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Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai's iconic railway station - a history of cities in 50 buildings, day 20

The old Victoria Terminus was the first truly public building in Bombay.

So when it became a target of the 2008 terrorist attacks, what was violated was much more than just a railway station

Commuters pour out of the ‘Bombay Gothic’ Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Photograph: Richard I'Anson/Lonely Planet/Getty Images

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai's iconic railway station - a history of cities in 50 buildings, day 20

The old Victoria Terminus was the first truly public building in Bombay.

During the British rule, the station was eventually redesigned and rebuilt by F.W. Stevens, who named it as Victoria Terminus. The station got its name from the then reigning royal, Queen Victoria. The construction of the station took 10 years to complete and was opened to the Queen on the date of her Golden Jubilee in 1887. At the time, the building was the most expensive structure in Mumbai costing 260,000 Sterling Pounds. The station was built to handle main rail traffic and in 1929, a new station and an administrative headquarters were built by the Central Railway. In 1996, the Minister of Railways, Suresh Kalmadi, changed the name of the station to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST).

So when it became a target of the 2008 terrorist attacks, what was violated was much more than just a railway station

Almost anyone who has lived in Mumbai has paused in the common area at the head of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus suburban train platforms - not least to relieve the pervading mugginess by getting in the way of the industrial strength blowers that pass for fans.

The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is one of the most treasured landmarks in the city. If you decide to visit Mumbai, then make sure that the CST is on your must-see list. Well-connected to all major destinations of India, the CST is not only a historical, but is also one of the biggest commercial symbols of Mumbai.

From here one sees trains pull in, and commuters step off even before the train has stopped. A residual momentum propels them out into the city, as if the characteristic buzz of Mumbai is generated entirely in its trains.

The entrance of the Chhatrapati Shivaji terminus is flanked by figures of a lion and a tiger representing the two countries-great Britain and India. The main structure is made of sandstone and limestone, and the interiors of the station are lined with high-quality Italian marble. Apart from the 18 railway lines, the CST also houses the main headquarters, the Star Chamber, grotesques and the North Wing.


It would be reason enough to pick Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) as the building most emblematic of Mumbai because more than three million of the city’s residents rush through its portals every day.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) formerly known as Victoria Terminus is a historic railway station and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India which serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways. The station has been designed by Frederick William Stevens according to the concept of Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture and meant to be a similar revival of Indian Goth (classical era) architecture. The station was built in 1887 in the Bori Bunder area of Mumbai to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. The new railway station has been built where the Bori Bunder railway station once stood. It is one of the busiest railway stations in India, serving as a terminal for both long-distance trains and commuter trains. The station's name was changed from Victoria Terminus (with code BB) to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (woth code CSTM) in March 1996 in honour of Emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji, founder of the Maratha Empire. In 2017, the station was again renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (with code CSMT).

But this late-19th-century railway terminus happens also to be one of the finest examples of colonial architecture in the country, representing an east-meets-west style that developed here.

This is also where the first passenger train service in India started; the railway would prove indispensable to Mumbai’s functioning and growth.

The station has been renamed 4 times. It was originally known as Bori Bunder from 1853-1888. It was rebuilt as Victoria Terminus to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria. In 1996, the name of the station was again changed to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in honour of Emperor Chhatrapati Shivaji, founder of the Maratha Empire. In 2017, the station was yet again renamed as the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus.

The terminus was also perhaps the first truly public building in what was then Bombay. Now, its structure is iconic to the point of cliche: when a Hindi film needs to establish a scene as happening in Mumbai, it’s CST that fills the screen, a stately edifice amid a swirl of traffic and people.

A language was put together ... for monumental public buildings, and it gave the city centre its identity

Victoria Terminus in Bombay, circa 1900. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

And so, when CST became a target of the 2008 terrorist attacks, what was violated was much more than a railway station. Fifty-eight people died here; more than 100 were injured. Few Mumbaikars had seen the insides of the five-star hotels that were also attacked, but everyone had walked on the platforms that were seen bloodied in news reports. To strike CST was to get at the heart of Mumbai.

The prominence of CST has much to do with its location - it connects the administrative and business centre of the city with its residential suburbs. The urban juncture it occupies has its roots in the 1860s as the city of Bombay began changing its character from a military post of the British to a mercantile capital.

The governor of Bombay, Sir Bartle Frere, had the fort demolished and created room for a group of public buildings. These were built from 1860 to around 1900, and they came to define the city of Bombay: the Bombay Municipal Corporation building, the Sir JJ School of Art, Bombay University, the High Court, the Western Railway offices, the General Post Office, and of course Victoria Terminus - also known as VT.

