In the centre of Mumbai, Maharashtra
Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2004



India was ruled and exploited by the British Empire as its largest colony for a long period. Although the struggle for the Indian independence movement was extremely difficult, India eventually achieved a unique peaceful independence in the world through the tactics of enon-violencef and enon-cooperationf under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. It was in 1947.

Almost all important buildings constructed before independence in the largest four cities in India (Madras, Calcutta, Bombay, New Delhi), which developed during the colonial period, are ecolonial architecturef designed by British architects. They can be regarded as a enegative legacyf for Indian people, since they were symbols of Indian rule and exploitation by the West. However, after an elapse of more than half a century, they are now considered worthy of conservation as a historical heritage.

In India, though colonial buildings in Goa, which was a Portuguese colony, were registered to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1986, they are quite old, constructed in the 16th to 18th centuries. However, now in Mumbai, for the first time a colonial building from the age of British rule has been registered to it. The building is a railway station constructed in the latter half of the 19th century and is a facility still functioning now.
Although it was referred to as the Victoria Terminus Station, abbreviated to VT Station, for a long time, it has been changed into the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Station (CST Station), under the movement to replace names from the colonial age into Indian ones, such as Bombay into Mumbai and its Sahar International Airport into Chhatrapati Shivaji International airport.

North wing____Tower
Facade of North Wing and the central tower

It needs scarcely be said that Victoria is the name of the British queen, during whose period of rule of more than half a century (1837-1901) Great Britain spread its colonies all over the world, attaining its egolden agef by the wealth sucked up from its colonies. When the East India Company came to an end in 1858 during the reign of this queen, India was put under Britainfs direct control and Queen Victoria became also the Empress of India in 1877.

After her death, the magnificent Victoria Memorial Hall was constructed in Calcutta (now Kolkata) under the lead of the then Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, to celebrate the British rule of India. For Indian people, it must have been a memorial hall of the history of the humiliation they suffered.
However, as the enormous labor spent on erecting those monumental colonial buildings were also Indianfs own, it is urgently vital to restore and preserve those deteriorating edifices, going beyond any ambivalent feelings.

Of the new nomination of the VT Station, Chhatrapati Shivaji (1627-80) was a Hindu military aristocrat, who founded the Maratha Kingdom against the Islamic Mughal Dynasty. He was enshrined as a national hero who gave emotional support to the anti-British struggle during the independence movement of India in the 19th century.

Interiors of the Hall and Porch of the Shivaj Terminus


The metropolis Mumbai (Bombay) is a commercial city with an excellent port facing the sea and consists of islands and peninsulas swarmed with buildings, resembling New York in those points. Although it now feels like a continuous peninsula through land reclamation over a long period, it originally consisted of seven islands, one of which, Bombay Island, corresponds to Manhattan Island in New York.

The beginning of the colonization of Bombay was when Portugal obtained the islands in 1534 from the kingdom of Gujarat. The land became British territory as a dowry of the sister of the Portuguese king, when marrying with the British king, Charles II, in 1661. Like in other colonial cities, the East India Company constructed here a fortress town, named St George, surrounding it with ramparts with turrets equipped with cannons.

The town prospered from the 19th century onward and became the central city of the Bombay Presidency when Britain divided its territory in India into the three presidencies of Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay. Bombay was the nearest connection with Britain by sea route, and more convenient than Calcutta and Madras (now Chennai), both of which are located in the eastern side of the Indian subcontinent, therefore Bombay became the eGate of Indiaf both nominally and practically.

It was Henry Bartle Edward Frere (1815-84), governor of the Bombay Presidency for five years from 1862, who gave momentum to Bombay to develop as a modern city on an extensive scale. In the first year that he assumed office of the governor, he entirely removed the firm ramparts that had surrounded the fortress town, enlarging the width of roads and constructing a series of public facilities on those sites.
Furthermore, through the erection of those buildings, he intended to unify the architectural style of Bombay in the Gothic Revival Style, which was becoming the mainstream in Great Britain.

PLAN of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai
(From "Splendours of Imperial India" by Andreas Volwahsen, 2004, Prestel)

As ships arrived at the port of Bombay from Europe every day, a railway was needed to transport their goods inland and conversely Indian resources to the port to send off abroad. It was decided to construct the great terminus station of Bombay on land adjacent to the port.
The railway was the symbol of modernization and industrialization in the 19th century. Since the start of operation of a line of 33km between Bombay and Tannah (present day Thane) in 1853, Britain propelled the construction of railroads all over India. Compared with the Japanese railroad, which first operated in 1872 between Shinbashi and Yokohama, India preceded Japan by about 20 years.

The first railway in India was operated by the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company. The large complex building of its head office and Bombay terminus station is the subject of this article, the Victoria Terminus Station (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Station).
Although its external appearance looks like a gothic cathedral rather than a railway station, that is the very architectural ideal that the governor of Bombay, Henry Bartle Frere, held, and the designer of the building was the British architect, Frederic William Stevens (1847-1900).

