MUMBAI: A large pavilion for mourners at the Parsi Doongerwadi (Tower of Silence) at Malabar Hill has been refurbished and restored by heritage conservationists. It was built in 1938.
The project was inaugurated November 16 in the presence of trustees of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP).
The conservation of the large pavilion, formally named the Jamshetji Rustumjee Sethna Mandap, was funded by siblings Cyrus, Dinshaw and Rashneh Pardiwala in honour of their parents Roda and Noshir Pardiwala.
Rashneh Pardiwala, who is founder and director of the Centre for Environmental Research and Education (CERE), has reportedly been working to improve the forest diversity at Doongerwadi since 2015. She was concerned each time she passed by the pavilion as she observed its deterioration. While the surrounding ‘bunglis’ were getting renovated one after another, this structure continued to suffer neglect.
She decided to take up restoration work and approached the BPP who gave approval. The project received formal permission from the Mumbai Heritage Committee, after which conservation architect Kirti Unwalla was commissioned to restore the original grandeur and beauty of this heritage structure.
Unwalla said, “The restoration is designed to give the structure a heightened lease of life. Conservation follows the directives observed by the failure patterns of the structure and the effects from the immediate surrounding. This structure has load bearing walls and steel reinforced columns and beams. It is roofed over by a timber trussed roof finished in Mangalore tiles.”
She said, “Major failure patterns in the columns and beams prompted critical conservation of these elements. The roof trusses were in good condition so we have maintained them in their original structural format. The roofing timber planks were restored to afford sufficient waterproofing layers and topped with partly replaced Mangalore tiles. The flooring was replaced with Kotah stone pattern. The stained glass was an addition.”
Specialist teams were brought in to address different facets of restoration. Roofers arrived from Kerala, masons and carpenters from Rajasthan and antique lamps were handcrafted in Lucknow.
A unique architectural addition to the pavilion are its three stained glass panels which provide pictorial insight into Zoroastrian last rites and the evolution of the soul. Stained glass expert Swati Chandgadkar combined research from the scriptures to devise the images for the stained glass.
A small museum has also been developed at the far end of the pavilion where a model of a dokhma and an information panel are placed.
A commemorative plaque was unveiled at the inauguration. BPP officials presented a memento of appreciation to the donors for their largesse of Rs 85 lakh.