I remember the first time in Bombay almost 8 years back, when I walked from the Victoria Terminus Station to Fountain. I was a law student then and had come for an internship at a law firm in the historic Fort area. The footsteps and voices of thousands of people walking out of the station and towards their workplaces with a sense of determination and purpose, only interrupted by the sound of chugging engines and announcements on the intercom was an intensely overwhelming feeling and was my first real introduction to the megalopolis of Bombay.
Later I shifted to the city when Bombay became Mumbai. Over the years I have passed by and through this imposing monument (that was later renamed as Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus)…. sometimes jostling through a crowd in a rush to catch a train and sometimes leisurely. appreciating its colonial glitz and Neo Gothc glamour. Witness to the terror attacks by Ajmal Kasab and mutilation of its daily commuters by his unsparing bullets, bomb blasts, the infamous floods of 2005, CST station is clearly the leader of the pack amongst the ‘Living monuments’ of India that still continue to serve their original purpose and cater to the masses even today. Just like this sparrow that looks down on Mumbai passing by from a ledge on top of CST, this fascinating monument has watched Mumbai evolve from the pre independence era to a city that calls the shots globally today.
A heritage walk organised by the Bombay Local History Society yesterday through the restricted administrative office area, the upper floors, the terrace and the recently opened museum, finally gave me a chance to explore in detail the grandeur of this iconic monument. Sharing some thought provoking photos and information I heard scholars talking about that I personally found very interesting.
This is an old train timetable showing the original spellings of the stations as we know them today. ‘Dadur’ as mentioned in the timetable is ‘Dadar’ today; ‘Coorla’ is ‘Kurla’, ‘Chinchpoogly’ is ‘Chinchpokli’, ‘Bhandoop’ is ‘Bhandup’. ‘Budlapoor’ is ‘Budlapur’, ‘Narel’ I think is ‘Nerul’ and ‘Kurjut’ is ‘Karjat’ today. Also note the region ‘Konkan’ as we know it now was spelt as ‘Concan’. I remember as a child I was taught that for many english spellings of Indian words which had ‘oo’, ‘u’ was to be substituted as it led to the same pronunciation. Whoever said English is a funny language was absolutely right.
An interesting photo of the coach for those travelling cattle class and for those born with a silver spoon in their mouth…..
The Great Indian Peninsula Railway ((G.I.P) was the predecessor of the Central Railway and was incorporated in 1849 by an Act of the British Parliament. The first railway line in India from Bombay to Kalyan and then to Thana was constructed by the GIP. This was barely a few years after the opening of the first train route between Stockholm and Darlington (England) in 1825. GIP was advertised in London as the best way to travel through India.
I overheard some historians discussing about the earlier rail route as seen in the map below. They pointed out that there was a Colaba station before the Churchgate station which amongst others was taken off the route later. The reason for this was that the Colaba station apparently was used for loading cotton. With a change in the trade route, this station lost its importance and was taken off. Also, ‘Mumbai Central’ station as we know it now was simply called ‘Central Station’, as it was perhaps the central most area of the city between South Mumbai and Mahim which was downtown Bombay.
This interesting photo of 1910 though not directly connected with CST station, caught my eye. A historian told us that the date is wrongly mentioned on this photo and this is an earlier photograph showing the famous Taj Hotel under construction and a structure where the Gateway of India now stands.
There are two distinct parts of the CST station. One is the area open to everyone where the trains come and go. The other is the administrative section housing the office buildings and the upper terraces and balconies that gives a bird’s eye view both of the station inside and the city outside. This area is restricted and special permission is required to visit these areas. So, sharing some of the visual treats of this area with you.
A frog’s eye view of the upper dome of CST taken from the ground floor.
View of the ticket reservation counter below with lines of commuters either buying the paper tickets or walking off to get their tickets punched or passes scanned.
This is a photo taken of the top of CST from the terrace. Note the sheer brilliance in the arches and geometrical designs.
For whatever it is worth, this is a view of the city from the top of CST. I know many would give anything for this ‘Been there, done that’ moment.
This is a photo of a wooden church shaped box on the upper balcony of CST that overlooks the train platforms below.
An intricately crafted corned of a wall …
The upper most dome with stained glass paintings …
The winding staircase that weaves its way down all the floors :-
The banquet hall where our group was invited for tea and samosas.
Faces of several prominent people who were a part of the Railway’s historic development were carved out on the outer wall of CST.
This is a relief of Lord Elphinstone after whom one of the train stations is named.
Trains had a huge role to play in the freedom struggle by forcing the masses to travel together irrespective of caste, creed, professions etc. A panel on the wall of CST shows what I think are people of different faiths and professions.
A close up shot of the ‘Lady of Progress’ holding a wheel and torch.
It remains a mystery till date as to what happened to the statue of Queen Victoria that was the central figure after which the station even gets its name (note blank space in the photo below). Photos taken earlier show that there used to be a statue for sure. After independence it was taken off and kept aside. A historian told me that the statue was apparently sold off at an auction by the Sothebys in London. But there
is no hard evidence of the same.
I am glad to have finally documented by romance with Mumbai’s most incredible and mysterious monument. This will continue to remind me that in the midst of chaotic traffic, terror attacks, stock market ups and downs, characterless construction by heartless developers that threatens the fabric of this city…. dig a bit deeper and there lies good old Bombay that is still unaffected by the ravages of time.