Frederick William Stevens
iFrom BOMBAY TO MUMBAI, 1997, Marg Publicationj


Stevens was born in Bath in England and moved to India at the age of 19, when he passed the India Office PWD (Public Works Department) examination. After staying for some years in Poona (Pune) he settled down in Bombay and designed many important buildings there, so his name as an architect is inseparably bound up with the city.
In 1870, he took charge of the design of the VT Station, the largest piece of colonial architecture in India until that time and its construction started two years later. Stevens, still in his thirties, for ten years until its completion in 1887, put his heart and soul into the fruition of this superb architectural work, which would become the symbol of Bombay.
In 1888, he took ten months of furlough touring Europe, investigating main terminus stations and architectural styles. The architectural work that he most referred to and was most influenced by was the Parliament House in Berlin (not completed) and St Pancras Station (just completed) in London, both designed by the British architect George Gilbert Scott (1811-789).

The mainstream of design in British architectural society at that time was decisively changing from the Neoclassical Style, taking its model from Greek and Roman architecture, to the height of the movement returning to the Gothic Style of the middle ages, which is also called the eNeo Gothic Style.f
While Calcutta, present day Kolkata, the capital of British colonial India, was filled with buildings in the former style, the latter Gothic style was introduced to Bombay, the burgeoning commercial city, and became the mainstream. Since this style thrived in the age of Queen Victoria, it is also referred to as eVictorian Gothic.f
A leading figure of Gothic Revival in Britain was George Gilbert Scott. Though he did not visit India, he had already completed the Convocation Hall and Library (1868-74) of Bombay University in the perfect Gothic Style.

Detail of the wall decoration of the Shivaji Terminus

Stevens organized the VT Station in a combination of brick and stone, designing elaborately every detail and creating an ambitious monument, which was favorably compared with any edifice in his mother country Britain. When completed, its majestic appearance was highly praised and his name was raised at once as the best representative architect of colonial India.

However, he brought to this building not only pure Gothic design but also various oriental elements. The most conspicuous one is the domed roof on the top of the central tower and staircase shafts instead of a Gothic spire. Although it was his new device, it did not generate incongruity owing to the carefully designed ornamentation.
When looking at its pointed arches, which are the most notable character in the Gothic Style, they are not so sharply pointed here, with larger number being rather close to semicircular. That engenders warmth in this station building, softening the acute components of the Gothic Style.

Some years ago in Japan, there was held the exposition of an architect Chuta Ito (1867-1954) and the phantoms and monsters that occur in his buildings as ornamentation became current topics. The VT Station is also full of sculptures of hobgoblins and animals, the number of which is far more than in Chutafs buildings.
The teachers and students of the Bombay School of Art participated extensively in the production of these ornaments. The most important ones, such as the high statue of the eGoddess of Progressf on the top of the central tower, and the lion (Britain) and tiger (India) franking the gate, are the works of the sculptor Thomas Earp (1827-93).

Peacock Window and Lion Gate of the Shivaji Terminus

When the Japanese see this classical style station, they will remember the Tokyo Central Station completed in 1914 by the architect Kingo Tatsuno (1854-1919). Tatsuno was six years younger than Stevens in the same generation, having mastered the Victorian Gothic under the architect William Burgess in London.

Because there is a gap of 27 years between the two stations, Tokyo station looks more modern. However, probably reflecting the gap of the national strength between the British Empire and Japanese Empire, Tokyo Central Station did not attain the same high degree of perfection and luxury of the Victoria Terminus Station.


Having made his reputation with the VT Station, Frederick William Stevens became independent and started his own architectural design firm. Among constant commission, an especially important one was the Municipal Buildings of Bombay (1893), which would be constructed in front of the VT Station.
The original scheme, having won first prize in a competition, had been in the eIndo-Saracenic Stylef, to be more precisely the eHindu-Saracenic Style,f by Robert Fellows Chisholm (1840-1915). However, Bombay municipality under British rule was not pleased by this scheme that had gone too far into the Indian tradition. After the complications of the affair, it came to be redesigned by Stevens.

Recognizing that the British unilateral imposition of European Culture upon India had invited the Indian Mutiny, the British began the tendency to esteem the cultural traditions of India and came to call colonial architecture adopting elements of Islamic (then called Saracenic) architecture, especially Mughal elements, the odd name of the eIndo-Saracenic Style.f
Chisholm was an excellent gifted architect who, through assimilating not only Islamic architecture but also Hindu temple architecture and even the tradition of wooden architecture in southern India, developed his own style. However, losing a game with Stevens, there is none of his works in Mumbai.

Although it can be said that the Victorian Gothic town of Bombay was completed by the Municipal Buildings designed by Stevens, he could not consistently stick to the Gothic Style in his life, it being impossible to resist the trend of the times. He compromised with the Indo-Saracenic Style by crowning the central part of the building with a large dome, as well as employing smaller domes over the towers. Indeed one cannot see such kind of buildings in London.

Victoria Terminus and Churchgate Terminus Stations

There is one more railway in Bombay. The headquarters building of the Bombay, Baroda and Central India Railway Company was built in front of the Churchgate Terminus Station and its design was also commissioned to Stevens (now the building is incorporated with the station).
In this building, erected at the end of the 19th century, though the lower part retains the Gothic Style, the upper part inclines all the more to the Indo-Saracenic Style. An architect cannot stay away from the current of an era. The tendency of form in an age, which transcends each individualfs inclination, is the estyle.f

The Gothic Revival in Bombay came to an end with the death of Frederick William Stevens in 1900 and the demise of Queen Victoria in the following year.


© Takeo Kamiya
E-mail to: kamiya@t.email.ne.jp