It is a building which has fascinated me, ever since I can remember. Waiting on the platform, I used to look around, trying to take in as much of the architecture as I possibly could, or try to decipher the faces on the pillars. It imbued me with such a pride for our heritage, that, when a cleanliness drive took place, I actually picked fights with people I saw littering. When it was declared a World Heritage Site, I couldn’t be happier, especially when I noticed how the restoration work showed off the building and its beauty even better. Yes, I am talking of the Victoria Terminus, or, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) as it is now called.
Every time I entered the hallowed premises, I wished I could explore the interiors. It was a wait lasting all of two decades, but my wish finally came true when the Heritage Gallery was thrown open to the public. Today, on the occasion of World Heritage Day, let me take you on a visual tour of my favourite World Heritage Site.
The Victoria Terminus was built in 1887 as the headquarters of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway. No matter where you turn, you can notice the intertwined letters of the GIPR and its logo, combining the symbols of India, Britain and the Railways.
The light streaming in through the stained glass panel, falling on the potted plants, makes for a pretty picture…
The stained glass panels by themselves can take up an entire post. There are so many, of which I have but clicked a few.
On the inside, every surface gleams, the polished teak wood doors shine, and the sunlight casts colourful reflections all over the place. The central staircase is especially a beautiful sight, with its towering stained glass panels leading up to the high dome.
Yet, what really caught, and held my attention were the tiny details… like the animals and birds hidden amidst the stone foliage. These carvings are so exquisite, and lifelike, that we spent much of time trying to spot more of them, much to the amusement of our guide!
If these animals carved on the pillars seem to be hidden within the details, there are some which stand out… like this beautiful peacock….
The griffins which stand as sentinels…
And of course, the gargoyles!
However, it is not just animals and birds which find a pride of place here. On the outer walls are engraved busts of the board of directors… each one preserved for eternity, in stone.
And between them, in this niche which is now empty, once stood the Queen Victoria, after whom the building was named. The statue seems to have disappeared, and no one really knows where it is, today.
Inside the Heritage Gallery itself, there is much to see. From old photographs of railway carriages, stations and scenes, to copies of old tickets, models of trains and carriages, to the story of the development of railways in India, there is lots to learn and admire. We enjoyed the old route maps and train timetables, with the old names of stations…
And I have not even begun to speak about the architecture. There is such a wealth of detail here, that it is easy to see why this is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This post is by no means a complete guide to the CST World Heritage Site, or the Heritage Gallery. It is simply meant to give you a glimpse of one of the most beautiful structures in the world, in the hope that you will explore it too, and, like me, be proud of our glorious heritage!