Written on the top panel is ‘‘Erected to commemorate the landing India of their Imperial Majesties King George V and Queen Mary on the Second of December MCMXI.’’ But the fact is when their majesties arrived at the Wellington Pier (Apollo Bunder); there was no Gateway of India. Its underpinnings hadn’t even been laid by then. The royal visitors only saw a cardboard model of the proposed structure. The King and Queen were in India to be crowned Emperor and Empress of India. They Landed here, stayed at the Taj and then went on to Delhi to be crowned Emperor and Empress of India.
The foundation stone of the Gateway was eventually laid in 1913 by the then Governor of Bombay and its final design approved in 1914. Construction took about a decade. The Viceroy of India, Rufus Isaacs, Earl of Reading, formally inaugurated the Gateway on December 4, 1924.
Located on the waterfront in Apollo Bunder area in South Mumbai, the Gateway is a basalt arch 26 metres (85 ft) high. Initially the place was a crude jetty used by fisher folks and was later renovated and used as a landing place for British dignitaries.
The Gateway of India stands on the land reclaimed from the sea. The structure is 85 ft. high. Its central dome is 15 metres (49 ft) in diameter. The whole harbour front was realigned in order to come in line with a planned esplanade. The cost of the construction was Rs. 21 lakhs Indian Rupees, borne mainly by the Government of India. For lack of funds, the approach road was never built. As a result the Gateway stands at an angle to the road leading up to it. The design of the Gateway is Indo-Saracenic, an architectural style that blends Islamic and Hindu features with Roman influences, such as the Islamic-style arch with Hindu-inspired designs on its side pillars.
The Gateway is built from yellow basalt and reinforced concrete. The stone was locally obtained, and the perforated screens were brought from Gwalior.
The iconic structure overlooks the Arabian Sea from its vintage point. In its early days, it served as the point of arrival for British viceroys and governors. On February 28, 1948 the last British regiment of British army (Somerset Light Infantry) departing the country passed through the Gateway of India in a ceremonious gesture, signifying the end of British rule.
Scottish architect George Wittet (1878-1926) designed the Gateway of India. He also designed the Prince of Wales Museum, the Institute of Science and the National Gallery of Modern Art in same Colaba area of Mumbai. Wittet was the first President of the Indian Institute of Architects, unanimously elected on 12 May 1917. He died at the age of 48, due to acute dysentery. He was buried at the Sewri Christian Cemetery.
The Gateway has become a symbol of the city and attracts hordes of local as well as International tourists. A trip to Mumbai is incomplete without a visit to the famed monument. From the area, one can witness the wonderful sight of sunset. The historical Taj Mahal Hotel is located just opposite the Gateway. If you wish to feel the Mumbai’s throbbing pulse and witness a taste of India, Gateway is the ideal place.
There are five jetties attached to the Gateway. The first one is for exclusive use of Atomic Research Center, the second and the third are used for commercial ferry operations from where one can take a ferry to the Elephanta Caves and the Essel World, the fourth jetty is closed, and the fifth is used by Royal Bombay Yatch club.
The Gateway of India was the place where Pakistani terrorists landed on 26 November 2011. It was a horrendous attack and resulted in the death of more than 200 people. Now, the monument has become a site for peaceful protests. Candle light marches are a common sight these days.
A beautiful statue of Chatrapati Shivaj was erected opposite the Gateway and was unveiled on 26 January 1961 on the occasion of Republic Day. Another statue in the vicinity of the Gateway is Swami Vivekananda.
• Cost of Construction was 2.1 million Rupees in 1913 (2.5 million dollars).
• The central dome is 48 feet in diameter and 83 feet in height.
• Architect : George Wittet (1878-1926)
• Architectural style is Indo-Saracenic with Muslim influences
• Built with yellow Kharodi basalt and reinforced concrete.
• The last of the British ships did leave India from the Gateway of India.
• The monument is maintained by Archeological Survey of India and it’s open to public 24 hours a day, all days of the week.