A City Icon – Victoria Terminus Bombay

A newcomer to Bombay-Mumbai, standing in the fort area across the road from the formidable architectural pile of Victoria Terminus, would wonder what function the building serves. The stained glass windows and gargoyles suggest a cathedral, the huge dome perhaps brings to mind a key educational institution or museum, whereas the massive dimensions of the building, the imposing cast-iron gates and the array of arches, open loggias and carvings are reminiscent of a Maharajas grand palace. Few, however, would imagine the structure to be an administrative office and fewer still, a functioning railway terminus, which is precisely what it is.

On 2 July 2004, Victoria Terminus, formerly named after Queen-Empress Victoria, and renamed in 1996 after the Maratha hero, Chhatrapati Shivaji, was listed as a World Heritage site by the World Heritage Committee of UNESCO as an outstanding example of Victoria Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture.

The mammoth structure was designed by Frederick William Stevens in the neo-Gothic style and completed in 1887. Through the decades since its completion, the terminus continues to exert a significant presence in the citys landscape. While the building has been internalized in the urban memory of its inhabitants as an icon of the legacy of British rule in India, it is more importantly seen as the gateway to the city. It is an amenity and a public space where the lives of the citizens intersect with the lines of mobility that make their existence in the city possible. The terminus is a celebration of the railways, perhaps the most important piece of infrastructure or support system in the city, the very lifeline of the city.

This book is not only a record of the processes and decisions that led to the creation of the building and a description of its architecture, but is also a documentation of the world that inhabits it.