A Postcard From Mumbai: Gateway of India

Photo of Sridevi Nambiar
8 June 2017

Perhaps the most recognized and visited among Mumbai’s landmarks, the Gateway of India is known as the Taj Mahal of Mumbai for a reason. With impressive architecture, deep historic significance and stunning location, this iconic monument has continually charmed visitors to the city for almost a century.

The Gateway of India was initially meant to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai in 1911, however its underpinnings hadn’t even been laid by then and so they only saw a cardboard model of the proposed structure. Meant to serve as a signal of the power of colonial Britain, the foundation stone was eventually laid in 1913 by the then Governor of Bombay and its final design approved in 1914. Construction took about a decade, after which it was inaugurated on December 4, 1924 by the Earl of Reading.

Designed by Scottish architect George Wittet, the Gateway of India is built on land that was reclaimed from the sea. Taking inspiration from around the country, the gate’s design is Indo-Saracenic, an architectural style that blends Islamic and Hindu features with Roman influences, such as the Islamic-style arch with Hindu-inspired designs on its side pillars. Built from yellow basalt and reinforced concrete, the structure is said to have cost about ₹2 million (US$31,000). Initial plans were for a promenade to lead from the gateway and into the centre of town. However, a lack of funds left the 25-meter-tall structure (82 feet) as is, with large halls on either side of its central arch.

Overlooking the Arabian Sea from the historic Apollo Bunder area in Colaba, the structure has served as a feature of the Bombay harbour for about a century. During the colonial era, it served as the point of arrival for British viceroys and governors visiting India. It was also one of the first visible Mumbai landmarks for visitors arriving by sea. In 1948, after India had won independence from colonial rule, the last British troops departing the country passed through the Gateway of India in a ceremonious gesture. And so today, even as the iconic structure stands as a reminder of the city’s colonial past, it simultaneously serves as a celebration of its independence.