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 Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is the westernmost end point of the Central Railways of India. It is also the southern end point of the central and harbour lines of Mumbai’s metropolitan rail transport system. A large section of the building is given over to administrative functions of the Central Railways, including commercial operations such as railway reservations.
A magnificent building, completed in 1888, the Victoria Terminus was named after the then Queen Empress (Queen Victoria) on Jubilee Day, 1887. Construction started in 1878 based on a design by F. W. Stevens, and took 10 years to complete. The cost of construction was Rs. 16.14 lakhs (Rs. 1.614 million). The railway station was opened to the public on New Year’s Day, 1882. It is now the starting point of the Central Railways. Built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style, based on Italian Gothic models, the complicated ground plan of the building is counterpointed by marvellous filigrees, carvings and arches. The south-western part of the building is topped by a dome holding up a statue of Progress. It is an early example of a uniquely Bombay style of architecture which emerged when British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms.
When the building was first used it held not only railway functionaries such as the accounts, chief engineer and traffic manager but also other municipal offices such as the superintendent of the police. Curiously, railway tickets were also printed in the same building. The number of people working here rose for almost a hundred years. In the 1980’s the Railways began to lighten the load on the structure. It presently holds over 700 employees of the Central Railway.
The Victoria Terminus was renamed Chhatrapati Sivaji Terminus on March 4, 1996. In September 1999 pedestrian access to the suburban railway terminus was moved underground. The subway was built at the incredible cost of Rs. 15 crores (Rs. 150 million). This building has long been on the urban heritage list and a protected monument. It was put on the UNESCO World Heritage List on July 2, 2004. It is the first functional administrative building to be put on this list.
Unfortunately, some of the lovely carvings are at such an awkward height that you can only get a close view from the top deck of a passing double-decker bus. Citizens and tourists may get a better view of the details when the Central Railways starts guided tours of the structure.