Mumbai Memoir- Rock solid ‘Gilbert Hill’!
Andheri is located in the heart of North Mumbai. Corporate executives, students, business and media folks are seen buzzing around in and around this extremely busy area. Unknown to most of the commuters, one rock structure silently stands still in the Andheri area since pre-historic times!!
The structure is popularly called as ‘Gilbert Hill’, and as per geological calculations, it is believed to have been created after molten lava from volcanic eruptions cooled down during the Mesozoic era, approximately 65 million years ago! The 200 feet black basalt rock monolith structure has clusters of vertical columns similar to the Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wyoming and the Devil’s Postpile National Monument in Eastern California, U.S.A. All three structures are believed to have been formed during the same time. In 1952 Central Government of India declared Gilbert Hill as a National Park and later it got the status of Grade II heritage site.
Inspite of being born and brought up in Mumbai, all these years I was clueless of Gilbert Hill, until I saw a short film named ‘Gilbert’, made by Omar Iyer Soon after that I decided to explore Gilbert Hill and experience the feel of touching the rock structure which has witness Mumbai’s geological metamorphosis since long!! It was quite a struggle to reach the footsteps of the hill as it can be quite confusing for a first time visitor to figure out the route to Gilbert Hill. I hopped into a rikshaw from Andheri train station and reached the footsteps just when the sun was about to set. Though surrounded by tall buildings and slum dwellings, Gilbert Hill has a distinct look.
As I climbed the footsteps I started getting a panoramic view of the Andheri area. On a clear day, one can see Bhavan’s College on the East, on the West is Juhu, on the North is Versova and on the South side Powai hills are visible. A Hindu temple is situated on the top of the hill, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga. It is popularly called Gaondevi Durga temple and is believed to be established approximately 450 year ago. The temple has been freshly renovated and well maintained by the trust that manages its affairs. The setting Sun added glamour to my experience as I explored the topmost plateau of Gilbert Hill. It was a great feeling to touch the surface of an ancient rock structure which still continues to be a part of the modern history of Mumbai. It was like travelling through a time machine and merging the present with the past!
Though elegant in its stature, I noticed that Gilbert Hill is currently facing an identity crisis, as realty business agents are encroaching the area around the remaining structure. This is reducing the geological significance of the hill. Local conservationist are approaching government and local NGOs to save the rock structure, as it is gradually degenerating due to natural erosion and also due to past quarrying done by realty kingpins of Mumbai. For more about this here’s a Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tTmXJ3Gi4Go Inspite of the issues, when on top of the hill, one experiences serenity and peace as one goes away from the cacophonic urban noise that is heard below.
Parrots and flowers in the temple premise add beauty to the area above. One may wish to spend longer time in the evening to admire the setting sun that kisses the hill top good bye for the day. Both, Mumbai’kar’s (citizens of Mumbai) and tourists are unaware of the presence of the ancient Gilbert Hill structure. This may be because of lack of information and no exclusive route to access the hill. One may experience distress to reach the footsteps, as one travels through the narrow lanes below. But it’s worth the struggle, as the hill top view will instantly recharge you, like it did to me. Though Gilbert Hill is a rock, I could sense that it nurtures life and acts as a hub to connect with nature. It is a total contrast from life that goes on below the hill where there is no time for commuters to even look at each other in the busy streets of Andheri. As I descended the stairs of the rock structure, I felt a unique vibe emitting from the lifeless ancient hill which was inspiring me to stay rock solid in the ups and downs of life, just like it stands there since the past 65 million years!
Photo credits: Aditya Chichkar and Shraddha Sankulkar