The Indo-Portuguese style villages of Bandra breathe new life into the city’s suburban heart

Amidst the bustling streets of Bandra in Mumbai, villages like Pali and Ranwar offer a refreshing sight of Indo-Portuguese architecture canvasing the cinematic history of Bollywood.

If Bandra is coveted for celebrities, cafes, clubs and traffic, then the streets of Pali and Ranwar reflect the ageless charm of imposing architectures, be it of Catholic churches, resurrected shrines, and the European culture in the bricks of every house.

The story of Pali Village is reigned by myriad of rulers, from the Mughals to the Portuguese and the Marathas, each leaving an indelible mark on its cultural fabric. The village’s early days were rooted in a serene existence. 

The architecture of Pali Village is a living narrative, blending the essence of tradition with the influence of various cultures.

The allure of Pali’s architecture lies not just in its Balcaos but also in its distinctive railings and enchanting windows. The diamond-patterned railings exude openness, while the wooden shutters on windows evoke an enigmatic luminescence, preserving the heritage within.

Winding streets serve as the connective tissue, leading to beautiful squares, or Agnas, bordered by pastel-coloured houses. These residences, once humble mud abodes, evolved under Portuguese influence into multi-story dwellings, yet retaining their vernacular essence.

The intricate craftsmanship and design, infused with local materials and artisanal skill, reflect the village’s commitment to preserving tradition.

A walk down its lanes coloured in vivid shades of blue and washes of carmine take us through the rich history of how this little pocket of Portuguese culture has transformed throughout the years.

Ranwar has seen a significance makeover which is embraced by the youth with a hint of gen-pop. The walls of  vintage mansion map the cinematic history of Bollywood through ‘The Bollywood Art Project’.

Recounting Ranwar’s cultural legacy would be incomplete without mentioning the formation of the Bandra Gymkhana in 1924, by locals.. The club is famed for producing maestros in sports such as badminton, tennis, cricket, football, and hockey.

Although Ranwar is famous for its Portuguese architecture and vibrant street art, the village also stands for the everlasting bond of the communities living there, dating back to the 1590s.

The renowned present-day Pali Hill stands as a living memory of the original ‘pakhadis’ or hamlets of Bandra that consisted of rice cultivators or ‘kunbis’, situated on what is called the ‘gaothan’ or village settlement with paddy fields.

Some houses today are a living testimony to this era of expansion with timber construction and large balcões (entrance porches). They had roof canopies, creative designs, ornate fascia and artistic colour choices.

Such urban  villages which were hitherto overshadowed by the glamour of Bandra promenade are now being recognised by a generation of flaneurs and cultural enthusiasts.

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