Victorian Mumbai – A Timeless Journey

For Mumbaikars, life is not easy. For a large number of its inhabitants, the workday starts early at 4 and ends at 10 in the night. Chasing after time often restricts them appreciating its colonial aesthetic for which the city is widely known in the west.

Not getting time would have also an excuse for me if I happened to be one among its 20 million inhabitants. But thanks, for my being in Ahmedabad and having relatives in South Mumbai’s Chowpati area, I have the privilege of visiting Victorian Mumbai at my leisure during my trips to the city.

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As per Wiki, the architecture of Mumbai blends Gothic, Victorian, Art Deco, Indo-Sarsanic or otherwise the meeting of east and west. Wikipedia further says: Mumbai, after Miami, has the second largest number of Art Deco buildings in the world.

Among many of its Gothic buildings, the Rajabai Tower (the Fort campus of the University of Mumbai) is a classic specimen of late 19th century. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, an English architect and was modeled after Big Ben. At the time of its completion it was the tallest building in British India. It was built in fusion of Venetian and Gothic styles and was financed by Premchand Roychand, a Gujarati Jain merchant. The shape of the tower is square from the ground level to the top of the first level, where situates a gallery. The tower’s façade has a number of statues representing the class, castes and communities of Western India, all for whom education was open to.

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The best of Indo-Sarsanic architecture is found in the buildings of The Gateway of India and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.

The Gateway of India is located in Apollo Bunder overlooking the Arabian Sea. The structure was planned to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Marry in 1911. However, it was completed in 1924. The building reflects the combination of Hindu and Muslim architecture, especially the 15th century architecture of Gujarat, and elements of Roman triumphal arches. It was designed by Scottish architect George Wittet.

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The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalya, formerly the Prince of Wells Museum is another jewel of Indo-Sarsanic architecture. It was built in the early 20th century to commemorate the visit of the then Prince of Wales. The imposing dome of the building reminds us the culmination of Deccani Indo-Islamic architecture of Bijapur and Hyderabad.

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Another important Gothic building of Mumbai is David Sassoon Library. The building was the conceived by Albert Sassoon, son of the famous Baghdadi Jewish philanthropist David Sassoon. It was designed by J. Campbell and G.E. Gosling. It is located across Kala Ghoda, Mumbai’s art hub. Above the entrance portico is a white stone bust of David Sassoon.

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Bombay High Court is yet another landmark building of Victorian Mumbai. The present building was inaugurated in 1878 and was designed by British architect James H. Fuller.

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In one of my recent visits to Mumbai, I spent half a day in Victorian Mumbai, but covered only a fraction of its incredible heritage. Truly it requires a week time or 4 full weekends for a fuller appreciation of Mumbai’s timeless Victorian Heritage.

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