They say, ‘‘Mumbai is the city of dreams’’ and we all resonate deeply with it. From being seven separate islands to forming one entity, Mumbai’s urban fabric has undergone a remarkable evolution. Mumbai has many identities; it is the most diverse city in India because of its rich history, that dates back centuries. It is also India’s financial capital and once an industrial hub, and it all started when textile industries in Mumbai boomed. The textile industry played a significant role as a catalyst for the country’s financial growth.

At the time, ‘Cotton’ was Mumbai’s identity. Much of the history of Mumbai revolves around this word. But why cotton? Mumbai was home to over 130 cotton mills. Today, those mills appear and operate entirely differently; some of them are in dilapidated condition and others have swanky makeovers. One of the famous examples is Phoenix Palladium Mall, Lower Parel. At one time, mills were a major part of the city’s architectural identity.

Central Mumbai was the place for cotton trading; the narrative of central Mumbai emerged from cotton mills, and it started being referred to as ‘Girangoan’ [mills village]. Since the cotton business generated employment opportunities in the city and people migrated from all over the country, the housing circumstances evolved to accommodate the working class, and due to this, the area had a lot of residential development for mill workers. When British merchants and officials lived in expansive, spacious, and luxurious bungalows, the mill workers started residing as a community in these chawls, and that is how the chawl culture began. Chawl culture is a community culture. Chawl is typically a two to four-story building with 10 to 15 houses on each floor. These living spaces are as small as a 200 sq. ft area and can accommodate an entire family. Houses are placed one after the other and mainly have long, single-loaded corridors and a huge courtyard in front where all the public festivals take place.

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Mumbai paused. (2020). Cotton Association of India, Cottongreen. [Photograph]._©MUMBAI PAUSED: Cotton Green
This is ‘The Cotton Association of India, Mumbai’, which was built in 1921 in cotton green by architects Messrs. Sykes, Patkar, and Divecha and was contracted by Messrs. Shapoorji Pallonji and Co. Cotton Green is a harbor-line railway station in the south of Bombay, and it derives its name from the history of the place itself. Since the place had numerous mills that used to store grains for the cotton, Later, the word grains got twisted into greens, and that’s how the place got its moniker, ‘cotton green’.

‘The Cotton Association of India’, is a stunning heritage structure of art deco standing tall, just in front of the railway station. When you look at the building, it makes you feel like you have been teleported into the 19th century. The building stands out and, it feels like time is moving forward for the rest of the world but not for this building and the surrounding area.

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Mumbai paused. (2020). Cotton Association of India, Cottongreen. [Photograph]._©MUMBAI PAUSED: Cotton Green
The spectacular three-story structure of Art Deco style was originally in the minty green color but now it’s beige, and brown since the time it was restored by architect Neera Adarakar. It’s a V-shaped blocky structure with one side that stretches up to 100 meters in length and,  another 50 meters in length. It has over 70 large windows that make the interior of the building vibrant and lively. The façade has ornamentation and features rectangular stripes and recessed windows with curved ornamental elements and decorative motifs around it. The building is constructed in concrete, smooth finished stone, and stucco and has opaque glass windows. The building has a grand double-door entrance and a flat roof with multiple intricately detailed corbels around it.  The structure makes a bold, modern, and sophisticated statement through its architectural style. 

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Pahurkar, A. (2019). Cotton Association of India, Cottongreen. [Photograph]._©cotton association of india – Google Search
Today in the 21st century, ‘The Cotton Association of India’ is serving as an institution for the cotton trade and creating a great platform for traders, ginners, spinners, textile mills, and growers. It conducts various activities to support the cotton industry including arbitration services, research, quality testing, etc. 

In 2023, after almost a century, the building still reflects its identity and the importance of its history in the cotton trade. The area around the cotton green is Kalachowky, Ferbunder, and Ghodapdev. Initially, it was formerly a neighborhood area for mill workers and other working-class people, but then with time and the urban development of the area, it has become one of the prime locations in Mumbai.

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Mumbai paused. (2020). Cottongreen Railway satation. [Photograph]._©MUMBAI PAUSED: Cotton Green
The Cotton Association of India, Mumbai - Sheet5
Mumbai paused. (2020).Ghodapdev. [Photograph]._©MUMBAI PAUSED: Cotton Green
We can see how the urban landscape of cotton green has altered over the years. From around 1992 on, the redevelopment of the area began when the mills were shut down. The configuration of the urban area has changed a lot, from being low-rise housing to middle-class groups of people to being one of the most desirable locations in Mumbai. With the growing urban development of high-rise building construction, the place continues to tell the story of all its time.

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Mumbai paused. (2020).Ghodapdev. [Photograph]._©MUMBAI PAUSED: Cotton Green
The Cotton Association of India, Mumbai - Sheet7
Mumbai paused. (2020). Ferbuder. [Photograph]._©MUMBAI PAUSED: Cotton Green
The Cotton Association of India, Mumbai - Sheet8
Singh, V. (2019). Kalachowki. [Photograph]._©Mumbai: Abhyudaya Nagar realty push now back on track (dnaindia.com)
References:

Bombay style (2019) Art Deco. Available at: https://www.artdecomumbai.com/research/art-deco-bombay-style/ (Accessed: 10 September 2023).

Shivaji Park – the culture and how it shapes its residents (2021) Art Deco. Available at: https://www.artdecomumbai.com/research/shivaji-park-the-culture-and-how-it-shapes-its-residents/ (Accessed: 10 September 2023).

An architecture of style, not ideology: Popular criticisms of Art Deco (2023) Art Deco. Available at: https://www.artdecomumbai.com/research/this-new-architecture-of-style-not-ideology-popular-criticisms-of-art-deco/ (Accessed: 10 September 2023).

Mumbai paused (2023) Cotton Green. Available at: https://mumbaipaused.blogspot.com/search/label/Cotton%20Green (Accessed: 10 September 2023).

Unknown (2015) Exchanging times: Cotton Green, Exchanging Times: Cotton Green. Available at: http://reflectionsofpassions.blogspot.com/2011/12/exchanging-times.html#:~:text=The%20Cotton%20Exchange%20in%20Cotton,sight%20to%20behold%20even%20today. (Accessed: 10 September 2023).

Antion, D. et al. (2019) The lost Mumbai – then and now, Travel India Destinations. Available at: https://travelindiadestinations.com/the-lost-mumbai-then-and-now/ (Accessed: 10 September 2023). 

Author

Shraddha is an architect who loves traveling and documenting things, people, stories, and moments. From sketching to reading, she enjoys exploring the world of art through all its forms. Being creatively inclined, she is intrigued by everything about art and creation. She is also a movie buff.