Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) was built in 1887 to commemorate the Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee (it was originally named Victoria Terminus in her honour). Designed by British architect Frederick William Stevens, the building blends elements of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival and classic Indian architecture. In 2004, UNESCO named the terminus a World Heritage Site. Today, over 3 million people a day embark at CSMT to travel to points throughout India. In this Expedition, we’ll examine the building’s key architectural elements.
The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus took over 10 years to build. With a cost of over 250,000 pounds sterling, it was the city’s most expensive building when it was erected. The sandstone and limestone building is C-shaped—two wings extend out from a central domed structure. This form is borrowed from Indian palace architecture, while the towers and spires recall European castles and cathedrals.
Several stone domes—an architectural element featured in Indian palaces—rise above the roofline. The largest and highest dome is centrally located above the middle section of the building, just above the clock.
The castle-like towers at each corner of the building are common Victorian Italianate Gothic architectural features. The finials on top of each tower and smaller surrounding spires are also typical elements of this style.
Note the pointed arches above the windows and doorways throughout the exterior. The pointed arch is an architectural element regularly used in both Gothic and traditional Indian palace architecture.
Ten carved stone medallions are featured on the front wall. The bas-relief sculptures depict men either associated with establishing India’s first railway system or with designing and building the terminus itself.
Frederick William Stevens worked closely with Indian craftsmen to assure that the building’s classic Indian features— including the many jharokhas or overhanging enclosed balconies—were constructed authentically. The station is awash with coloured light at night, adding a visual element not seen during daylight hours. The lighting highlights statues perched on top of the central dome. These statues represent the British Empire’s main ideals: Agriculture, Shipping and Commerce, and Engineering and Science.
Entitled Progress, the station’s tallest statue stands on top of the central dome. Carved from marble by Thomas Earp, it depicts a woman holding a torch symbolizing knowledge and a spoke wheel representing forward progress and transport.
Statues of a lion and tiger flank the entrance gate. The lion symbolizes Britain, while the tiger represents India, further emphasizing a merging of the two cultures during the mid- to late-19th century.
At night, the entire structure is illuminated with the three colours India’s national flag. Saffron yellow symbolizes strength and courage, white symbolizes truth and peace, India green represents growth and fertility.
This building is home to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Mumbai’s governing body. Like the train station, it was designed by Frederick William Stevens, and it shares many of the station’s elements.
Inside the terminus, the blending of Victorian Italianate Gothic and traditional Indian palace architecture continues. The floors and walls are covered with Indian stone and Italian marble. Intricately carved stone accents reflecting Indian motifs can be seen in trim work and around the edge of the central dome. The main booking office, known as the Star Chamber, is located on the ground floor in the north wing. The concourse, where passengers board their trains, is vast and open.
The interior’s ribbed vaulted ceiling features pointed Gothic arches and is supported by columns of Italian marble. The dark wood of the ceiling’s ribs next to the star-covered white panels creates a striking visual that emphasizes the height of the room.
Columns of polished red and grey Italian marble support the arches of the vaulted ceiling. Each column features a base and capital of intricately carved Indian stone.
Note the intricately carved column capitals throughout the interior. The designs feature flowers, plants, and animals, such as the bird nestled into the lower corner of this capital.
Stained glass windows featuring colourful Indian motifs are used throughout the building. These windows add beauty to the space while illuminating the interior with diffused sunlight.
When the CSMT was first built, this staircase led to the railway chairman’s offices on the second floor. Even though this area was not intended as a public space, it has the same level of decoration as the public parts of the station. The black and white photographs that line the staircase show important moments in India’s railway history.
Intricately carved stone details, such as these concentric pointed arches, are seen throughout the terminal’s interior. Concentric arches are a common feature found in many Gothic structures.
Delicately carved stone lattices, elements seen in traditional Indian palace architecture, fill the space in these windows typically occupied by glass. Note the pointed arches and small Italian marble columns, which are two style elements used consistently throughout the interior.
