Mumbai, Jan 3, 2019: A 19th Century Jewish grave was found during a garden makeover in Nagpada on Jan 1, a timely reminder of the times when the now predominantly Muslim neighbourhood was also home to many Jewish people.
The grave, which also has a headstone with carvings in Hebrew, is of a person who died in 1828 aged 45 years of age. The headstone, the only one to be found, is being kept the way it is at the Padmakar Tukaram Garden at Nagpada Junction which is being refurbished. Next to it is a mural of Mirza Ghalib coming up.
Members of the Jewish community in the area said that the place was a Jewish cemetery until a century ago. “That one was an old cemetery in Nagpada. Authorities would keep the cemetery for nearly 100 or 200 years or until such time that it was full. They would then give us another such space and a garden would come up at the place we gave up. This particular garden came up then. In lieu of this cemetery, we were given a new one in Worli,” said Daniel Ashtamkar, who looks after a synagogue at Sandhurst Road.
“It is not surprising to find that cemetery. Just behind that is a synagogue. The entire area of Nagpada and Mazgaon used to be suburbs of Mumbai back in the 18th and 19th Centuries. It was full of small colonies of Parsis, Christians, Jews and Hindus. This may have been converted into a garden less than 100 years ago. There are numerous such cemeteries like these, that have been converted into gardens,” said Dr Kurush Dalal, an archaeologist and assistant professor at Mumbai University.