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      CST Building

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CST Building

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The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, formerly known as Victoria Terminus in Mumbai, is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. The building, designed by the British architect F.W. Stevens, became the symbol of Bombay as the ‘Gothic City’ and the major international mercantile port of India. The terminal was built over ten years starting in 1878 according to a High Victorian Gothic design based o­n late medieval Italian models. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches, and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. It is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms forging a new style unique to Bombay

The CST station was the first railway terminus building in the sub-continent and the first in Asia too. It is o­ne of the finest Victorian Gothic buildings in Mumbai both in grandeur and in detailing as compared to other Gothic Revival buildings in the city and the country. It is significant both in its exteriors and interiors and it still has its authenticity preserved to a large extent. The CST is a commercial palace that epitomizes the glory and romance of the railways. It was a commercial venture that was extremely profitable both for the West and for India. 

The building represents for the way it combines the unique Indian tradition of craftsmanship, which is evident in the abundant carving and other stylistic embellishments, with British architectural skills. It was seen at the time as a statement of Indo–British endeavor. Rudyard Kipling’s father, Lockwood Kipling, who was responsible for training many of the Indian sculptors involved. And the building is famous especially for its sculptural embellishments. The statue of Progress o­n top of the dome is a tribute to the vision of those who built it. It expresses the confidence of the local community that commissioned and contributed to this building.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (or the erstwhile Victoria Terminus) building which was constructed in the year 1888 was originally meant to house the administrative headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR). The construction of this building was started in the year 1878 and was completed in the year 1887

Architecturally it is Italian Gothic in style. This building, which has received worldwide appreciation because of its series of well-proportioned and ornamental arches, its spires and domes and, above all, its fabulous richness of figurative and animal sculpture, has the dignity of a cathedral. The ornamentation of the west facing main facade has numerous bas-reliefs and series of well-proportioned and delicately ornamented runs of arches and friezes. 

The crowning point of the whole building is the central dome, carrying at its apex, a colossal 16' 6" high figure of a lady pointing a flaming torch upwards in her right hand a spoked wheel low in the left hand symbolizing "Progress". This dome is the first octagonal ribbed masonry dome that was adapted to an Italian Gothic Revival style building and is the first o­n any public building in Mumbai. It is the o­nly stone dome of its kind o­n any station in the world. There are a large number of other embellishments in statuary, which the architect has introduced in decorating the large frontage. 

These include gargoyles, allegorical grotesques carrying standards and battle-axes etc, figures of Indian flora and fauna and relief busts representing the different castes and communities of India. o­n the facade, are also in prominent position, bas-reliefs of the ten directors of the old Great Indian Peninsula Railway (GIPR) company. The entrance gates to CST carry two columns, which are crowned, o­ne with a lion (representing the United Kingdom) and the other with a tiger (representing India) and there are tympana portraying peacocks. All of these are sculpted in Porbunder limestone.

Historical Developments
“…While Bombay town had been chosen as the site for the railway company’s headquarters and terminus, the important question of where in Bombay these were to be constructed had not been settled at the time when Governor Bartle Frere took office. By November 1863, the GIP Railway had laid some 550 miles of railway. Though major advances had been made in railway construction, the details regarding the terminus had not been worked out. Frere remarked casually, 'we are still debating about the Great terminal stations of both lines in Bombay Island'. Meanwhile, with land prices rising, the Bombay Government feared that the enhanced value of land would make the railway terminus more costly than before. The Government of India had sanctioned Rs 10 lakhs for land required for the construction of the terminus but by 1863 the amount estimated for the land was Rs 30 lakhs. For the GIP Railway terminus and passenger station a site at Mody Bay was proposed by Mr. Ayrton, secretary of the Railway Company. This was acceptable to both the London Board of Directors and the Bombay Government. The local Board of Directors, however, were opposed to it and proposed instead a temporary goods and passenger station at Bori Bunder, which could be enlarged with additions from the Esplanade and from land reclaimed from the Harbour side. The land required for the GIP Railway terminus was about eighty acres. In 1861 the Bombay Government had entered into an agreement with the Elphinstone Land and Press Company to reclaim two-thirds of Mody Bay, of which 100 acres were to be given to government for the construction of the terminus. Work on the GIP Railway terminus was eventually begun in May  1878 and completed in 1888. The offices cost Rs 16,35,562 and the station Rs 10,40,248. It was opened to traffic on I January 1882” 
Dr C London notes,
“...Stevens then began work on the most famous of all his projects in Bombay. There had been some intervening small undertakings, but in June 1876 the first drawings for the Great Indian Peninsula Railway Terminus and Offices
were begun. In 1877 the government officially "lent" Stevens to the Railway Company, and in 1878 he left on a ten-month furlough for Europe. While there, he studied all the new and important termini, which might aid him in the design of his Bombay undertaking. He returned to India with a complete set of plans, and in late 1878 the ten-year span of construction began. VT was a costly building to construct at around £260,000. It has a pivotal function and place within Bombay's life. It stands between the docks and harbour behind and the concentrated city centre before its principal westfacing facade. In many ways the station serves as a link between East and West, as travelers moving from the Suez canal eastwards to India, landed at Bombay and boarded a train here for points inland. It was a true gateway into the subcontinent. The station's appearance and plan is most closely linked to G. G. Scott's unbuilt proposal for the Houses of Parliament in Berlin, published in The Architect in 1872. Stevens placed attractively laid-out gardens at the front and back of the building, and provided one of the most opulent and durable Victorian interiors extant in Bombay. Tiles from Maw & Co. combine with richly coloured Italian marbles, white Sienna and Porbunder sandstones, teakwood etc. The J.J. School of Art professors and students designed and decorated the interior, under the supervision of Stevens and John Griffiths, its Superintendent”. 

 As Davies notes
“…It is the finest Victorian Gothic building in India. Inspired by Scott's St. Pancras Station, it was erected between 1878 and 1887. It is a highly original work albeit one rooted firmly in the tradition of Ruskin, Scott and Burgess. The
building epitomizes the spirit of the age in which it was built, and it is a paean of praise to the railway, which more than any other factor fostered the rise of Bombay. It is the supreme example of tropical Gothic architecture, with only a subtle hint of Saracenic motifs; a riotous extravaganza of polychromatic stone, decorated tile, marble and stained glass. Unlike St Pancras, VT is symmetrical and is surmounted by a colossal masonry dome, ostensibly 'the first applied to a Gothic building on scientific principles', and this claim is probably true. Beneath the dome the staircase rises in majestic sweeps to each floor. The booking hall is spanned longitudinally and transversely by pointed arches with wooden groin-vaulted ceilings decorated with gold stars on an azure ground and reminiscent of Scott’s Interiors at St Pancras. The dado is clad in Maw's glazed tiles of rich foliated designs. The windows are filled with stained glass or with ornamental wrought iron grille-work by Scott's to reduce the glare of the sun”.

Source : Central Railway / Indian Railways Portal CMS Team Last Reviewed : 19-12-2017  

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