Mumbai is often referred to as the City of Dreams, rightfully so, as it provides a handful of opportunities to those who seek them. It is the city that never sleeps because every day and night, crores of people travel back and forth the city’s crevices to turn their dreams into reality. Formally recognized as the financial capital of India, Mumbai’s hard-working crowds and business empires are considered to be India’s bright future. Success, progress, and development are terms that are attached to Mumbai’s description as a city.
Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus)
While progressive development and growth constitute important facets of Mumbai’s character, the city’s past and iconic history continue to live on through its monuments and historical landmarks. Largely adorned by Gothic Victorian architecture that serves as a stark reminder of its colonial past, the city is also host to ancient caves, churches, mosques, and even Buddhist temples. If you are a history enthusiast, then the following are places you must visit if you are in Bombay!
1. Elephanta Caves
Situated on a small island off the coast of Bombay, Elephanta caves are perhaps one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions. These rock-cut caves pay homage to Lord Shiva. The caves were built in the 6th century AD, but continue to stand strong. The main cave consists of the three faces of Shiva and several pillars with intricate rock-cut carvings on them. There is also a small Garbhagriha in one of the caves that are dedicated to female deities. The architecture and carving of the caves is a distinguishing artistic development in the field of art history. They can be visited by ferry.
2. Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus)
Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus)
Listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Victoria Terminus, now renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, was built by the British imperialists in the late 19th century. A large part of the construction is inspired by traditional Gothic Victorian architecture combined with the Indian style of craftsmanship. Located in Fort, the structure is punctuated with large domes, tall pillars, and arches. The terminus is one of the biggest stations situated in Mumbai and remains in use even today. While certain structural changes have been made to the architecture, the site retains a large part of the old Gothic design. Buildings built in this style and maintained neatly are rarely seen in any part of the world.
3. Prince of Wales Museum
Prince of Wales Museum (Image by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia Commons)
Formally inaugurated in 1922, the Prince of Wales museum was originally used as a hospital during the First World War. Renamed as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in 1998, this structure retains most of its original architecture. The architectural style is referred to as Indi-Saracenic that is quite similar to the Indo-Gothic style described earlier. The structure has lush gardens surrounding it and a dome built in the Mughal style. The museum houses a huge collection of artworks, artefacts, costumes, sculptures, and objects which are sorted under three separate sections and collected from countries such as Tibet, Nepal, and India. Amongst its collection are a number of miniature paintings that are noteworthy of mention. It is also located in the Fort Area, more specifically in Kala Ghoda, and remains functional.
4. Gateway of India
Gateway of India (Image by Jawahar Soneji via Wikimedia Commons)
Located at the tip of Mumbai, overseeing the Arabian sea, stands the Gateway of India. This monument was built to mark King George V and Queen Mary’s official sojourn at Bombay. The monument was designed by George Wittet in 1914 and was open to the public in 1924. In tandem with a lot of British structures built in colonies, this one too was inspired by Victorian Gothic ideals. The structure was representative of the enormity and splendour of the British Raj in one of its biggest colonies. The structure is 83 feet in height, and steps at the rear end of the structure lead one to the banks of the Arabian ocean. Today, the monument attracts numerous local and foreign tourists and is a hotspot for small souvenir shops. At night, the building is lit up in colourful lights.
5. Asiatic Library
Asiatic Library, Mumbai (Image by AKS.9955 via Wikimedia Commons)
While the Asiatic Society was founded in 1804, the building was constructed much later, in 1833. Situated in the Kala Ghoda area, the Asiatic library has a white facade with a big staircase leading up to its entrance. Its architectural style is quite different from the Victorian-Gothic design that most British buildings of this era were built in. Its design was conceived by the Bombay Engineers group and is heavily inspired by neoclassical architecture. The Asiatic Library is a storehouse of ancient books, manuscripts, periodicals, coins, and maps. It stores the original Italian script of Dante’s Divine Comedy and a 16th century manuscript of the Mahabharata in Sanskrit. Amongst the artefacts, one can find parts of Buddha’s alms-bowl and other prized Buddhist possessions as well.
