international cricketers for India. Some famous names being Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Ajit Agarkar, Pravin Amre, Vinod Kambli and Sanjay Manjarekar.

Also See

Shivaji Park Residential Zone

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