Bold and beautiful
By Vidya Sarveswaran
26th July 2012 01:01 PM
Do you smell an inebriating mix of Bollywood and Bakarwadi? Are there shining steel dabbas being carried by men in white? Is there a smattering of slums and swish bars? Does this place feel like some sort of a strange mélange of things? Welcome to Mumbai, the financial capital of India. Does a unique landmark suddenly catch your attention and stop you from what you were doing? What you may not see here is platform number 9 ¾! But this place has been the location for songs like Jai Ho from the Oscar winning film Slum Dog Millionaire and the Shah Rukh Khan blockbuster Ra.One. Full points for guessing right! Yes! We are talking about the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in the city of Mumbai, formerly known as the Victoria Terminus Station. Designed by British architect F W Stevens, this station, which is the lifeline of Mumbai, is also a world famous UNESCO heritage centre.
Built over a period of 10 years commencing from 1878, the station is designed according to late medieval Italian architecture. People still believe that the station was originally designed for Flinders Street Station in London and the design was just transferred to the Victoria Terminus in Mumbai. Dedicated to Queen Victoria and her golden jubilee year in particular, the terminal is a potpourri of Mughal, Hindu and Gothic styles of construction. Its unique features include its remarkable stone domes, turrets and arches, all of which give it the semblance of a conventional Indian palace. At the top of the central dome stands a colossal 17-foot high figure of a lady pointing a flaming torch upwards in her right hand, with a spoked wheel low in the left hand, symbolising ‘progress’. Built in a place called Bori Bunder which when roughly translated means ‘where sacks are stored’ — ‘bori’ means sack and ‘bunder’ is haven or port in Persian — this railway station has the distinction of witnessing several eventful historical moments. During the days of the Raj, the Great Indian Peninsula Railway operated the historic first passenger train in India from this terminus to Thane on April 16, 1853. The distance that the train covered was 34 km, and this led to the formal inception of the largest network in the world — the Indian Railways. The station gradually evolved into an iconic symbol which Mumbaikars are very proud of.
It is interesting to note that Mumbai’s suburban rail systems is witness to a total of 2.2 billion passengers every year who pass through the unique portals of this station. Incidentally the world’s population is about six billion! Today the station has been rechristened the Chhatrapathi Shivaji Terminus, after the renowned Maratha king Shivaji. Often described as the pulse of the city, the station is however fondly referred to by its old name ‘VT’ by the Mumbaikars. The station was attacked by terrorists in the year 2008. However, the very next day it regained its normalcy because of the incredible tenacity of the Mumbaikars. If vada pav is your comfort food and if you want to experience both beauty and old world charm in a city that is filled with adrenalin rushes, then VT is the place to head to!
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