Think of an UNESCO World Heritage site, which was the target of one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in India, which had four name changes since its inception and is one of the busiest buildings on planet. The place has also featured in a song that won an Academy Award for Best Original Song and a Grammy for Best Song. That’s not all, this iconic building has also been acknowledged as the second most photographed buildings in the country after TajMahal. Answer is simple, it’s Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.
Built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. Designed by British architect F.W. Stevens—who also designed many other prominent landmarks of the city—CSMT is spread over 28,500 sq.metre. It took almost 10 years to complete this iconic structure, considered as a symbol of Mumbai. When it was inaugurated, it used to be known as the ‘Queen of BoriBunder’. The new railway station was built where once Bori Bunder railway station stood. The first passenger train in India travelled from Bori Bunder to Thane covering a distance of 34 km (21 mile) on 16th April 1853. The time taken by the train to complete this journey was fifty-seven minutes.
New exquisite terminus building replaced the old Bori Bunder station and was opened in 20th June 1887. It was the most expensive building in Bombay, which then cost about 260,000 Sterling Pounds (approx. 16.5 lakh Indian Rupees). Architect F.W. Stevens (1848-1900) received Rs. 1,614,000 (US$25,000) as the payment for his services. The old station was renamed as Victoria Terminus to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. In March 1996 station’s name was changed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in honour of Emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji, founder of the Maratha Empire. In 2017, the station was again renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT).
The main structure of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus—located in the southern part of historic Mumbai city—is built with sandstone and limestone. It was inspired by St. Pancras Station in London. The interiors of the station are lined with premium quality Italian marble. The doors and windows are made of Burma teak wood with some steel windows mounted in the drum of the octagonal ribbed masonry dome with the coats of arms and corresponding paintings in stained glass panels. The structure is further decorated with a number of gargoyles, allegorical grotesques, and figures of relief busts representing the different castes and communities of India. The building has carvings made in local yellow Malad stones blended with Italian marble and polished granite in some places. The entire structural integrity of the majestic building has carefully been retained. Its façade, outer view and usage remain original. The premise of the building is a strictly protected area and is maintained by Indian Railways. The property is protected by a 90.21 hectare buffer zone. Recently
The main facade of CST features four Oriel windows (characterized by the protruding form: it projects from the main wall of a building but does not reach the ground). These kinds of windows are mostly seen in Islamic architecture, as these windows could provide an area in which women could peer out and see the activities on the street outside their homes while remaining invisible.
The majestic station building has a C-shaped plan which is symmetrical on an east-west axis. All the sides of the building are given equal value in the design. It is crowned by a high central dome.
The dome is an octagonal ribbed structure. The side wings enclose the courtyard, which opens on to the street. The entrance gates carry two columns crowned with a lion (representing Great Britain) and a tiger (representing India). The ground floor of the North Wing, known as the Star Chamber, is still used as the booking office, is embellished with Italian marble and polished Indian blue stone. The stone arches are covered with carved foliage and grotesques. Internally, the ceiling of the booking hall was originally painted blue, gold and strong red on a ground of rich blue with gold stars. A statue of Queen Victoria beneath the central dome has been removed.
Many of the sculptures on the exterior of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus were made by Indian students of JJ School of Arts in Mumbai, under the guidance of John Lockwood Kipling, author Rudyard Kipling’s father.
Stained glass windows right below the dome, in the central lobby, Gothic stained glass windows. On a sunny day, sunlight comes in though the windows, showering the main lobby in colours.
CSMT is one of the busiest railway stations in India, serving as a terminal for both long-distance trains and commuter trains. With a total platform strength of 18 (7 suburban and 11 separate out-station tracks). Every day, about 3 million commuters use the station to travel through the suburbs of the city and outside Mumbai.
The CSMT’s heritage building retains a large percentage of its original structural integrity. The authenticity of the structure expresses the rich Italian gothic style through the eye catching 3D-stone carvings of local species of animals, flora and fauna, symbols, arched tympana, portrait roundels of human faces, and stone mesh works on the decorated rose windows. The premise of the building is a strictly protected area and the property is protected by a 90.21 hectare buffer zone.
The station houses a Heritage Gallery, which displays a varied collection of old paraphernalia associated with the station in particular and the Indian railways in general. Old cutlery, lamps used by the then guards to light up tracks at nights, old number plates of trains, mirrors, bells etc. are displayed here. Old photos of the building and other memoirs related to the suburban railway structure are also part of the gallery. The gallery includes replicas of the original drawings of F.W. Stevens, the chief architect, and photographs and documents from the archives about the growth of the railways and the city. Some models of old engines and coaches are on display too.
The architect of Victoria Terminus, Frederick William Stevens, also designed Royal Alfred Sailor’s Home (now Maharashtra Police Headquarters), the Municipal Corporation Building, Mumbai GPO Building and Oriental building at Flora Fountain. Standard Chartered Bank Building in Mumbai was one of his last works. He also designed the palatial Government House at Nainital, the Standard Life Offices in Calcutta, and some other important buildings.
A Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Stevens was only 52 when he died of malaria at his home in the Malabar Hills in 1900. He was buried in Mumbai’s Sewri Christian Cemetery. His grave carries the inscription, ‘‘In loving memory of Frederick William Stevens, born May 11th 1847, died March 3rd 1900.’’
Mr Rajendra B. Aklekar’s book ‘Halt Station India : The Dramatic Tale of the Nation’s First Rail Lines’ provides a engrossing description of Mumbai and its rail lines, including CSMT. Mr Aklekar is a veteran journalist and railways and Mumbai are his two passions. He has trained himself in museology to document Bombay’s vanishing relics, helped the railways set up heritage galleries, and worked on several prestigious projects to conserve the city’s ancient structures.
SPECIAL ABOUT CSMT
• A majestic structure of 40 ft high lime and sandstone.
• An octagonal main dome and two smaller domes; central dome has eight ribs converging to the apex.
• Gables representing engineering and commerce on the west, gables representing agriculture on the south.
• Minars with crosses, sculptures of dogs and other carvings done in Porbunder stone.
• Sculpture of Lady of Progress with a flaming torch in one hand and a spooked wheel in other hand.
• The station has been the location of filming the song ‘Jai Ho’ in Slumdog Millionaire’.
• CSMT was recognized as a ‘World Heritage Site’ of UNESCO on 2nd July 2004.
*The name of the tract of land is derived from two words ‘Bori’ and ‘Bandar’. ‘Bori’ means a sack and ‘Bandar’ means port or haven (in Marathi); So, the literal meaning of ‘BoriBunder’ is a port where sacks are stored.
From Victoria Terminus, Bombay to Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai.