Mumbai's splendid colonial architecture

Posted on April 21, 2019 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

fort architecture

 

I arrived late in the evening to Mumbai, and as the cab drove towards Fort (the older part of Mumbai), I was completely capitivated by the impressive colonial architecture out of the window. And in the following days, I spent much of my time wandering around the southern part of Mumbai, which I thought was the best way to appreciate the architecture in this area. Mostly built during the British Raj period, the archiectural styles here include Gothic, Victorian, Neoclassical, Art Deco and Indo-Saracenic. Some of the building styles seem familiar to me, and it was later that I realised they were built by the British architects who were also responsible for some of the famous landmarks in London.

 

Landmarks

One cannot visit Mumbai without visiting the Unesco world heritage site, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (the railway station was renamed many times, and this rather long name was chosen in 2017), but like most tourists, I prefer to use its former name: Victoria Terminus Station.

Designed by the British architect Frederick William Stevens, the train station took 10 years to complete and opened in 1887 to commemorate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. At the time, the building was the most expensive structure in Mumbai costing 260,000 Sterling Pounds.

On the Unesco website, it states the following: "an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture... Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. It is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms thus forging a new style unique to Bombay."

 

 Victoria Terminus Station

Victoria Terminus Station

victoria terminus

CSMVS Museum

 

The station was being renovated during my visit, and alithough there are guided tours of the train station during the week, I was unable to join because of the weekend and holiday. I decided to explore the station anyhow, and was quite blown away when I went into the cathedral-like Star Chamber. It is called a Star chamber because its ceiling is covered with hundreds of gold stars next to marble columns and intricately carved stone arches. There are also some beautiful stained glass windows on top of the old ticket office counters; looking around, one can't help but admire the the extraordinary attention to detail.

 

 Victoria Terminus Station Star Chamber

 Victoria Terminus Station Star Chamber    Victoria Terminus Station Star Chamber

 Victoria Terminus Station

Victoria Terminus Station  victoria terminus

 Victoria Terminus Station

 

The railway station suffered from a terrrorist attack in 2008 when two terrorists opened fire and threw grenades at people. 58 people were killed and 104 were injured at this attack, and the terrorist were eventually arrested and executed.

There are 18 platforms at this tratin, and perhaps many foreign visitors would recognise the platform from the film Slumdog millionaire where it acted as the backdrop of the last dance scene.

 

Victoria Terminus Station

victoria terminus

 

Municipal Corporation Building

Frederick William Stevens not only built the magnificant Victoria Terminus station, he also built the equally grand Municipal Corporation Building on the opposite side of the road. The Grade IIA heritage Gothic style building took 9 years to build and it was completed in 1893, a few years after the opening of the Victoria Terminus.

Although Stevens received recognition and medals for his achievements in India, he died of malaria at his home in the Malabar Hills in 1900 at the age of only 52, and was buried in the city's Sewri Christian Cemetery.

 

Municipal Corporation Building

Municipal Corporation Building

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

Another popular tourist destination in Mumbai is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (not sure why officials think that it is practical to give such long and hard to pronounce names to these popular tourist attractions) or formerly the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India.

Founded in 1905 by prominent citizens of Mumbai, with the help of the government, to commemorate the visit of Prince of Wales, who later became King George V. The Grade I heritage building was built by Scottish architect George Wittet who was known for his Indo-Saracenic style designs and the Gateway of India.

 

CSMVS Museum

CSMVS Museum

CSMVS Museum

CSMVS Museum

 

Set in a well laid out garden which retains its original plan, the building was awarded first place for Heritage Building Maintenance by the Indian Heritage Society. The Indo-Saracenic style combines Hindu and Saracenic architectural forms, with some elements of Western architecture; this fusion architectural style is often adopted in public and government buildings in the British Raj, and the palaces of rulers of the princely states.

 

CSMVS Museum

CSMVS Museum  CSMVS Museum

CSMVS Museum

 

As I entered the spacious and bright pillared hall, I immediately looked upwards towards the the huge intersecting arches and dome above me. I think I fell in love with this building at that instance. I have always loved Islamic architecture and arts, but this Hindu, Gothic and Mugal fusion style is unique to the British Raj period and I love it.

