Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus) – Mumbai

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus) – Mumbai

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly known as Victoria Terminus) in Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) was recently added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2004. The Terminus is an excellent example of late 19th century railway architecture in the British Commonwealth, characterized by advanced structural and technical solutions. It exhibits an important exchange of influences from Victorian Gothic Revival architecture and from traditional Indian architecture. Designed by British architect F.W. Stevens, the imposing building became the symbol of Bombay as the “Gothic City” and the major commercial port city in India under British rule.

Work started on the terminal in 1878 and took ten years to complete. The High Victorian Gothic design was based on late medieval Italian models. A tan structure with a frontage of over 1500 feet, the terminal’s stone dome, turrets, pointed arches, and ground plan recall traditional Indian palace architecture. Beautiful ornamentation and gargoyles representing monkeys, wolves, and other native creatures embellish the façade and pretty panels and friezes adorn the walls, arches, and windows, complementing the exterior. Its dome is ornamented with carved pineapples and flowers and surmounted a large figure representing “Progress”, while each of the three main gables is adorned with a distinctive sculpture – representing Engineering, Commerce, and Agriculture. In front of the central façade is a life size statue of Queen Victoria.

British architects worked with Indian craftsmen on the Terminus, and the resulting edifice – forming a new style unique to Bombay – is a beautiful fusion of the best of both cultures.

We were lucky enough to be in Mumbai during the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, and were able to join the festival’s proposed Heritage Walk – a guided tour of the Victoria Terminus (known simply as VT to the locals). Unfortunately, when we arrived for the walk, we were informed that the guide was not available. However, parts of the Terminus that are normally off-limits to visitors were opened up to us, so we were able to explore the premises with more leisure and take our time to notice the beautiful details.

Inside of the train station, a sign read: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” For anyone who has ever visited India, that sign takes on a special significance and a special humor!