Mumbai needs a MARITIME MUSEUM

  • Why does the port city of Mumbai need a maritime museum?

There are 85 Maritime museums in the world including a few in the Indian Ocean rim countries like Bahrain and Zanzibar. A small marine museum was established in Nhava Island in 1902 by the Yusuf Trust, as too, the Sea Farers Memorial & Maritime Museum in Pune, and Indian Maritime Foundations (IMF) Maritime Museum & Library also in Pune on the premises of the Shahu College Campus.


So, why does Mumbai need one in the first place?


Mumbai - India’s Urbs Prima in India’s (Foremost City in India) is blessed with a natural harbor, and owes its fortunes on account of that. Maritime trade & commerce, ship building & naval activity have been major underlying factors which have made this city what it is – a GATEWAY to the East.  


It has had a rich recorded maritime history since 100 AD (from the days of Pliny the Elder) to Kalidasa (450 AD) who described navigational landmarks and directions around the entire coast of India in his Sanskrit poem Mughaduta, right through the heydays  of Indian Maritime activity in 12th & 17th century, and now up to 21st Century.  And been a hub of all ship/sea vessels borne trade/commerce and maritime activity across the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) – between two hemispheres of the World.


This has helped the city metamorphose through its various avatars; From Heptaneasia to Bombaim to Bom Bahia to Bombay to Mumbai.


The Mumbai Port Trust, which is commemorating its 150th Foundation Anniversary on 23 Jun 2023 isone of the City’s (and indeed India’s largest landlords), and has 1000 acres available for redevelopment – the size of three BKCs. 


Their Vision document does have provision for mixed land use for Public and Private use and as part of that has only now expressed support  to  establish an iconic Maritime Museum at a vacant building in Merewether Dry Dock Complex, to be converted as a Maritime Museum on the occasion of its 150th year anniversary.  


The building completed in 1998, is located in the erstwhile Prince’s Dock. It is adjacent to the newly developed Eastern Waterfront which includes the Domestic Cruise Terminal, the Ro-Ro Mandwa ferry terminal, a Heritage Tower, Amphitheatre, Restaurants. A marina for 200 yachts and pleasure craft has already been tendered out. This whole area is now open to the public including the Domestic Cruise Terminal, Ro-Ro Ferry and a 1.1-hectare public car and bus parking facility and is being developed as a major tourist attraction. 


Therefore, a Mumbai Maritime Museum has its work fairly well cut out.


It has to be about India's rich ship building (and ship breaking) tradition that goes back nearly three hundred years. As about trade & commerce. As much about water transportation & navigation between the seven islands, and the mainland. As about Navies of ancient India and invading ones. As much about lighthouses, piracy, forts as about sailing boats, sea cadet corps and Merchant marine training.


But most importantly it is about the diaspora of local peoples intermixing with people from all parts of the world and length and breadth of India. The cultures, sight, sounds, touch, tastes that they bought to Bombay to give it its intrinsic character and energy. And which makes it amongst the top bustling cosmopolitan cities of the World. A Museum of such a theme would also need Institutional support from the NAVY, Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd; Director General Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya; Chairperson, Museum Society of Mumbai; leading business houses and well known Foundations.


The vision of such a Museum has to be:


• To know how Mumbai changed the world due to its people, maritime character and geographical location. 

• See that Mumbai development was defined by its location between major maritime trading nations. 

• Understand the role of maritime achievements in our worlds and nation’s history and culture. 

• Appreciate the role our ports and coastlines have played in discovery, settlement, trade and recreation. 


With a single line Mission Statement 


Which aims to become recognized as one of the leading Museums in the World?


Also read

1. Kanhoji Angre was India’s first Naval Commander

2. Shivaji Maharaj – A Naval Visionary  


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