Not only it is worth visiting the museum for its stunning architecture, the musum also houses about 50,000 artefacts from art to sculptures, porcelain and textiles. It is a bit like the Indian version of London's Victoria and Albert Museum. I particularly liked the sculptures, Indian miniature paintings, prints and textiles collections. I could easily spend a day here because of the fascinating works and relaxing environment.

 

CSMVS Museum

CSMVS Museum  CSMVS Museum

 

I also visited the nearby National Gallery of Modern Art, which is smaller but hosts regular exhibitions of famous artists and sculptors. Designed by Sir Arthur William Blomfield (who built numerous churches in the UK) and his brother Francis B Blomfield, as a residence for the Maharaja of Jaipur, the butterfly-shaped building with a central dome was built in 1936. It was styled after a concept of the Central Hexagon visualised by Sir Edwin Lutyens. It was Lutyens, along with Herbert Baker, who visualised and gave shape to the new capital in Delhi.

 

national gallery mumbai

National Gallery of Modern Art

 

Rajabai Clock Tower

The Rajabai Clock Tower is part of the University of Mumbai and it was listed as an Unesco World Heritage site in 2018. Designed by the prolific English Gothic revival architect, Sir George Gilbert Scott, who modeled it on Big Ben in London. In his life time, Scott has designed or altered over 800 buildings including London's Albert Memorial, Midland Grand Hotel, St Pancras Station, Lincoln's Inn and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The tower was built in a fusion of Venetian and Gothic styles, and out of the locally available buff coloured Kurla stone. Completed in 1878, Scott was also responsible for The University Library, and you can see the beautiful Venetian style staircase from the gate. Sadly, the tower was closed to the public after it became a frequent spot for those attempting to commit suicide.

 

Rajabai Clock Tower  University of Mumbai

University of Mumbai

University of Mumbai

 

David Sassoon Library

Another Venetian-style Gothic Revival building not far from the clock tower is the David Sassoon Library completed in 1870. It was the brainchild of Albert Sassoon, son of the famous Baghdadi Jewish philanthropist, David Sassoon. The building was designed by architects J. Campbell and G. E. Gosling for the Scott McClelland and Company, and was built out of yellow Malad stone. When you look at the facade of the building, you almost think you are standing in Venice rather than Mumbai!

The library is located on Rampart Row, and it is full of heritage architecture. I was lucky enough to visit on a holiday when there was little traffic and pedestrians, which meant that I could take more decent photos without getting run over or pushed over.

 

David Sassoon Library

David Sassoon Library  David Sassoon Library

mumbai

 

Elphinstone College

Across the street from David Sassoon Library stands one the finest Victorian structures in India – Elphinstone College – a Grade I Heritage building. Established in 1856, it is one of the oldest colleges of the University of Mumbai. The Venetian Gothic style building was designed by Trubshaw, supervised by Khan Bahadur Muncherjee Murzban, and completed in 1888.

 

mumbai

dsc_0106  mumbai tiles

 

Mumbai High Court

The Mumbai High Court is a colossal building in the middle of Fort that I did not visit. However, I did get a glimpse of the Gothic style architecture when I was wandering around the area. The dimensions of the building of the court measures 171-meter-long and 57 meters wide. Designed by British engineer Col. James A. Fuller, the building constructions began in 1871 and finished in 1878.

 

mumbai high court

Bombay High Court

Bombay High Court

 

Gateway Of India

The Gateway Of India is an symbolic momument in Mumbai. Constructed to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to the city in 1924, it is also the spot from where the last of British troops departed the country after India's independence.

Like I mentioned earlier, it was built by Scottish architect George Wittet (also responsible the the Prince of Wales Museum) in his famous Indo-Saracenic style from yellow basalt and reinforced concrete. Situated opposite the Taj Mahal Palace, it is one of the most popular tourist spot in Mumbai.

