Mumbai is a city where everyone is mindlessly rushing around going about their monotonous routines. Each one of us is time-bound towards some or the other place or thing. For a city which is constantly stuck to the hands of a clock, it’s not a wonder that we find a good number of Clock Towers!
These historic Clock Towers of Mumbai have been ticking away modestly, watching the rapidly changing city and the ever-busy Mumbaikar. Perhaps it time for us to slow down a little, catch a break and stroll along with these timeless clock towers of Mumbai.
Possibly the most famous of all in Mumbai is the Rajabai Tower. Standing tall at iconic 280-feet, Rajabai Tower adorns the entrance of the University of Mumbai. The majestic Clock Tower once played “God save the King” and the “Handel Symphony” with 16 different tunes that changed 4 times a day. Nowadays these chimes are limited to every quarter of an hour.
It was designed by architect Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1878. It was designed on the lines of London’s Big Ben and built in just nine years at a staggering amount of Rs 550,000! The tower was financed by the founder of the Bombay Stock Exchange Premchand Roychand and is named after Roychand’s mother, Rajabai.
Yet another famous clock tower in Mumbai is located at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT), former Victoria Terminus. The massive clock above the train terminus was built in 1888 by Sir Frederick William Stevens. The design for this magnificent building was inspired by the Victorian Gothic architecture of London’s St Pancras Railway station. As millions of commuters and tourist pass by it every day, the unassuming clock silently ticks away.
The clock tower of the Naval Dockyard on Shahid Bhagat Singh Road, Fort, Mumbai, is over 200 years old. All the buildings spanning from the Lion Gate to Old Customs House along with the clock tower belong to the original dockyard constructed by Lowji Wadia. The clock that you see now was set in the tower in 1904 by Messers Lund and Blockley, the Turret Clock Manufacturers.
Sitting proudly at Kala Ghoda the David Sassoon Library sports yet another beautiful clock. Designed by J Campbell and E. Gosling for Scott McClelland and company, the library was built in 1870 with yellow Malad stone, with a proud white stone bust of David Sassoon adorning the library’s entrance. The library was the brainchild of Albert Abdul Sassoon. Though the library books are now gathering dust, the building is an eye-catcher with its clock.
Another large clock tower sits in one of the oldest fishing docks of Mumbai. The Sassoon Docks were built on reclaimed lands in Colaba and constructed in 1875 by Albert Abdul Sassoon as a prime fish unloading and trading spot, which remains operational till date. Sassoon Dock was Western India’s first “wet” dock – where ships could sail in regardless of the tide. The gateway of this dock has a clock fixed on its central arch.
Crawford Market is a popular spot for buying all the household items. And when shopping, we never know how the time goes by; so maybe to remind the shoppers of the time, the Crawford market has an impressive clock. Blending the Norman and Flemish architectural styles, the friezes at the entrance of this famous market depict Indian farmers and fountains carved in Kurla stone. Built in 1871, this market was designed and conceptualized by William Emerson. Another interesting fact is that the market first got electricity in 1882, and became the first market in India to receive electricity.
The St. Thomas Cathedral is the first Anglican Church built in Mumbai in 1718 and it also houses a clock tower. Located in the historic center of Mumbai, the foundation stone of the church was laid down in 1676. The cathedral is a landmark in South Mumbai and is one of the oldest churches in India. The iconic tower and the clock at the western end of the cathedral were added in 1838.
The 150-year old slender and elegant David Sassoon Clock Tower in the Byculla zoo is known to attract a lot of admirers. The tower clock that was first erected in 1864 echoes of designs from the Italian Renaissance and stands testimony to the period that defined Mumbai’s architectural landscape.
Built in 1882, the Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Clock Tower at Fort stands magnificently at the junction of the bustling Bazaar Gate Road and Perin Nariman Street. The clock tower was erected with money raised by public subscription to honour the work of the philanthropist it is named after. The clock tower is built in Persepolis style much like other Parsi religious buildings, and there are cuneiform writings above the opening lintels on three sides. The structure is built in yellow Malad stone with its statuary and parapet cornices made of grayish-blue Kurla stone.
The Time Ball Building clock tower at Mumbai Port Trust or more popularly known as the Ghadiyal Godi is just one of the two surviving—the second being in Kolkata—and among the handful in the world, like at Greenwich, UK, that preserves the history of time measurement.
A time ball is essentially an obsolete time-signalling device that became popular with the Royal Navy. These devices which measured time by dropping a painted wooden or metal ball at a predetermined time, gained instant popularity and became an important installation in ports around the world, especially those under British crown and Mumbai too has had and still has it ‘Timeball’.
The existing “Timeball” in the Mumbai Port Trust (then Bombay) was the 2nd such Timeball erected in Mumbai. Built in 1891, this “clock tower” stands on the former Frere Road (today’s P D Mello Rd). The clock tower still displays the four clock faces and is easily accessible through a rather rickety stairway. You can even spot the “ball” with its peeling off red-orange paint.
Magen David Synagogue is an Orthodox Sephardi synagogue located in Byculla, India. Erected in 1864, the synagogue was constructed by David Sassoon in Victorian style for the growing population of Baghdadi Jews. The synagogue is one of the largest in Asia outside of Israel. This beautiful blue building has a clock tower.
Apart from these famous Clock towers, there are a few more that lay scattered around the parts of Mumbai. A few of them can be found in the following places:
- Life Insurance Building at Churchgate
- The Khoja Shia Imami Ismaili Jamatkhana gifted by the Moloo Brothers of Zanzibar
- Lakshmi Insurance Building in Fort
- Fulchand Nivas Building at Chowpatty, Girgaon
- Mhatre Pen Building, Dadar
- and Vijaynagar Building, Dadar
Most of these clock towers which have witnessed the establishment and the growth of Mumbai that we see today are in a dire need of preservation and conservation. As the days slowly slip by, the clock moves on and time pushes forward, but these Clock Towers have so far stood sentinel-like, reminiscent of a time gone by, but for how long?
Perhaps it’s time to step in and preserve the clock towers which may otherwise become the victims of time…
© 2019 Ashwini Nawathe, Kaleidoscope of My Life
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