Each time one passes the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), he/she tends to look up at the magnificent building trying to figure out what is so amazing about this structure, which he/she has not seen before. There is so much detailing on the facade that it is a task to find the best one out of it.
Some of us have stood in front of the structure awestruck at the glare crypt while zooming past in a cab or captivated by a griffin holding a standard atop one the building's wings. Formerly known as the Victoria Terminus, CST was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. It is indeed one of the most beautiful train stations in the world.
PC: Anoop Ravi
The terminus is the headquarters of the Central Railways. For most of us, the images of CST are restricted to its exterior. The terminus conducts a heritage tour inside the structure for one to discover the true beauty, which we escape, even if passes through it every day.
When the plans for the terminus was being drawn sometime around the late 19th century, a hot topic of discussion at that time was the architectural style of buildings across the British Empire. Although the Industrial Revolution was booming at a point of time, the designs and styles were not very impressive.
At the early stage, the Industrial Revolution was looked upon as a misfortune to the landscape of England. The plan was to build grand and timeless buildings. The designers chose to reproduce the grand cathedrals of England and thus opted the Gothic style of architecture for the Victoria Terminus.
The structure is seen as the prime example of Gothic Revival architecture. The terminus was built in a time period of 10 years starting from 1878. It was designed by the well-known British architect F.W. Stevens, and the structure blends some of the trademark Gothic features with Indian designs.
The gargoyles at CST come to life during the monsoon when they spit out water from their towering poles. The structure is covered with a collection of stone animals jutting out from its walls. The Gargoyles play a major part of the Christian imagery and symbolism in the Gothic cathedrals.
The interior of a cathedral is considered as a sacred space, which is completely removed from the evils of the outside world. These bizarre stone creatures at the entrance of a church were a warning to purify and prepare oneself to enter the holy ground.
When East Met West
Many of us make a beeline at the booking counter in the terminus before rushing to catch the train. We often forget that we are in one of the most beautiful settings in the world to buy a train ticket. For a few moments, we stand under a wooden-closed ceiling which is covered with large number of gold stars painted on a blue background.
PC: Shabbir Siraj
At the right, above the arched entrance, are several crests which also include the Great Indian Peninsula Railway logo, surrounded by marble columns and beautifully carved stone arches. Above the ticket counters are the gorgeous Minton tiled floors of the Chamber's gallery.
A closer look at the terminus, one would notice that there are plenty of Indian themes gone into the detailing - from peacocks which spread their tails over the windows to the flora and fauna of the country which grows downwards, and not to miss the gigantic tiger who keeps guard at the main gate of the building.
PC: Aleksandr Zykov
Stevens had brought in Indian elements in the design not only as an acknowledgement to the local culture, but to also fill the religious imagery of the Gothic architecture which was generally seen in churches, as the terminus was meant to be a secular structure.
The Octagonal Dome
The octagonal-ribbed dome is the crown of the terminus. The stone dome is said to be one of its kind to be found at any station in the world. The dome is also the first octagonal-ribbed dome, which was adapted to a Gothic style building and is the first on any public building in the city. It is not a very common feature to find domes on a Gothic structure.
The dome is placed on a high drum, which has two levels of stained glass panels that depict the coat of arms of the GIPR amongst many other patterns. Atop the dome is the Statue of Progress, the 16.6-feet-tall statue of a woman holding a flaming torch in her right hand and a spoked wheel in her left that was hit by lightning in the year 1969 and was restored at the J.J. School of Art before putting it back in its pedestal.