18th April was declared by UNESCO as the ‘International Day for Monuments and Sites’ in 1983. Also know as the ‘World Heritage Day’, the aim of UNESCO is to create public awareness about the monuments and sites and the necessity to conserve, protect and restore them. It is not limited to the sites listed by UNESCO but concerns all cultural heritage monuments, places and landscapes of international, national and local significance.
UNESCO believes that Heritage Sites belongs to all people in the world irrespective on the territory on which they are located. This universal application of the concept of ‘World Heritage’ makes it so exceptional and powerful.
‘Notre Dame Fire Incident’
I was disheartened after seeing Notre dame cathedral burning. The flames may have destroyed a part of it but it certainly can’t destroy the soul of this amazing monument. Notre dame has risen in the past and am sure it will be restored back to its full glory.
I have some glorious memories of visiting Notre dame cathedral during my visit to Paris in 2017.
It’s the ‘Architecture’ that reminds us of the genius minds of those who were behind designing and erecting such magnificent monuments. Decades and centuries of dedicated hard work by Artist and Craftsmen who could not survive to witness its completion.
We are the fortunate ones to live in an era where we easily get to see so many splendid monuments around the globe gifted to us by our ancestors.
‘Notre Dame Will Rise Again’
To mark this historic event of World Heritage Day I did a cycle ride around the famous heritage sites in south Mumbai.
My first location was CSMT Station (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) as i took a train from the nearest station from my house to CSMT. Formerly known as ‘Victoria Terminus’ this UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in 1887 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria’s accession. It is one of the busiest stations in India serving as a terminal for both long distance trains and commuter trains.
Next i rode towards Asiatic Society of Mumbai, a library founded in 1804 by Sir James Mackintosh. This library was formed with an intent to promote knowledge, encourage arts, science, literature and research studies. Classified as a Heritage Structure, the building is inspired by Greek and Roman architecture with eight columns and a flight of 30 steps that leads up to the Town hall.
After taking few pictures of Asiatic Library, i used the round about at Horniman circle garden and pedaled for 500 meters to arrive at St.Thomas Cathedral. This is the first Anglican church of Mumbai and was opened in 1718 for Divine Service. It is one of the oldest churches in India and completed 300 years of its existence on 25th December 2018. (You can read more about this place in my previous blog – ST. THOMAS CATHEDRAL: 300 YEARS OF CHRISTMAS)
My next stop was Rajabai Clock Tower – yet another beautiful structure that stands tall at a height of 85 meters in Fort area Mumbai. Inspired by the Big Ben in London, it was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott an English Architect.
According to history, Premchand Roychand a prosperous broker funded a portion of the total cost on a condition that it should be named after his mother Rajabai. His mother was a follower of Jain Religion and she was supposed to consume dinner before evening. Being a blind lady, the evening bell of the tower helped her to know the time without anyone’s help. The clock tower received a tag of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018.
From there, I moved towards the famous David Sassoon Library and Reading Room. Founded in 1847, this building was planned by Albert Sassoon in memory of his father David Sassoon – a business trader who arrived in India from Baghdad and became the leader of the Jewish community in Bombay.
Just opposite to the David Sassoon Library is Keneseth Eliyahoo Synangogue a Jewish place of worship built by Jacob Elias Sassoon grandson of David Sassoon. Established in 1884 the structure falls under the management of David Sassoon Trust. (You can read more about this place in my previous blog – KENESETH ELIYAHOO SYNAGOGUE)
Moving half a kilometer further I reached another World Heritage site CSMVS Museum (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya – formerly known as Prince of Wales Museum). Established in 1922, this Museum was built to commemorate and welcome Edward VIII who was Prince of Wales at that time. The Museum building is surrounded by a garden and at the centre of the garden is the statue of Prince of Wales.
My next destination was a kilometer away and I pedaled towards Gate Way of India and Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Both of these are iconic structures standing opposite to each other next to the Arabian Sea. On weekends, this place records high footfalls with tourist who come here to get a closer view of these historic sites.
The Gate Way of India – an arch shaped monument was built to commemorate the landing of King Emperor George V and Queen Empress Mary in 1911 on their visit to India.
Erected in 1903 – entry to The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is restricted for a person like me who can’t afford a stay in such a premium destination. Most of the clients visiting here are elites and high net-worth individuals from business families. Presidents and the Prime Ministers and several eminent personalities have stayed here.
It was time for a return loop and I cycled to my last stop for this trip which is Flora Fountain. The fountain was neglected and defunct for several years and many of its original carvings were in bad shape. But it was recently renovated and open for public view late last year.
The beautification work of surrounding area is still to get completed and some media reports say that it is being designed to look like Trafalgar Square in London. At the top of the fountain stands the Roman Goddess Flora.
In total, I covered ten heritage sites on my cycle. All of these places of interest are located within the radius of 8 kms. These sites can be covered on foot but only if you plan to see from outside.
Some more pictures…
Author: Vijay Malhotra, Mumbai