A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus is the finest example of the unique Bombay Gothic style of building, which combined High Victorian Gothic design with elements from traditional Indian architecture in the late 19th century A.D.

Bombay, Victoria Terminus Station - G.I.P.R (late 1860s) by Samuel BourneLos Angeles County Museum of Art

Symbol of Power and Progress 

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, formerly Victoria Terminus, in Mumbai, was designed by British architect Frederick William Stevens and constructed between 1878 and 1888 A.D. to house the principal terminus and headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, today’s Central Railway. From the mid-19th century onward, the railway was instrumental in connecting Bombay, now Mumbai, to the vast expanse of mainland India, thereby ensuring its spectacular growth into a powerful commercial centre and gateway - the 'Urbs Prima in Indus' or First City of India. In its scale and design, the terminus building was intended to commemorate, and communicate, this legacy.

Bombay V.T. (now Mumbai CST)Heritage Directorate, Indian Railways

Stevens' masterpiece was inspired by the best of contemporary Victorian Gothic design, including London's St. Pancras Railway Station, designed by Sir. George Gilbert Scott and completed in 1874 A.D.

The front facadeChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

A Meeting of East and West

But, look closer. In the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Stevens combined Victorian and European - especially Italian - Gothic features with elements from traditional Indian architecture, adapting his design to suit the local climate and aesthetic. With deep verandahs for ventilation, a blend of polychrome masonry and elaborate sculptural ornamentation executed by local builders and craftsmen using familiar materials, Steven's masterpiece embodied, and celebrated, the unique Bombay Gothic style of architecture, which defined the city's urban form and declared its rise in the late 19th century A.D.

Today, the iconic structure is widely considered symbolic of the city of Mumbai itself. Take a virtual tour to zoom in to the intricate and extensive sculptural detail on its front facade!

The front facadeChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

Designed to Impress

The building's front facade faces west and rises 330 ft in height, a riotous celebration of polychrome masonry and sculptural ornamentation. Notice the variety of stones employed in its construction: the main structure is built in yellow Malad stone, softer white Porbundar stone is used for the decorative detailing while grey basalt and red sandstone are used as highlights. 

Different arch on each floorChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

A multitude of arch designs and styles blend together seamlessly in the building's front facade.

The front facadeChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

The structure is crowned by a towering masonry dome meant to dominate the skyline. At its top stands an allegorical figure of Progress, 14 ft tall, holding aloft a flaming torch in her right hand.

The Lady of ProgressChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

In Stevens' design, a masonry dome was used in a secular Gothic Revival building for the first time. According to architectural historian Christopher London, the towering octagonal ribbed dome served no purpose other than the dramatic effect it had on the urban landscape and on the building's occupants and users. Notice the length of the projecting gargoyles, in the form of wild dogs, that skirt the dome.

Two cylindrical structure opposite each otherChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

Gargoyles, grotesque animal forms that serve as drainage spouts are a distinguishing feature of Gothic architecture. On the terminus, gargoyle forms include dogs, crocodiles, rams and lizards.

The front facadeChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

Beneath the clock face, which measures over 10 ft in diameter, an empty niche once held a figure of Queen Victoria, after whom the building was named in 1887 on the day of her Jubilee celebrations.

On the front facade, pride of place is given to medallion portraits of ten founders and directors of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway Company, many of whom were also the city's founding fathers.

Also embedded into the front facade are the logo and emblems of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway or the GIPR.

Portrait of the Director, Sir Jaggannath Shankar ShetjiChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

The medallion portrait of J. Shunkersett, one of the first Indian directors of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway, marks his contribution to the railway project. In the right corner, notice the line of carved faces in profile, sixteen in total, designed to represent the various castes and communities of 19th century Bombay, each displayed with their own distinct headgear.

CarvingsChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

The building's extensive surface ornamentation features indigenous flora, fruit and animals carved onto friezes, tympanums, capitals and spandrels. The carvings were executed by local craftsmen, working with models prepared by students of the J.J. School of Art.

The peacock windowChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

As an allegorical representation of India, an intricate peacock with its feathers fanned open decorates a tympanum, one of the facade's star features.

Carvings of birds and animalsChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

Everywhere you look, both on the building's exterior and interior surfaces, monkeys, mongoose, mice, squirrels lizards, rabbits, owls, kingfishers are caught in mid-action!

The main, west-facing entrance gate is flanked by two feline creatures, a Lion and Tiger - representing England and India respectively.

The main doorChhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus

The entrance gate

Beyond the entrance gate, a circular driveway leads to an elegant porte-cochere or covered porch. From the porch, the building's central hall, situated directly under the dome, is accessed through a lavish entrance way with carved wooden doors, intricate wrought iron grill-work, and deep, sculpted stone arches supported on polychrome marble and granite columns.

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