Free hit counter


By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.


The chawls of Mumbai

India,Mumbai,Bombay,chawls,slum,rent,frozen rent agreement

Chawls are typical dwellings in Mumbai, built in the 19th and 20th centuries (especially between 1920 and 1956) by landlords and industrialists to accomodate immigrant labor.

 Chawls are “buildings with one room or two room units of not more than two hundred square feet attached by a common corridor with shared toilets on each floor”. Living conditions are quite sordid in the chawls, most of which being about to collapse. ‘Legally’ they do not qualify as slums which refer to jodapattis, squatter hoursings on unused land and pavements dwellings, tents and huts, “shanties built on footpaths alongside roads/pavements, close to workplace”. The families who live in chawls refuse to vacate the premises. On one hand because of the low rent for places in the heart of the city, and on the other hand because the social networking that exists in these structures.

 The Bombay Rent Act of 1947, enacted at the time of Partition, froze the rents at the level of 1St September  1940, to protect tenants. This freeze lasted for more than 50 years (the Maharashtra Rent Control Act in 1999  took over the Bombay Rent Act (twenty times renewed) and allowed a 5% rent increase the first year and then 4%) and caused the ruin of the buildings – at this level of rent, the owners could not invest in maintenance or repairs. As a consequence of all this, living in a chawl costs 250 rupees per month to former tenants and one can find offers on the Internet for 1,000 rupees. To give an idea, renting a 700 square feet apartment (thrice the surface) costs in the same area minimum 25,000 Rs (100 times more!).

India,Mumbai,Bombay,chawls,slum,rent,frozen rent agreement

Chawls of Girgaum - one can note the Mercedes on the left side (contrasts of India!)

Sources: ;



By a sunny (and not yet too hot) afternoon I went for a walk in a 'village in the city', a haven of peace in the bustling metropolis, a jump from Mumbai to Bombay, a flashback one hundred and fifty years ago...

More specifically I went to Girgaon (or Girgaum) and in Khotachiwadi. There you can see bungalows (28 of them are left of the original 65) Portuguese-style – the Portuguese, let's not forget about it, were the first foreigners to land in Mumbai (in 1536) and it is only in 1661 that they gave it away to the British as part of the dowry of a Portuguese princess marrying a Britisher.

And chawls or wadis, cluster of three-four story buildings around a central open courtyard (more about these structures in my next post).

All of these about to be replaced by modern towers...

And it’s a pity...

Khotachiwadi - March 2014

inde,mumbai,khotachiwadi,heritage village,bungalows,chawls

Sources: image above ( and