Bombay Municipal Corporation
The headquarters of India’s richest municipal organisation is the Bombay Municipal Corporation or BMC Building. Renamed Brihanmumbai Mahanagar Palika, it is considered a Grade IIA heritage building and houses the civic body that governs the city of Mumbai. It has a motto: ‘Yato Dharmastato Jaya’, which is Sanskrit for ‘Where there is Righteousness, there shall be Victory’; this is inscribed on the banner of its Coat of Arms.
The BMC was created in 1865 and Arthur Crawford was its first Municipal Commissioner. The municipality was initially housed in a modest building at the terminus of Girgaum Road. In 1870, it was shifted to a building on the Esplanade, located between Watson Hotel and the Sassoon Mechanics Institute, which is where the present Army & Navy building is situated.
On December 9, 1884, the foundation stone for the new building of the Bombay Municipal Corporation was laid opposite Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) by the then Viceroy, Lord Ripon.
Two designs were considered for the building — a Gothic version by FW Stevens and an Indo-Saracenic version by Robert Fellowes Chisholm. The former was selected. And the imposing structure was completed in 1893, with its tallest tower rising up to 77.7 metres (255 feet).
The Bombay Municipal Corporation wasn’t a success in its early years – by the end of 1865, its first year, it was already Rs 1,40,000 in debt and by 1871, its deficits had risen to Rs 37,70,000. A solution came in 1888, when the legislative council, guided by KT Telang and Pherozshah Mehta (whose statue is erected outside the building), passed the Bombay Municipal Act. It stipulated that half the members of the Corporation and three quarters of the Town Council members be elected by the people, giving the city its first taste of local self-government.
The chief architectural feature is its central dome, which rises to a phenomenal height of 71.5 metres (234.6 feet) and is visible even from a distance. At the entrance stands an impressive bronze statue of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, giving a picturesque view of the roads and buildings in front.