 

gateway of india

 

The Taj Mahal Palace

The Taj Mahal Palace must be one of the most famous and iconic hotels in the world. Everyone I known who have stayed there told me that it is worth every penny (it is on my list for the next trip). Opened in 1903, it is India's first luxury hotel. The original Indian architects were Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza, and the project was completed by an English engineer, W. A. Chambers. It is another good example of the Indo-Saracenic style, with a stunning central staircase designed by built by Khansaheb Sorabji Ruttonji.

The hotel survived a horrific terrorist attack in 2008, which resulted in 167 people being killed. It took several months to rebuild the popular heritage section of the hotel, and the hotel reopened after extensive repairs.

 

taj mahal hotel mumbai

taj mahal hotel mumbai

taj mahal hotel mumbai

taj mahal hotel mumbai  taj mahal hotel mumbai

 

Religious buildings:

 

St. Thomas Cathedral

The 300-year-old church St Thomas Cathedral was the first Anglican church in Mumbai (Bombay) and was consecrated in 1718. Built in a neo classical Gothic style, it is said that the roof was constructed to resist cannon attack. It is a beautiful and tranquil church in the lovely Horniman Circle Gardens, so it is certainly worth visiting. After the completion of a major restoration work the cathedral was selected in 2004 for a UNESCO Asia-Pacific heritage conservation award.

 

st thomas cathedral mumbaist thomas cathedral mumbai

st thomas cathedral mumbai

st thomas cathedral mumbai  st thomas cathedral mumbai

 
Maneckji Sett Agiary fire temple

A few years ago, I visited an exhibition on Zoroastrianism at SOAS in London, which I found really interesting. Before that, I didn't know much about this religion (despite the fact that it is one of the oldest religions in the world), and I certainly didn't know much about Mumbai's Parsi community. As of 2019, there are 167 fire temples in the world, of which 45 in Mumbai,105 in the rest of India, and 17 in other countries.

I discovered the location of this Parsi fire temple by chance from Google map, and I decided to pay a visit as it is located only 10 mins on foot from where I was staying. Unfortunately, non-Zoroastrians are not allowed into the fire temple, so I could only admire the facade from the pavement.

Established in 1733 by Seth Manekji Nowroji Sett, the son of a wealthy Parsi trader, the temple is the second oldest in Mumbai, and it is known for its striking architecture. The external façade features the mythological guardian creature known as lamassu (the protective deities depicted as hybrid figures including a human head, a body of an ox or a lion, and wings of a bird), and they act as the protector of the gateway.

 

Maneckji Sett Agiary fire temple

Maneckji Sett Agiary fire temple

Maneckji Sett Agiary fire temple  Maneckji Sett Agiary fire temple

 

Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Clock Tower

Not far from the fire temple stands a clock tower featuring 2 lamassus on four sides of the structure. Built in 1882, the Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Clock Tower fell into desrepair and was restored by conservation architect Vikas Dilawari in 2017. The commemorative fountain was erected in honour of Bomanjee Homarjee Wadia, a great contributer in the service of the city who dies in 1862. The architectural style borrows from the Persepolis style employed in other Parsi religious buildings, and it is an intriguing monument which stands in the middle of the road.

 

Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Clock Tower

Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Clock Tower   Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Clock Tower

 

Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount or Mount Mary Church

I spent the last day in Mumbai with my local friend, who suggested visiting some sights around Bandra as I was staying in the nearby Khar West neighbourhood. We visited Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount (also known as Mount Mary Church), a Roman Catholic Basilica on a hillock, overlooking the Arabian Sea. The history of the church dates back to the 1570 when Jesuit priests from Portugal brought the wooden statue of Our lady Mary to the current location. A chapel was contructed in 1640, but over the centuries, it was destroyed and rebuilt many times. The current church was rebuilt in 1904 in the gothic style.

The interior of the church features two rows of teak wood columns and murals depicting the life of Mary. The church did remind me of the churches in Portugal, colours and style of the interior are undoubtedly more Portuguese than British.

 

Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount

Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount  Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount

Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount

Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount

 

Another Roman church with a Portuguese history is Gloria Church (or Nossa Senhora de Gloria) built in 1911-13 on one of the oldest Roman Catholic church sites in the city. The current Gloria church was built in English Gothic Revival style.

