Mumbai: A pre-independence era bunker that had been sealed nearly a century ago has been opened at Raj Bhavan. The 150-metre-long underground structure has created much excitement among the staff, including Governor Vidyasagar Rao.
The stone barrack, located next to Governor’s lawn, is spread over 5,000 square feet and has 13 rooms of different sizes. On Tuesday, Rao and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visited the piece of history, which was rediscovered on August 12.
Between 1820 and 1885, officials said, Britishers used the place as a hunting lodge. The bunker has a passageway that runs till the jetty at Raj Bhavan. They said they will need to dig into the history of the Raj Bhavan to cull out more information about it.
Raj Bhavan officials said the Governor was curious to explore his sprawling official residence at Malabar Hill after hearing stories about the bunker from Vilas More, a Class IV employee, and his PRO Umesh Kashikar. More’s father too had served Raj Bhavan.
Citing tales from his father and other old-timers, More informed Rao that the bunker had been sealed over a century ago. Acting on the instructions of the Governor, the staff last week pulled down a temporary wall to access the stone barrack.
Governor Rao told Mirror, “We were really surprised to see what was inside. There are many rooms. Our PWD people inspected the tunnel and have fitted lights there. Perhaps it was constructed during the Portuguese regime or the British regime. We don’t know.”
Rao said he has got in touch with government archaeologists for an inspection. “I wish to throw it to open to the public, but a call will be taken only after considering various angles. We can also convert it into a museum encompassing the state’s history.”
The bunker opens with a 20-ft tall gate and a ramp on the Western side. There are long passages and the room bear names Shell Store, Gun Shell, Cartridge Store, Shell Lift, Pump, Workshop, etc. There are also scores of Lamp Recesses in the gangway.
Despite not being in use for so many years, the structure was found to be surprisingly intact. It has a drainage system and inlets for fresh air and light.
Ever since he took charge as the governor of Maharashtra, Rao has taken active interest in promoting the Raj Bhavan as a people-friendly property. A year ago, he opened a few scenic spots to the public.