STREETS CALLED M.G. ROAD...What’s in a name!
# Post 1 # Series 1_Anecdotes : What's in a name !
Mahatma Gandhi Road or mostly abbreviated as M.G.Road sounds familiar to almost all of us who have lived in India. Have you ever wondered or realized that most Indian cities have an M.G. Road? Indeed the road is a tribute of remembrance to Mahatma Gandhi who is honoured as the Father of our Nation. But this familiarity in the existence of M.G. Roads across India or even abroad and the urban character associated with each of them, makes it an interesting topic to ponder upon. As you travel around Indian cities, you will tend to find many a roads by this name and also realize how these streets in particular hold prominence and meanings of their own to their respective context and cities, whether political, socio-economic and sometimes even a sentimental subject. They also at most times, hold relevance over streets by other names in the city.
I stumbled upon this pattern of familiarity when I had recently moved to Agra post marriage. As we were settling down, we would often require visiting the two prominent streets in Agra which are Sadar Bazar and M.G.Road. One fine afternoon, I was walking down the usually crowded M.G Road trying to look for a particular household item. That’s when it got me thinking of how M.G.Road as a notion (and not any other road) was the one place in this new city I was comfortably headed to every time besides the dependency. For a newbie in the city like me, it sure felt like it’s from my own backyard as if from my hometown… as if you are carrying a street from one city to another along with you. Probably because almost every Indian city has an M.G. Road, it’s amazing how it makes you feel at home... just the familiarity in the name of a street.
Upon reaching back to my studio, I promptly opened my laptop and began to try and jot down the names of Indian cities that have an M.G. Road (or Mahatma Gandhi Road). The following is a list of cities I could find so far where M.G Roads exist:
Agra (two numbers), Akola, Ahmedabad – Vadodara (two numbers), Ahmednagar, Allahabad, Bahraich, Bangalore, Bardoli, Belgaum, Chennai, Coimbatore, Daman, Delhi (six numbers), Dispur, Durgapur, Gangtok, Guntur,Gurgaon, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Indore, Jaipur, Jeypore, Kanpur, Kochi, Kolkata, Kottayam, Lucknow, Mangalore, Mumbai (six numbers), Nagpur, Panaji, Patna (two numbers), Pondicherry, Porbandar, Pune, Raigarh, Raipur, Secunderabad, Shillong, Thane,Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, Tumkur, Vijayawada and Wardha.
Besides cities, towns like Barwani in Madhya Pradesh and also many villages across the country seem to have named / renamed their streets to M.G. Road. Also, do note that a lot of streets are abbreviated as M.G.Road but hold full forms like Mehrauli – Gurgaon Road, etc. There are also alterations like the M.G.H. Road / Mahatma Gandhi Hospital Road in Jodhpur, Rajasthan which is again a street that is a commercially prominent street for whole sale pharmaceutical stores and numerous book shops due to a Mahatma Gandhi Hospital and colleges in its immediate vicinity. So this relevance too makes up for the absence of an M.G.Road in the city. In Gandhinagar, which is a planned city named after Mahatma Gandhi and the capital of Gujarat, it is altered to be called Mahatma Gandhi Path and encompasses the grandest public park of the city. In cities like Ranchi and Imphal, they are called Mahatma Gandhi Main road and Gandhi Avenue respectively. Also note in this context, that Chandigarh is the only city in India which has no streets named after any patriotic, political or social leaders inspite of being a designed city, In most cities, renaming existing street names has been happening since quite some time. Many an M.G.roads have been a result of this and some are also renamed to something else.
You’d be surprised to know that there are other cities across the globe that have roads named in the name of Mahatma Gandhi namely Gent, Winnipeg, Courdimanche, Paris, Hanover, Bremen, Bonn, Kingston, Fuquay – Varina, NC, Medan, Tehran, Pisa, Amman, Beirut, Goodlands, Roche Terre, Beau Bassin-Rose Hill, Quatre Bornes, Belle Rose, Mexico City, Ulaanbaatar, Leiden, Purmerend, Rotterdam, Culemborg, Zaandam, Zeist, Stadskanaal, Maastricht, Zetten, Haarlem, Hengelo, Hoofddorp, Middelburg, Epe, Gouda, Deventer, Amsterdam, Groningen, Heerhugowaard, Eindhoven, Zoetermeer, ‘s-Gravenhage, Arnhem, Assen, Munterdam, Manila, Blokovi, Durban, Johannesburg, Barcelona, Jaffna, Debe, San Fernando, Saint Helena, Ankara, Durham, Crawfordsville, Boulder, Fuquay-Varina, etc. In their local languages, Mahatma Gandhi Road is pronounced differently as Gandhistraat, Gandhiweg, Gandhiplein, etc. (Note : Only the names of global cities and not their states or countries have been mentioned here to avoid a mapping jargon in the mind!)
How often do we come across this name while we travel around cities or across them? I have come to a conclusion that this name seems to hold the most strategic relevance in most cities. From the most popular commercial streets to metro stations to high end commerce to important public places to crowded local markets, all happen on most of the streets by this name. It seems to have built up a primary function and made a powerful statement as a street name. Sometimes, design is not just functional or visual but also in what you name it.
Isn’t it interesting to know how one man known for his nonviolence has earned not only a name but also earned streets named in his honour across the globe? Now if that isn’t making a mark then what is? … And they say "what’s in a name!"
Although this post has been an attempt to gather as many city names as possible to bring them all under one roof / one post, please feel free to suggest more city names which may not have been covered in this post. tifCDS wants to revolutionize the concept of Urban Philosophy into our mainstream livelihood. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, in his book The Discovery of India referred to our motherland as a melting pot of diversity in art, culture, religion, etc. Then why not Urban Agenda too? tifCDS is at a task to gather factual tidbits about our country and its urban design elements and bring awareness on city life and city making. Street designs being one of them, naming of streets is explored in this series as an unseen dimension to its design. Any contributions to the same are welcome. Feel free to post us back with your comments or if you wish to contribute relevant matter.