6. Flora Fountain
Flora Fountain (Image by Rangan Datta Wiki via Wikimedia Commons)
The Flora Fountain is located in South Mumbai and is surrounded by the Bombay Stock Exchange, Mumbai High Court, and the University of Mumbai. The fountain was constructed in 1864 out of Portland Stone painted in oil white colour. At the top of the fountain stands the Roman Goddess Flora, after whom the fountain is named. Half a lakh rupees were spent towards the construction of this fountain made in honour of Bombay’s governor Sir Bartle Frere. In 1960, the fountain and its surrounding area were renamed Hutatma Chowk and in 1995, a memorial was built to honour those who laid down their lives during the bomb attacks. At night, the fountain is lit in vibrant colours.
7. Jehangir Art Gallery
Jehangir Art Gallery (Image by Pinakpani via Wikimedia Commons)
Yet another historical masterpiece located in the Kala Ghoda area is the Jehangir Art Gallery. Built in 1952, the art gallery mainly exhibits modern artworks and contemporary art. Founded by prominent Parsi industrialist Sir Cowsaji Jehangir, the gallery has previously showcased collections belonging to famous artists such as M.F. Hussain, K.K. Hebbar, Akbar Padamsee, and S.H. Raza, to name a few. More than a hundred lectures, art sessions, and exhibitions are held in the gallery annually. It provides a good space for young art enthusiasts and painters to display their talent and is one of the foremost institutions in India that promotes visual art and aesthetics.
8. Bandra Fort
Bandra Fort (Image by Nicholas via Wikimedia Commons)
Located in Bandra, the Bandra Fort was referred to as “Castella de Aguada”. Castella de Aguada is a Portuguese term that roughly translates to Water Castle. It was built by the Portuguese in the 1640s to keep a lookout on the Mahim Bay and the Arabian Sea that lies beyond it. The fort is made of granite blocks and is situated about 80 feet above sea level so that the tides do not flood its walls. The Portuguese were sea-farers and dominated water routes for trade. However, the fort was remotely destroyed by the British colonialists to deter the Portuguese and the Marathas from using it to their advantage.
9. Worli Fort
Worli Fort (Image by Pradeep717 via Wikimedia Commons)
The Worli fort was built by the British in 1675 to protect the coast around Mahim Bay and Worli. It is hardly visited by tourists because it is inaccessible and isolated from the main road. The fort’s walls are bordered by huge stone cannons which were placed to fire at any intruders coming from the sea. Today, the fort overlooks the Bandra-Worli sea link and the Arabian Sea. More than a hundred years after its construction, the fort continues to stand strong.
10. Haji Ali Dargah
Haji Ali Dargah
Built in the early 19th century, the Haji Ali Dargah is a shrine dedicated to Muslim saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhara. The structure is built in a typical Mughalesque fashion with big domes and minarets. The entire facade is painted white for the structure to appear solemn and peaceful. Followers of all religions are allowed to visit the dargah and pay their respects to the shrine. This is perhaps one of the most fascinating historical objects found in Mumbai since it is located in the middle of the Arabian sea.
11. Taj Hotel
Taj Hotel (Image by Photofinder.cr2 via Wikimedia Commons)
Indian industrialist and wealthy businessman Jamsetji Tata built the luxurious Taj hotel in 1903. Its design was inspired by Saracenic architecture equipped with elaborate structures such as the 240m high dome, the spacious ballroom and pillars constructed from the steel used to build the Eiffel Tower. Not only is the hotel iconic for being a place where Indian viceroys were treated as equals to British colonialists, it also survived a terrorist attack in 2008. The sea-facing hotel was one of the places where bomb blasts occurred in Mumbai.
Pratha Content Writer