 

Gloria Church mumbai

 

Horniman circle gardens

If all the people and street vendors are removed from the surrounding area of Horniman circle gardens, you would probably think that you are in London rather than Mumbai. The large circular garden which overs an area of 10,101 square metres in Fort (known as Bombay Green in the 18th century) is surrounded by a row of grand buildings called Elphinstone Circle. Although construction works at the Horniman Circle Gardens started in 1821, it took a total of 12 years to complete. The design of the garden was modeled on John Nash's Park Crescent near Portland Place in London. The initial purpose of the garden was to provide some open space for the locals to sit back and relax. After India's Independence, the Circle was renamed Horniman Circle, which refers to Benjamin Horniman, an English journalist and editor of The Bombay Chronicle, particularly notable for his support of Indian independence.

The Elphinstone Circle (named after Lord John Elphinstone, the former Governor of Bombay) was laid out in 1869, and designed by James Scott as part of the redevelopment of Bombay which began under the Governorship of Sir Bartle Frere in the 1860s. Most of the buildings now house either international banks like HSBC or chains like Starbucks.

 

fort mumbai

colonial architecture mumbai

fort

mumbai architecture

img_4573-min

fort

 

At the other end of the garden stands a white majestic colonial building – the Town Hall of Mumbai – which houses the Asiatic Society Library. Designed by Colonel Thomas Cowper, the building took 10 years to build and was completed in 1833. With a span of 200 feet and height of 100 feet, the building was made of stones brought from England and designed in a neo-classical style. The entrance of the building is adorned with a Grecian portico and 8 impressive Doric styled pillars, with a flight of 30 steps leading up to it.

 

The Asiatic Society of Mumbai

Asiatic Society of Mumbai

 

Not far from the Horniman circle garden is the Flora Fountain (also known as Hutatma Chowk) built in 1864 by the Agri-Horticultural society of Western India.. It is an ornamentally sculpted monument that depicts the Roman goddess Flora, and it was declared as India's Grade I Heritage structures in 1960.

Opposite the fountain is the magnificent Edwardian Neo Classical style Ismail Building built in 1906. After being dilapidated for years, the Grade IIA listed building was refurbished by conservation architect Kirtida Unwala, Mona Sanghvi, along with Zara’s in-house team of architects in 2017 to house the Spanish retailer, Zara. Spread across a massive 51,300 square feet area over five storeys, the interiors of the store looks contemporary but has kept the original bricks to emphasise the historical origins of the building.

 

Flora Fountain

Ismail Building

 

There are numerous beautiful colonial buildings in Mumbai and I am unable to list them all. I think it is best to go to Fort and Colaba on Sundays and explore on foot. There were a few times when security guards of these buildings forbade me from taking photos, but one did invite me into the building for a short tour.

 

fort mumbai

fort

Majestic House (the former Majestic Hotel) was built in 1909 just after the Taj Mahal, by the same architecture firm, W. A. Chambers & Co.

 

Anjuman-I-Islam school

The Indo-Saracenic style Anjuman-i-Islam School was designed by James Willcocks and overseen by Khan Bahadur Muncherjee Cowasjee Murzban. It was completed in 1893 and is located opposite the Victoria Terminus station.

 

fort architecture

fort architecture

Naval Dockyard was established in 1735 by the East India Company and the existing structure with a clock tower dates back to 1770s.

 

mumbai Marshall & Sons Building

The Edwardian Baroque style building with a dome used to house the famous English agricultural machinery manufacturer Marshall and Sons. It was designed by Charles Frederick Stevens, the son of F.W. Stevens in 1905.

 

fort  fort

fort architecture

fort  fort

mumbai architecture

Suba Palace hotel is housed inside a heritage building in Colaba 

 

The Churchill Chambers in Colaba

 

archcitecture

fort

fort architecture

mumbai architecture  mumbai

 

To be continued...

 


This post was posted in Architecture, Travel, Architectural conservation, Mumbai, India and was tagged with Colonial architecture, Architectural conservation, Mumbai

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