Kala ghoda association

Kala Ghoda Association, was formed with the object of maintaining and preserving the heritage art district of South Mumbai. Every year , since 1999 the association also hosts the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, the country's largest multicultural festival, created to draw attention to this unique and beautiful area. Now in its 14th edition, the Festival draws visitors in the thousands, not just from the city but from all over the country, and, indeed, the world.


The Kala Ghoda precinct can be roughly defined as the area that stretches from the Regal Circle Southern end of Mahatma Gandhi Road, up to the Mumbai University on the northern end, flanked by the Oval Maidan to the west and the Lion Gate to the east. The name Kala Ghoda can be traced to the old equestrian statue of King Edward VII, which was placed at the centre of the large node on the old Esplanade Road. The statue, a vestige of the colonial era, has since been removed from the site, but the name persist regardless - an assertive confirmation of a compelling public memory.

Today, the area is a hub of cultural activity and a throbbing urban node with institutions like the Jehangir Art Gallery, Max Mueller Bhavan, Bombay University, Prince of Wales Museum, National Gallery of Modern Art, Institute of Science, Bombay Natural History Society, Elphinstone College, and David Sassoon Library around it, all within comfortable walking distance of each other. Apart from the entertaining pursuits of art and education, the area also offers a host of famous city restaurants and cafes, along with smaller art galleries, designer boutiques, and many culture-related activities and venues - the most popular one being the annual Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, where many artistes, performers and craftspersons gather every February.

Besides the overwhelming impact of its myriad functions, the area also has a strong visual image, reinforced by historic buildings, perhaps the finest concentrated collection of heritage structures in the city. The Elphinstone College and David Sassoon Library are in the Victorian Neo-Gothic genre, while the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahlaya (formally Prince of Wales Museum) belongs to the Indo-Saracenic style. The Army & Navy Building reflects the vocabulary of the Renaissance Revival, and the Cowasji Jehangir Hall (which is now the National Gallery of Modern of Art) that of the Edwardian Neo-Classical in Mumbai.

With a combined total of almost 1,10,000 sq. ft of existing indoor gallery space, the Kala Ghoda Precinct has an existing critical mass of art galleries, museums, and cultural spaces unrivalled in all of India, and perhaps comparable to art districts in other parts of the world. To this could be added an additional mass of outdoor pavement galleries on Rampart Row and potential exhibition space within the covered arcades to make the Kala Ghoda area a veritable ‘Urban Museum’. Such a phenomenal ensemble of art functions within one concentrated zone, offers tremendous avenues for future development and, added to this the support infrastructure of existing lecture halls, convocation halls, and conference facilities offered by The Mumbai University, Elphinstone College, and other neighbouring institutions, gives Kala Ghoda a unique place in the world of art and culture.

There are also many locational advantages that contribute to the special character of the Kala Ghoda Art District. The area occupies a pivotal location within Fort, and is on the tourist circuit of Taj Mahal Hotel - Gateway of India - Flora Fountain and The Asiatic Library. It has easy access to rail, water, and road transport and offers a large number of places of public interest within walking distance of each other. It is flanked by one of the city’s largest greens – the Oval Maidan to the west – and is situated in the heart of the city’s business, commercial, and administrative hub, close to Horniman Circle garden. The Cross Maidan is also in close proximity.

The Kala ghoda association

In order to give full opportunity to this potential as well as to physically improve the area, cultural institutions and art galleries in this area came together to form the Kala Ghoda Association in 1998 and have been since working toward the conservation of this area. This association has prioritized its conservation tasks and organizes art festivals annually, in February (the first Saturday till the next Sunday, for nine days) in order to bring attention to the area’s art and architectural heritage. Institutions located here, the galleries, patrons, and concerned citizens got together in 1988 to form the Kala Ghoda Association. The Association recognized that the largest emerging user as well as interest in the area, is art-related.

Furthermore, the Association recognized and anticipated the need to connect this powerful contemporary use and function to the physical improvement process. That is, really to use this function and its potential, to generate goodwill as well as financial support ,and act as the contemporary engine to drive the conservation and physical improvement of the area. In order to do this the Association decided to institute an Art Festival as an annual event, to bring attention to this precinct, to generate funds for sponsoring projects , and also to set an annual target for improvements.

Targets & Projects Undertaken:

  • To create a synergy between the existing components and functions in the Kala Ghoda area and therefore, to create a unique function of an Art District for the city.
  • To animate and make possible the use of interstitial spaces in the area such as pavements, the parking lot, side alleys, quadrangles in the buildings, etc., to not only bring art into the public realm, but also, through use, effect the introduction of the spaces into the public realm.
  • To create an infrastructure in the area to make possible and encourage cultural and art-related events, that is to make the Kala Ghoda Art District a landmark area.
  • To act as a catalyst for conservation of the numerous heritages buildings in the area as well as improve the street-scape with the introduction of appropriate street furniture and signage.
  • To liaise with city authorities to create an appropriate context for the improvement of the precinct in the form of improved lighting in the public areas, and other such improvements that might make it a more efficient and humane environment.

    It is therefore towards the establishment of these objectives that the Association has embarked upon the task of the physical improvement of the area and its buildings.

    In all these years, since its establishment, the Association has supported the installation of signage, the restoration of:
  • The David Sassoon Library building. The illumination of its exteriors.
  • Elphinstone College building and The Institute of Science have been restored with the help of the Kala Ghoda Association. The buildings of the Kala Ghoda Art District are in fact its greatest assets.
  • The pay and park has been re-tiled as have been the streets and pavements on Rampart Row.
  • The Khyber Restaurant wall mural.
  • An amphitheatre has been built over a storage space. This is used extensively during the Arts festival.
  • In 2008, the Kala Ghoda Association took on the task of restoring the Cama Hall exteriors.
  • The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahlaya (formally The Prince of Wales Museum) has been supported by Kala Ghoda Association by way of donation of office equipment.
  • The Horniman Circle garden has been upgraded. The garden fencing, garden benches and the gardeners' shed have been restored.
  • The garden of the David Sassoon library was restored in 2014.
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