Gothic originated in the 12th century in Europe, then why is India’s Mumbai called the Gothic City? The answer of course lies in the city’s buildings from the time of British colonization. When the British colonized India, the Gothic Revival had started in England. The foreboding, tall, and imposing buildings of medieval times were making a comeback in Europe. The British thought: why not bring it to India?
Officially Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai, Crawford Market was one of the first colonial buildings of the British Raj. The market’s construction finished in 1869 and it took its name from Arthur Crawford. Crawford was the first municipal commissioner of Bombay in service of the British Crown. The market is on the opposite side of Mumbai Police headquarters.
Crawford Market’s architect was William Emerson who was also the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Emerson wanted to blend the Gothic style with indigenous traces. He specifically made an effort to use stones and bricks from Mumbai. Since its construction, the market has been one of the busiest places in Mumbai. Moreover, Crawford Market was the first building in India to be lit up by electricity.
Municipal Corporation Building
When the British got to Bombay, they needed an official establishment to govern the city. Therefore, they set up the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai in 1865. The corporation served as the governing body of Bombay and resided in the Municipal Corporation Building. Today, both the building and the corporation are still in use.
Initially, two different architects put forward two different designs for the building. While one architect wanted the Gothic style the other wanted a more Indo-Saracenic building. In the end, both styles mixed together and made the building what it is today. Its tower, domes, stained glasses, color palette, carvings, and gargoyles make the building a true gem of the Gothic City.
Bombay High Court
Bombay High Court is one of the most iconic buildings of the British Raj and India at the same time. Its construction lasted for 7 years from 1871 to 1878 and it is one of three courts in India to which Queen Victoria gave official power. Moreover, Mahatma Gandhi wanted to study law here and his letter of application is in exhibition in the building as well.
While still in official use, the tourism directorate of the region holds tours inside the court. Both Indians and UNESCO consider the building a heritage site and make efforts to preserve it. The court building’s exterior and interior are adorned with sculptures of high quality and craftsmanship. These sculptures range from animals to mythological figures.
Rajabai Clock Tower
Another icon of the Gothic City is the Rajabai Clock Tower. The tower is on the campus of the University of Mumbai and is 85 meters tall. It has what many people describe as the most beautiful stained glass in the city. As it can be understood from its appearance, the main inspiration behind the design of the tower was none other than Big Ben.
Aside from its construction lasting for nearly 10 years, it was also one of the most expensive endeavors in British India’s history. A big portion of the construction money was given by Premchand Roychand, one of the wealthiest businessmen in India. Before giving the money, he had one condition. Roychand wanted the Clock Tower to be named after his blind mother and that is how the tower got its name.