The favoured aesthetic was the gothic revival that was then fashionable in England, but architects and builders in Bombay had to work with Indian craftsmen, material, motifs and climate. The result was a style that has been called, among other things, “Bombay Gothic”. As Prasad Shetty, an urbanist who teaches at Mumbai’s School of Environment and Architecture, explains: “A language was put together during this period for monumental public buildings, and it gave the city centre its identity. The pinnacle of this gothic revival in Bombay was VT.”

Mumbai and the railways were made for each other. The city is constrained by the sea to be narrow, so distances are large and discouraging of other means of commute. This also mean fewer train lines are required to connect the city. Although the trains are packed to bursting, they remain the most reliably predictable form of commute, essential for a city that runs on commerce. Mumbai is perhaps the only Indian city where many who can afford a car and a driver still choose to travel by public transport.

The first passenger rail service in India started from here in 1853, going north to Thane through what are today densely populated suburbs. Soon, tracks were laid across the country and Victoria Terminus housed the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (now Central Railway). The original platforms are now used for suburban trains and an extension to the station, constructed in 1929, for intercity trains. Mumbai has grown as a city of migrants and for many, the city’s first taste must have been this railway station.

Shetty points out that VT was the first colonial structure in Bombay that counted as a truly public space in its scale and its “ability to hold people inside and outside with generosity”. It’s true that there were already markets, clubs, colleges and religious shrines, but none was open to all. With the construction of VT, here was a building shared between Europeans and Indians of all religions, castes and classes.

More than a century later, it was this public space that came under attack.

On 26 November 2008, two terrorists entered the passenger hall of the CST, opened fire and threw grenades at people. The terrorists were armed with AK-47 rifles. One of the terrorists, Ajmal Kasab, was later caught alive by the police and identified by eyewitnesses. The others did not survive. The attacks began around 21:30 when the two men entered the passenger hall and opened fire, The attackers killed 58 people and injured 104 others, their assault ending at about 22:45 after they exited the station via the North FOB towards the west to Cama hospital back entrance. This despite the fact that Central Railway RPF Hq being located near Platform 13 overlooking the central passenger hall. The CCTV captured the attack but was not completely made public to hide Railway police inaction.The CCTV evidence was used to identify and indict Kasab, who was a terrorist. In 2010, Kasab was sentenced to death for his role in the attack, and in 2012 he was hanged.

Yet the trains were back in service the following morning, and the space began to be reclaimed by normalcy - and occasionally, something more ...

There can’t be many songs about valour and sacrifice that also qualify as joyful, but then Hindi cinema contains improbable riches.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) is popular railway station and is a spitting image of Victorian-Gothic style of architecture in India. Located in the heart of Mumbai, the CST is also a 'World Heritage Site' declared by UNESCO in 2004. Built in 1888, the station is the grand reminder of the British Raj pre-independence and is still one of the most historical landmarks within the Central Business District (CBD) of Mumbai. A bustling terminus, the CST is well-connected by rail to all parts of the country. It stands as the final result of great industrial revolution technology, merged with Victorian/Gothic revival styles based on late-Italian model architecture. The structure represents the heart of the mercantile facet of the city and also symbolizes the British Commonwealth. Apart from being Victorian-Gothic in architecture, parts of this grand edifice also contain remnants of Mughal styled architecture. An outstanding example of the late 19th century designs, the CST is associated with the city of Mumbai since time immemorial. The city flourished, businesses boomed and a thriving film industry grew, with the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus being the core witness to it all. Scroll down to know more about this treasured structure.

On an evening, exactly three years and a day after the attacks, the station’s public address system stopped announcing trains and burst into one such song. A flash mob of 200 Mumbai residents danced for around four minutes in the area leading to the platforms, then rushed off into the city - as if they had just got off a train, and had many things to do.

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    Sources:
  • 1. www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/apr/21/chhatrapati-shivaji-terminus-cst-mumbai-railway-station
  • 9.1%
  • 2. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chhatrapati_Shivaji_Terminus_railway_station
  • 2.5%
  • 3. www.mumbai.org.uk/victoria-terminal.html
  • 4.2%
    Pictures
  • image 1: i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2015/4/17/1429271884427/8201d103-bbe8-4c81-93a5-82880a5a5247-2060x1236.jpeg?w=300&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&s=faa2a9b2ee36d486a2e1a1c586ec43b1
  • image 2: www.mumbai.org.uk/pics/chhatrapati-shivaji-terminus-mumbai.jpg
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