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Gateway of India, Icon of Mumbai

Gateway of India

Icon of Mumbai

Gateway of India is Mumbai‘s most iconic landmark. It is located at the tip of the Apollo Bunder, the gateway overlooks the Mumbai harbour, bordered by the Arabian Sea in the Colaba district.

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Gateway of India, Icon of Mumbai

The arched gateway was erected to commemorate the landing of King – Emperor George V and Queen – Empress Mary in December 1911. This was the first ever India visit by the British Monarch.

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Gateway of India from boat to Elephanta

The royal visit was part of the third Delhi Durbar where George V was coronated on 12 December 1911 (the original coronation was held on June 22, 1911 in London).

It was also at this durbar, at Coronation Park in Delhi, the King-Emperor announced the move of India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi.

Sadly the arch was not complete during the visit and a carboard structure greeted the Emperor and his wife.

Before the constructed started the area, known as Apollo Bunder, was a marshy land and served as a fishing village. The land was reclaimed for the gateway and a sea wall was constructed to protect the gateway.

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Panoramic view of Gateway of India, Taj Mahal Hotel and the Apollo  Bunder area, Mumbai

The foundation stone of Gateway of India was laid in March 1913 by Sir George Sydenham Clarke, the then governor of Bombay. Finally on gateway was opened to public on 4 December 1924 by the then Viceroy of India Rufus Isaacs.

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Inscription atop Gateway of India, Mumbai

Made of brown basalt stone it towers to a height of 26 m (85 ft) and have turrets on four corners. It follows the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture with a mix of 16th-century Marathi architecture. George Wittet was the chief architect and the construction was executed by Gamon India.

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Lattice work on Gateway of India

The lattice or decorated perforated arched screens were brought all the way from Gwalior. Inscription on both sides of the gateway mentions the story of its erection.

After construction the Gateway of India served as a commemorative gateway to colonial India for high ranked British officials.

It has been called a symbol of “conquest and colonization” commemorating British colonial legacy.

After independence the Gateway of India also marked the ceremonial exit of the last British battalion. On 28 February 1948 the First Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry passed through the gateway signaling the end of British rule.

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Boats on Arabian Sea, next to Gateway of India

Located opposite the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel and facing the Arabian Sea the Gateway of India is has been a target of terrorist attack in 2003 and notorious 26/11 attack of 2008

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In spite of all odds the Gateway of India remains a prime tourist attraction of Mumbai. Today the Gateway of India is surrounded with a beautiful landscaped complex with a huge open space. Entry is free but visitors have to go through a security check.

The Gateway of India is fenced off preventing visitors access through the arch. The complex offers great views of the Arabian Sea studded with boats of various sizes.

On the other side are the magnificent but contrasting old and new buildings of the Taj Mahal Hotel. Flocks of seagulls and pigeons are integral part of the huge Gateway of India complex.

A group of photographers make a living by shooting photos of the tourist with Mumbai’s most iconic structure in the backdrop.

The complex also houses two statues. One of Chtrapati Shivaji and the other of Swami Vivekananda. The statue of Chtrapati Shivaji, on a horse back, came up in 1961 and replaced the statue of George V. The George V statue was sculpted by Ganpatrao K. Mhatre in 1938, a famous Marathi sculptor.

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Shivaji statue, Gateway of India complex

The complex also contains a interesting plaque related to the return of Gandhi from South Africa.

The plaque was inaugurated on 9 January 2015 to mark the centenary of Gandhi’s return from South Africa. The Gateway of India was not there at that time.

During the night the Gateway of India is lit up with LED lighting system with sixteen million shades, an initiative of Philips Lighting India.

The huge open space in front of the Gateway of India serves as a venue of different festivals. The festival include Elephanta Festival of Music and Dance, which was shifted from its original location at Elephanta Caves, in 2012.

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Taj Mahal Hotel from the Gateway of India Complex, Mumbai

The Jewish community of Mumbai celebrates the festival of Hanukkah, with the lighting of candles in a decorative candle stand known as menorah. It also acts as the venue for Nation Navy Day held on 4 December. The large open space also have been used by protesters protesting against recent political issues.

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Gateway of India, Mumbai

The complex houses houses several jetties of which one is exclusively for the Royal Bombay Yacht Club. These jetties provide regular ferry service to places like Rewas, Mandwa, Alibaug and Elephanta Island, housing the UNESCO Heritage Site of Elephanta Caves.

In recent years the Maharashtra state government have plans of starting a light and sound show at the Gateway of India complex and also plans of removing the jetties from the complex. With more developments in the pipeline the Gateway of India remains synonymous with the city of Mumbai, and is a prime tourist attractions.

  1. The Scurvy Dog
    May 11, 2020 at 10:46 AM

    I have fond memories of spending beautiful evenings at this place.

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