Every year, since 1999 the association hosts the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, the country’s largest multicultural festival, created to draw attention to this unique and beautiful area in Mumbai. Now in its 18th edition, the Festival draws visitors in large numbers, not just from the city but from all over the country, and indeed from the world. 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 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 colloquially used for the district name persist regardless – an assertive confirmation of a compelling public memory.
Apart from the entertaining pursuits of art and education, the area also offers a host of famous city restaurants and cafes, along with 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.
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, The Museum, BNHS and other neighbouring institutions, gives Kala Ghoda a unique place in the world of art and culture.
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 towards the conservation of this area. This association has prioritized its conservation tasks and organizes an art festival 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.
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.
Opening of Kala Ghoda Festival by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has become an annual fixture and it is appreciated by Mumbaikars. More and more festivals are needed in Mumbai to have a joyous moment for the people. People are starved of such festivals as the children and women enjoy the euphoric atmosphere and have a chance to visit outdoors and get the much needed exposure towards culture. It is a learning opportunity for children. Kala Ghoda is a much loved and anticipated festival. Mostly these festivals can be based on education as well as sports.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)