The stair railing extends in one fluid line from the bottom of the stairway to the top. The railing features a wood handrail and metal grate with a repeating floral design—another style element common in traditional Indian palace architecture.
Pointed arches of all sizes are found above doors and windows throughout the interior. This glassless window, which incorporates 3 pointed arches, allows light from the larger interior room to illuminate the stairway.
The Star Gallery opened on the ground floor of the station in 2010. Here objects, photographs, documents, and texts relate the history of the development of India’s railway system. Items on display in the gallery include a 3D model of the terminus, train bells, an antique grandfather clock, and model trains.
Line relays are electric devices that detect when a railway is empty and when a train is traveling on a line. The line relay sends a signal to devices along the track, alerting people when a train is approaching.
Historic photographs and documents detailing the history of India’s railway and the development of Mumbai are on display throughout the gallery.
A large image of British architect Frederick William Stevens hangs on the wall. Several replicas of Stevens’ sketches of the building’s design are also on display.
Esther Mahlangu (born in 1935, Middeleburg, South Africa) is part of the Ndebele community in the Gauteng, located north of Pretoria. The Ndebele, unlike many other tribes in South Africa, have managed to preserve their centuries’ old ancestral traditions.
Despite being a patriarchal society, artistic heritage is handed down from mother to daughter; as a young woman reaches puberty she withdraws from male society for three months and is taught the ceremonial patterns of Ndebele beadwork
—in the nineteenth century this tradition was extended to decorative wall paintings, also executed exclusively by the Ndebele women.
Esther Mahlangu is an important proponent of this tradition. She draws freehand, without first measuring or sketching, using luminous and high-contrast vinyl paints that lend extraordinary vigor to her murals. While at a glance purely abstract, her compositions are built upon a highly inventive system of signs and symbols.
Mahlangu is the first Ndebele artist to transpose wall paintings onto canvases and to take the conventions of her artwork into the larger arena.
In 1989 she came to Paris to create murals Magiciens de la Terre exhibition, and by agreeing to undertake further commissioned works for public buildings like the Civic Theater of Johannesburg, for museums, for BMW, for Comme des Garçons, Mahlangu has made Ndebele art celebrated world over.
She has stated: “My mother and grandmother taught me to paint when I was ten years old. I have been busy with it ever since and have always liked it. When I am painting my heart is very wide, it reaches out. It makes me feel very, very happy.”
This painting was made in 1961 as a tribute to the city he knew so well. The white ground of the painting recalls the ubiquitous whitewashed plaster of the Mediterranean and brings to mind thoughts of classical elegance.
While the title suggests that the large canvas has actually become a wall of the ancient city, complete with flaking render, dirt and stains, accumulated over the ages.
Amongst the graffiti and sgraffito you can find subtle allusions to the grand architecture of Rome. A staircase emerges from the scratches…
… and an array of vertical lines form the faintest trace of a classical fluted column topped by a smudged Doric capital.
This evocative painting is one of a series painted by Twombly, that have come to be described as representing 'romantic symbolism' - combining personal memories and shared stories.
Like Twombly, Julie Mehretu is a American painter known for her detailed, large-scale images. These works are largely abstract, but often feature writing, freehand drawing, and features reminiscent of maps and architectural diagrams.
Unlike Twombly, Mehretu often works with prints. Mehretu also links her work more closely to social and economic histories, than classical mythology. This 2005 work, Entropia: Construction, is one such artwork.
Take a close look at the artwork, and see what you can find…
Parts of the image appear to represent landscapes as seen in real life. A curl of pencil strokes suggest a billowing cloud above a horizon of rolling hills.
Lines burst from a cloud: the early morning sun, or a man-made explosion?
The diagrammatic elevation of a modernist glass tower appears to rise out and above the furious image. Halo rings emanate from the structure, encircling the regular grid.
This furious, tumultuous image can't seem to settle on either spontaneity or regularity. The organic and engineered are intertwined in Mehretu's work.
This is far from the ordered symmetry of classical architecture, and unlike Twombly's painting above, it doesn't attempt to replicate a real scene or object, but it has its own, distinct idea of beauty and structure.