When the taxi driver drops us off at the road adjacent to Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus railway station, we are separated from the sidewalk by a fence which is impossible to jump. Walking alongside it, and dodging the cars and motorbikes coming from behind, we have the opportunity to look up at the remarkable building on our left. It is a unique blend of architectural styles, designed by a British architect but carried out in cooperation with Indian workmen, it is a fusion of Victorian Gothic design with plenty of Indian and oriental characteristics. It is only when we walk around the end of the fence, that we can finally admire the building in its full glory. At once, we see why it has been granted World Heritage status: It overwhelms, it inspires, it fascinates, it intrigues. Time for a closer look.
We walk the southern side of the building, frequently stopping to see the decorations of the ground floor and the higher ones. Pointed arches carried by slender columns that are often seen in Indian palaces. Blocks of stones of different colours over arches that remind me of buildings I have seen in southern Spain. Stone seals in the wall with a locomotive and an elephant. Gargoyles sticking out of turrets at the corner of the monumental building that could be found in gothic cathedrals in Europe. Nice touch: the animals sculpted here are local animals. For such a large building, the entrance is surprisingly quiet, and we walk into the railway station. After all the splendour of the exterior, the inside is a disappointment. It is the ticket office that impresses again, with splendid stained glass windows through which the afternoon sun shines on the 19th century building.
Once out on the west side again, but this time on the right side of the fence, we walk slowly towards the south. This time, we are in a better position to appreciate this remarkable feat of architecture, and all the details that make it unique. More sculpted animals, both at ground level and high up on the building facade. Peacocks sculpted on window screens. Stained glass windows. Arches in various shapes. When we come to the central section of the building, we see scaffolding partly hiding the view of the central cupola. On top of it, a statue of Queen Victoria. In fact, the terminus was called Victoria Station until 1996, when it was renamed in honour of emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji, who founded the Maratha empire. Even now, people still call it by their abbreviation, VT or CST. The sunlight is casting an always warmer light on this masterpiece when we again walk alongside its southern part. I promise myself that next time, I will come here to catch a train from this station.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (India). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Read more about this site.