An ensemble of buildings in Mumbai has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site owing to its Victorian Gothic and Art Deco style and architecture.
Mumbai, the capital of the western state of Maharashtra and the financial capital of the country, was a global trading centre even during the British Raj, when the city’s architectural transformation was planned and initiated. It was part of this development, the famed Victorian Gothic structures were constructed in late 19th century and the Art Deco buildings in the 20th century in south Mumbai-the popular and posh area close to the Arabian Sea.
The ensemble of buildings, together with Marine Drive, has now been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The recognition makes it the third location in Mumbai to get the UNESCO title after the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, which was included in 1987 and Elephanta Caves (2004). In Maharashtra, it is the fifth UNESCO recognised heritage, the highest amongst Indian states.
Collectively known as the ‘Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai’, the buildings are India’s 37th heritage site.
The ensemble of Victorian structures include public buildings such as the High Court, Mumbai University, Old Secretariat, National Gallery of Modern Art, Elphinstone College, David Sassoon Library, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Western Railways headquarters and the Maharashtra Police headquarters. Meanwhile, Art Deco buildings in the list consist of the first row of Backbay Reclamation scheme (Cricket Club of India and Ram Mahal), the cinema halls of Eros and Regal, and the first row of buildings just opposite Marine Drive.
The Victorian buildings in south Mumbai are amongst the finest and most cohesive group of 19th century Victorian Gothic architecture in the world, and the Art Deco, the second largest and most homogenous in the world.
What adds even more value to these buildings is the fact that they are still functional and accessible by public.
The recognition comes 14 years after the first Nomination Dossier was presented to UNESCO by Abha Narain Lambah, the man behind the project. It title was announced at the 42nd session of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s World Heritage Committee, in Bahrain.
The Maharashtra government had first submitted its formal nomination proposal for the UNESCO honour in 2012 but it was put behind other major Indian landmarks. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had endorsed the nomination, and written, “Mumbai’s tourism and culture would be hugely benefitted if this nomination succeeds. Being the financial capital of our country, it would (now) have the unique distinction of being both a financial capital and a world heritage site”.