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 Home > Discover Mumbai > Sight Seeing > Mumbai > Landmarks


Kala Ghoda - Where tradition and modernity meet

The Kala Ghoda area is as historic as it can get and owes its name to the old equestrian statue of King Edward VII. This stately statue once existed at the centre of a large node on the old Esplanade Road flanked by stately buildings breathing of art and culture. Today, though the statue has be removed, the grandiose structures of Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library, Prince of Wales Museum (now named after Chhatrapathi Shivaji), Army & Navy Building, Cowasji Jehangir Hall are living remnants of a glorious past and a historic future.

The art and architectural heritage of the area has beckoned many a cultural institution and art gallery to join hands and form the Kala Ghoda Association. For the past 4 years the association has taken on itself the task of bringing to life the area through conservation and hosting art festivals.

A walk down Kala Ghoda art district uncovers history, architectural wonders and interesting stories.

Prince of Wales Museum
George Wittet laid the foundation stone of the Prince of Wales Museum in 1905 and completed the building a good nine years later. Interestingly, during the World War I it doubled for a military hospital and the museum formally opened only in 1922. Designed according to Indo-Sarasenic style, the building was finalised with a dome, which Wittet confessed was an inspiration from the Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur. The museum was built in blue basalt obtained from local quarries and boasts of special features like cornice bands, cultural embellishments, carved balconies and brackets, cupolas and of course the magnificent dome. Set in a crescent shaped compound, the museum is fronted by beautifully designed gardens and the statue of King George V in naval uniform in the centre.

Sir Cowasji Jehangir Hall and The Institute of ScienceSir Cowasji Jehangir
This European styled building built in local buff basalt was designed by architect George Wittet, in a style which he himself referred to as 'Renaissance Revival.' Again this building was opened only in 1920 because of the World War I. The Hall, with a seating capacity of 1200 was originally the venue for art shows, lectures and musical performances for many years, today unfortunately it is used as venue for many sales. Delhi architect Romi Khosla entirely redesigned the interiors to accommodate the National Gallery of Modern Art. With a frontage of 400 yards, this piece of architecture has more modern overtones when compared to some of the other buildings along the stretch like the Elphinstone College and the Bombay University buildings. Some of the special features of this structure are: uniform facade, street edge maintained by form with central hall responding to the street junction.

Elphinstone CollegeElphinstone College
The Elphinstone College owes its style to Victorian times and was designed by James Trubshaw under the supervision of Khan Bahadur Muncherjee Murzban and completed by John Adams at a total cost of Rs 7.5 lakhs. Originally intended to house the Government Central Press, a part of it was given to the Elphinstone College in 1888. The building was named after Mountstuart Elphinstone, a former governor of Mumbai who championed for the cause of education. The cast-iron balusters and staircase, pyramidal turrets, Minton tile flooring, stone detailing on the entire facade, arched fenestration and ground floor pedestrian arcade make it one of the architectural marvels of the city.

David Sassoon LibraryDavid Sassoon Library
Scott, McClelland & Company in 1870 completed the David Sassoon Mechanics Institute and Library. As history goes, Sir David Sassoon born in 1792 was a Sephardic Jew from Baghdad who came to Mumbai in 1832 to seek his fortune. He began his career as a banker and trader in carpets and soon owned a sizable number of textile mills. The library was a contribution of the Sassoon family to the city of Mumbai among others like the Sassoon docks and Kala Ghoda statue. Old teak furniture, reclining chairs designed for comfort, open verandah, photography gallery, the delicate spires and the clock on the front gable contribute to its uniqueness.

Army & Navy Building
The Army & Navy building, once a popular departmental store selling naval memorabilia, was designed by the company Gostling, Chambers & Fritchley in ornate neo-classical style. This building today houses many companies of the Tata Group. Eventhough the building is more functional in present time, it is impossible to ignore its richly detailed facade and stately character.

Esplanade Mansion
One of the oldest buildings on the Kala Ghoda stretch, Esplanade Mansion, former Watson's Hotel is a marked testimony of the first and possibly the only cast-iron edifice in the city of Mumbai. John Watson, a wealthy city draper, imported all the the building material along with the unique cast-iron frame from England. History was created here in 1896 when the foundations of the Indian film industry were laid with the screening of the Lumiere Brothers cinematograph.

The building included 130 rooms, a grand central atrium around which were placed dining rooms and shops, and a colonnaded ground storey with massive cast-iron columns. The ground floor arced combines with those of the David Sassoon Library, the Army & Navy Building and the Elphinston College to form a grand urban design statement.

Keneseth Eliyahoo SynagogueKeneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue
The oldest Baghdadi Jewish synagogue in the city donated by the Sassoon family was designed by the Mumbai architects Gostling & Morris and completed in 1884. The synagogue is today used for prayer by both the Baghdadi and Bene Israeli Jewish communities. Largely used as a prayer hall and congregation space, the administrative offices of the synagogue are located on the ground storey.

Bombay University Complex
Bombay University ComplexThe Bombay University complex magestic in stance consists of the Library, the Convocation Hall, the printing press, and the administrative offices, all laid out in beautifully designed gardens. The convocation hall and the library with the Rajabhai Clock Tower were designed by the eminent British architect Sir Gilbert Scott, while the administrative offices were added later in 1952.

The construction of the main buildings were entrusted to Lt Col J A Fuller, Architectural Engineer to the government, and to Rao Bahadur Mukund Ramchandra, Assistant Engineer. These buildings were officially inaugurated on February 27, 1880, by Sir Richard Temple, then Governor and Chancellor of the University of Bombay.

High Court BuildingHigh Court Building
The High Court building, one of the largest neo-Gothic buildings in the city at a cost of Rs 16.5 lakhs, second only to the Victoria Terminus. This enormous edifice is 562 feet in length, 187 feet in breadth and 90 feet in height. The Law Courts were erected from designs by Lt Col J A Fuller, sanctioned by the government. The architectural inspiration for the building is attributed to a Bavarian castle, which is said to have so impressed Col Fuller on his visit to Germany that he attempted to create a similar vision in India. This brooding mass of grey is relieved by lighter bands of Porbunder limestone and red sandstone, used in column capitals and stone balustrades.

By Anupama Vinayak

click here to view the 360 panorama of kalagoda

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