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Here’s one for your cultural bucket list – Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai

Sannidhi, an amalgam of seven Indian classical dance forms, performed at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in 2012

Sannidhi, an amalgam of seven Indian classical dance forms, was performed at the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival earlier

Arts festivals seem to me the best way of getting acquainted with a part of the intangible we call culture. Whether it’s classical dance or the latest fusion music, traditional crafts or modern art, these festivals bring together a variety of experiences that one wouldn’t normally get to enjoy simultaneously at a venue.

It’s why I’m planning to visit the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival (KGAF) and if you’re in Mumbai between February 4 and February 12, 2017 you too should drop in. A mix of performing arts, heritage walks, workshops, film screenings, and activities for children, the KGAF is what every lover of creative expression looks forward to each year. If these don’t excite you, the shopping and street food will.

Named after an area in South Mumbai called ‘Kala Ghoda’ or Black Horse, the festival is in its 17th year now. The original statue of King Edward VII on a horse was removed from the site over 50 years back and is now comfortably placed at the Byculla Zoo or ‘Jijamata Udyan’ a few km away, but a brand new equine statue has been installed this month. Minus a rider, the bronze sculpture has its own identity. Called ‘Spirit of Kala Ghoda’,  it’s been crafted by Shreehari Bhosle aided by sculptor Arzan Khambatta, and designed by architect Alfaz Miller.

Kala Ghoda is anyway known as an art precinct on account of buildings like the Jehangir Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Modern Art, but during the festival it transforms into an art and craft lover’s paradise. Heritage buildings and public spaces in the area turn into performance venues and the streets into a food and curio market decked with unique art installations. While well-known artistes and upcoming ones present acts often savored long after the applause has died down, writers, photographers, and architects share tricks of the trade at workshops.

It’s why people keep returning year after year – the fact that all this is free, except the shopping and food of course, doesn’t hurt either. With the zero entry fee, all you need to do is turn up a little before a performance is scheduled to begin (entry is on a first come, first served basis). Where seats are limited, like in the case of workshops, you have to register an hour or so earlier.

I hope you get an opportunity to watch some of the performances. If you’re not familiar with the classical dance forms of India, this clip should help

For a link to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival website, click here and scroll down that page to find activities that interest you. Since timings of events at different venues overlap, it’s best to go through the program schedule and pick out beforehand the ones you want to attend.

For a map of the venues where the events will be held, click here

Here are the programme venues –

DANCE – Cross Maidan (MG (Mahatma Gandhi) Road, New Marine Lines)

MUSIC – Cross Maidan and Asiatic Society Library (Town Hall) steps

STANDUP COMEDY – Irish House above Royal Oak Banquets and Gallery Beyond in Great Western Building

MOVIES – Visitors’ Centre and Coomaraswamy Hall on the premises of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (also called Prince of Wales Museum),  Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) at Hornbill House, Opp Lion’s Gate

CHILDREN’S – Lawns of the museum Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) and Kitab Khana (Somaiya Bhavan, Next to Davar’s College)

THEATRE or DRAMA – National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) auditorium, Horniman Circle Garden, and M. C. Ghia Hall, K Dubash Marg

WORKSHOPS – Somaiya Bhavan beside Davar’s College, and Artists Centre Art Gallery (Ador House, Rampart Row)

VISUAL ARTS – Lawns of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya or Museum and the Coomaraswamy Hall on its premises, Cross Maidan, Tarq (F35/36 Dhanraj Mahal, C.S.M. Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba), Artists Centre Art Gallery, David Sassoon Library (DSL) Garden (Opp. Jehangir Art Gallery), Rampart Gallery, Gallery 7 ( Oricon House, Rampart Row, Next to Kaya Skin Clinic), and The Art Entrance Gallery in the Army Navy Building

How to get to Kala Ghoda

Suburban (local) trains are the cheapest though crowded option. Take a train to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus aka CST (read about the historic station here ) or Churchgate station.Just don’t travel during peak hours (generally between 7 am-10 am towards CST or Churchgate and 5-9 pm in the opposite direction). From there, hail a cab/taxi to Kala Ghoda.

I find the the m-indicator mobile app very handy to check timings and other details for trains and buses.

Finding it difficult to understand Mumbai’s local train network? Click here or here for a map.

You could take a BEST bus too – Click here and choose the stations you would board and alight at. If there is a bus on that route, the bus number will show up. If you’re new to Mumbai, it’s best to ask someone the relevant bus stop names and write them down.

Of course, you could take an Uber/Ola ride or a normal black and yellow taxi too.



    • Vibha Ravi

      Thanks Otto. I’m planning to visit and put up some pictures from this year’s festival. Hope it’s done, fingers crossed!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Vibha Ravi

      Thanks a lot Tess. Each of my posts involves a process of discovery for me as well. I’ve loved watching Indian classical dance performances, but only when I was making the video did I wonder about the differences between the dance forms.
      I hope the clip is useful enough to be shared as well.


  1. I lived ten years and a quarter in Mumbai and while I did that, I made ten and a quarter promises to myself to visit Kala Ghoda art festivals. if only promises were motorbikes…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vibha Ravi

      Ha ha..I totally get that. Things that seem accessible and don’t require much planning often get pushed down our list of priorities. We just think ‘I can do this any time.’

      Liked by 1 person

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