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10 lesser known architectural facts about Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, erstwhile Victoria Terminus, has been the centerpiece for numerous Hindi movies to depict the arrival of protagonist in the land of opportunities, “Mumbai”. Even director Danny Boyle couldn’t resist the lure of CST’s grand edifice and filmed parts of “Slumdog Millionaire” on the platforms of this historical station. The station is now home to the Central Railway Headquarters.

Scene from Slumdog Millionaire shot at CST - Mythical India
Slumdog Millionaire scene shot at CST

Construction of the Terminus started in 1878 and was completed a decade later. The monument, constructed to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Vitoria, was built at a cost of Rs. 16 lakh. It is said to be inspired from Victorian-Gothic architecture and was designed by architect F.W Stevens.

portrait-of-queen-victoria-for-her-golden-jubilee-in-1887 - Mythical India

This architectural marvel is still crucial to keep Mumbai up and running.  We may have passed thousand times from here, but have we ever wondered about its architecture or history? Through this write up we want to shed some light on hidden facts about this building which every Indian should know.

1) CST’s connection with GIP railways

The terminus was originally planned as the office of Great Indian Peninsula railways. The GIP had ten directors whose bas-reliefs are present on the front facade of this edifice. There were two Indians amongst these ten directors, Jagannath Shankarseth being one of them. He donated large land blocks for the soul purpose of constructing the rail network.

Faces of directors of GIP at CST - Mythical India

2) Scaling of CST over the years

The terminal started off with 6 platforms when inaugurated in 1887. But, steady increase in passenger traffic over years forced modifications in the structure. In 1929, additional platforms were added to accommodate trains coming from other cities. Similar changes were done in 1990 as well.

Platforms at CST - Mythical India

3) Architectural style

The terminus was designed in Victorian Italianate Gothic style adapted to suit Indian context. The skyline, turrets, arches and eccentric ground plans resemble to traditional architecture of Indian palaces.

Architectural beauty of CST which resembles ancient Indian palace - Mythical India

4) The design and symmetry

The building is “C” shaped and symmetric about the east-west axis. There is a central dome in the middle which acts as a focal point around which the structure has been built. The two sides enshrine the courtyard which opens on the street.


5) High and ornamented ceilings

The interiors are ornamented which gives this structure the look of a cathedral. The ceilings were knowingly kept high to give a sense a space even when there is heavy traffic. Thus, passengers don’t feel claustrophobic even when the hallways are full with people.

High ceilings to prevent claustrophobia - Mythical India
High ceilings to prevent claustrophobia

6) Statue of Progress

The central dome carries a colossal 16.5’ structure of a lady having a flamed torch upwards in her right hand and wheel in left symbolizing “progress”. Thus, the structure atop the dome is also known as Statue of Progress.

Statue of Progress atop the central dome at CST - Mythical India
Statue of Progress atop the central dome

7) The Star Chamber

The booking office at CST, also known as the Star Chamber, has been built with choicest Italian marbles and Indian blue stones. It also has several sculptures and highly ornamented work of Iron which was executed by the students at J. J. school of Arts, Mumbai.

Ornamented dome at Star chamber - Mythical India

8) Symbolic sculptures at CST

The entrance of the structure figures statues of Lion and Tiger representing Britain and India respectively.

The lion sculpture at the entrance of CST - Mythical India

9) The busiest train terminus in Asia

With the passage of time and due to the convergence of local and outside passengers, CST has become the busiest train station in Asia. The station roughly handles 3 million passengers commuting daily. The exponential rise of traffic has made the maintenance and upkeep of the station extremely difficult.

10) Inspiration

CST is the India’s second most photographed building. It has been a treat to the eyes of foreign tourists with elegant architecture which reminds them of some architectural marvels in their own land. CST is said to be motivated by the architecture of St. Pancras station, London.

St. Pancras Station London - Mythical India

Due to its architectural beauty and its significance in Indian history and culture, UNESCO declared CST as a world heritage site in 1997.

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