The sign said, “Caution, peacocks crossing road” – not the instruction you usually see on a street in Mumbai. But then, this wasn’t a regular thoroughfare, but a road deep inside the city’s magnificent Raj Bhavan, the official residence of the Governor of Maharashtra. It was about 6.45a.m. and the first light of day was piercing through the cloudy, smog-filled skies.
On Monday, I was in one of Mumbai’s most secure areas with three of my friends to see the sun rise, an exclusive sight that has been available for public viewing since June this year.The complex sits on the left arm of the landmass that forms Mumbai’s famous Queen’s Necklace and arguably has the best vistas in the city. Anyone can register for a two-hour morning visit to the enormous complex, with views of its own beach, acres of gnarly, knotty trees, delicate flowers and mind-numbingly beautiful sea views on three sides.
The gardens, the architecture, and the silence were surprisingly calming. With sunrise scheduled for 6.43 this morning, we were keen to head to the sunrise deck that also has mats laid out for anyone inclined to practise yoga. We entered a little gate across from the property’s greenhouse and followed our guide down stairs hedged in on both sides by vines, creepers, flowering shrubs and trees. The deck opened up on our left, overlooking the sea. We skipped the surya namaskars and chose to just plonk down on the mats instead, waiting for the sun to put on a show. Unfortunately, the smog didn’t let up, so all we got was a blurry yellow dollop shining through a cloud-speckled sky.
Next up was a visit to the temple of the Unknown Goddess, just a little way ahead of the deck. There are no official records of the resident devi’s origins or name, hence the name. But local monikers include Sagar Mata, Sakalai Devi and Sri Gundi. On the way to the temple, we were shown a rock – the foundation for the magnificent state guesthouse above – that surveyors claimed was a million years old. It was covered with four plaques commemorating the dogs of various governors past. My favourite message was “Her tail still wags in our hearts”. We were then ushered down a path to a dead end, only to be told that on the other side of the wall were bunker offices from the World Wars that had been built to protect the governor in case of an attack.
On the 10th of every month, visitors can register online to visit Raj Bhavan the following month; the fee is ₹25 per person. Registrations fill up really fast, so make sure you book as soon as they open.In case you aren’t able to get a spot, here are a couple of other places where the sunrise is equally fantastic.