When I planned to write the first post for this series, “Mumbai Local“, I must confess, that I had a very different topic in mind. I also took my camera and reached that place – all set to explore and capture it. But due to circumstances beyond my control, there was a change of plans and I found myself at Apollo Bundar, in front of the iconic “Gateway of India”. That’s when I thought that what better way to start this series than with the original gateway which was the first sight of India and the city of Bombay (Mumbai now) for many important people.
Foundation for The Gateway of India was laid in 1911 by Britishers to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai. However they didn’t see the actual structure but only the model as the construction was completed and opened only in 1925. It is designed by George Wittet in the Indo-Saracenic style, built with yellow basalt and concrete and for numerous years served as the point of landing / entry for the prominent governors and viceroys in India. It also has some interesting mixtures of architecture – the dome has been built-in the Islamic style and the decorations are in the Hindu styles. I also loved the carvings in its arches.
We went there late one evening and were lucky it was not raining just then, after a very watery week. This was supremely helpful as there were less people (else its always unimaginably crowded with tourists) and the rain water helped us take some unique pictures :). Another beautiful element was the lighting on the buildings on a beautiful monsoon evening.
When I was a kid, I remember being allowed to entry inside the gateway, but its been since closed after the terrorist attacks and due to multiple security threats. So all our pictures have been taken from outside. Also, the sea is very rough during monsoons due to which entry to the other side of the gateway and near its ramparts is not allowed. Thus we couldn’t take interesting pictures of the city skyline. However I have kept it in my to do list for the post monsoon visit. Also you can take a ferry ride from the jetty here and take a picture of this gateway and the city as it would have first appeared to people arriving in the olden times, but since we were late we had missed the last ferry and this too went into my do list.
Just across The Gateway of India, is another iconic building of Mumbai, i.e. The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the flagship property of the Taj Group and has an interesting story. It is said that Jamshedji Tata (a pioneer Indian industrialist who founded the TATA group) built this hotel after he was refused entry to Mumbai’s grandest hotel then, the Watson’s on racial grounds (since he was not of white skin). It was then that he decided to build a hotel which would give stiff competition to the Watson’s and allow everyone (no matter what the color of the skin). Ironically, while the Taj Mahal is still one of the prominent hotels in Mumbai, the Watson’s no longer exists. This hotel has numerous elements that were a first in India then – the main dome is made from the kind of steel that was used in the construction of Eiffel Tower, it had a steam elevator, imported American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers. Today it is still one of Mumbai’s grandest hotels and has hosted many known and unknown personalities from around the globe.
Across the hotel and The Gateway of India is a large statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, an important Maratha warrior and king who largely expanded the Maratha kingdom in the 17th century. This statue was unveiled on January 26, 1961 (our republic day) as a symbol of Maratha pride.
If you are planning a trip to Mumbai, you should definitely start your visit of old Mumbai from this building.
Additional things to do here are –
- Take an instant printed photograph with these buildings as a background from one of the numerous photographers walking around.
- Take a ferry ride and see The Gateway and the Mumbai skyline from the sea.
- Take a ferry for a day trip to the Elephanta Caves.
- Take a horse buggy ride and see this charming part of town the old-fashioned way.
- Enjoy some roadside food i.e. the roasted corn, some chat, etc.
If you feel I have missed something, then please do comment below or tweet at traveler_budget. 🙂