Nana Jagannath Shankarseth, the social reformer

News Excerpt:

Recently, the Maharashtra cabinet decided to ask the Ministry of Railways to rename Mumbai Central Station after Nana Jagannath Shankarseth.

Who was Nana Jagannath Shankarseth?

  • The social reformer, educationist, and philanthropist Nana Jagannath Shankarseth (February 10, 1803-July 31, 1865) is often described as the “architect” of Mumbai (then Bombay).
  • He made extremely valuable contributions in terms of both ideas and money laying a strong foundation for the city.
  • Born in a wealthy Brahmin family in Murbad in Thane district, Shankarseth took the responsibility of running the family business at an early age after his father passed away in 1822. 
  • Shankarseth was greatly inspired by the legendary merchant and philanthropist Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy.
  • As a social reformer and community leader, Shankarseth earned the goodwill of both Indians and the British. 
  • He became the first Indian to be nominated to the Legislative Council of Bombay.

Shankarseth’s contributions:

  • In Education: 
    • He donated land owned by his family for educational institutions. 
    • He also worked for the education of girls and women.
    • Shankarseth founded the Native School of Bombay, renamed first as the Bombay Native Institution, and then as the Board of Education, and later evolved into the prestigious Elphinstone College.
  • In Museum and Temples: 
    • Shankarseth helped promote Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Byculla, designed by a famous London-based architect. 
    • The Bhawani Shankar Temple near Nana Chowk was Shankarseth’s tribute to his late mother Bhawanibai Murkute. He also built a Ram temple.
  • In Railways:
    • The first train in India ran between Boribunder and Thane on April 16, 1853. The 34-km project was undertaken by the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company. 
    • The committee that gave the project impetus included Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy and Nana Shankarseth.

Why has the proposal to rename Mumbai Central Station come now?

  • Ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, the incumbent government has proposed to rename some railway stations in Mumbai with the stated objective of wiping out colonial names and identities and replacing them with those of Indian heroes.
  • The idea is to promote cultural nationalism and pride in Indian heritage.


Nana Jagannath Shankarseth, a visionary social reformer and philanthropist, played a pivotal role in shaping Mumbai's educational, cultural, and infrastructural landscape. Renaming Mumbai Central Station after him recognizes his enduring legacy and contributions to the city's development.

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