Across Mumbai, one can visit several heritage drinking water fountains built in public places, squares, and junctions. They were built mainly during the late 19th-century and early 20th-century by merchants, as a form of philanthropy and charity. The fountains were used to provide drinking water to humans, birds, and animals. Merchants would often fund these fountains in memory of a loved one who had passed away. These fountains were called “Pyaus.”
In front of the General Post Office building in Fort, the business district of Mumbai stands an old fountain called Kothari Pyau. It was constructed in 1923 by Mr. Devidas Purbhoodas Kothari in memory of his late daughter Mrs. Lilavati Tribhovandas.
The Indo-Saracenic architecture and aesthetics of the pyau is similar to the architecture of other buildings in the area.
Adjoining the pyau is a pigeon trough, popularly known as “Kabutar Khana.” It is a place where birds are fed by passersby. On the other end of the trough is a recently added statue of a gas lamplighter lighting a gas lamp, as an honor to them and their work.
Pyaus have historically been a social and cultural part of Mumbai’s landscape. Every pyau is different, built in its own unique style, based on the location, material, and artisans thus giving it an independent identity. Recently, these heritage pyaus are being restored by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.
These structures, adorning the streets of the city, are an aesthetically pleasing site, giving the viewer a glimpse of the past.