Shiv Sena MP Rahul Shewale demands that Central Railways erect a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji at CST; station’s main heritage building already houses a bust of the Maratha king
In March 1996, when the Shiv Sena-BJP alliance first came to power in Maharashtra, Mumbai’s historic railway station that serves as the headquarters of the Central Railways, Victoria Terminus was rechristened Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). It was a tribute to the Maratha warrior king, who the Sena considers its ideological idol.
A bust of Shivaji Maharaj stands at the entrance of the main heritage building
Perhaps viewing this an incomplete tribute, nearly two decades later, the Sena has expressed the wish to see a statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji installed at the South Mumbai landmark. If the station is named after him, why not have a statue commemorating him on site is the argument presented by Sena MP from the Mumbai South Central constituency, Rahul Shewale, at a meeting held with CR officials last week.
The statue is tipped to come up at the new entrance to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, near P D’Mello Road. Pic/Sayed Sameer Abedi
Interestingly, a CR official points out that CST already honours the warrior in the form of a statue — or bust, to be accurate — that sits right at the entrance of the main heritage building facing the BMC headquarters (see pic). In fact, it was installed to coincide with the station’s renaming in 1996.
A bust of Shivaji Maharaj at the entrance of the CST heritage building
Shewale has been nudging Central Railways since May, the time he first wrote to SK Sood, general manager, CR (mid-day has a copy of the letter). Sources say the letter went unanswered, and the MP finally decided to bring up the issue again at last week’s meeting. This time, Sood gave his nod.
“MP Rahul Shewale presented a proposal for the statue at CST. We are looking into the demand. We have already asked French consultants, AREP, to look into the proposal,” Sood told mid-day.
AREP Ville, a subsidiary of French National Railways, are the consultants for a plan to turn the terminus into a world-class modern railway station akin to St Lazare in Paris. Sources say it’s possible that the statue could be made part of this masterplan approved by the Railway Board in 2012.
While the specifications of the statue are as yet unknown, Shewale told this paper that it was possible that the statue, similar to the one that stands at the Mumbai International airport, comes up at the entrance along Platform 18 meant for long distance trains, that opens out near P D’Mello Road on the eastern side.
Over 50 long-distance trains travel through the terminus every day. About 42 lakh people commute on the 1,618 suburban trains along its central and harbour lines. It supports 18 platforms of which 11 are used by long distance travellers and seven by suburban commuters.
“CST is an iconic place and several people visit it since it’s an entry point into Mumbai. That’s why we want a statue here. The airport has a statue, why not have one here too? After all, both places are named after Shivaji Maharaj,” said Shewale.
The CR official pointed out, “There is a bust of Shivaji Maharaj at the entrance of the CST heritage building, below the staircase. It sits beside photographs of Jagannath Shankar Seth and Jamshedji Jijibhoy.” According to Rajendra Aklekar, author of Halt Station India, a record of the history of Indian Railways, the bust was placed here in March 1996, the same time that the station was renamed.
This raises the following questions: When the warrior has been immortalized via the bust at CST, do we need another statue? Can the Railways afford the expenditure when improving passenger safety and facilities is top priority? When Shewale was informed about the existing statue, he said, “The Railways never informed me that a bust of Shivaji Maharaj stands inside. Our demand is for a statue like the one at the airport.”
Before the statue is commissioned, however, the Railways will have a few hoops to jump through. The first is funding. Shewale, on his part, was clear that it is the Railways that would fund the project. When asked, Sood said, “Funding is not a problem for the Railways. That is secondary. We are looking into the proposal right now.”
A CR official explained that with regard to such projects, it’s the Home Ministry that will first need to give the nod. But the trickiest challenge is the one surrounding the 124-year-old Victorian Gothic building’s heritage status.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) conferred the Grade 1 heritage structure with the World Heritage Site tag in 2004, making it one of 1,301 sites across the world (2015 figures) that of special cultural or physical significance.
The international organisation’s prestigious certification comes with a rider. The demarcation of a buffer zone means no development can be carried out in the area surrounding the structure. “We will first plan the project and submit the proposal to The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee,” said Sood in response to the query. “As of now, we don’t know if the UNESCO tag will cause a problem.”
If the world-class station plan’s fate is anything to go by, the statue proposal may take a while to see the light of day. The UNESCO certification and strict rules surrounding the no-development buffer zone has since 2009 stalled the railway board’s development plans to upgrade the station, which AREP estimated would cost Rs 2,000 crore.
Any structure coming up in the station’s vicinity must honour a height cap of 24 metres, so that the view of the main CST building remains unobstructed.
The station was completed in May 1888 at the cost of Rs 16,35,562, a decade after architect Frederick William Stevens (in pic) was commissioned to build it.
Frederick William Stevens
It was built as an office and terminus for the Grand Indian Peninsula Railway (now Central Railway). From Victoria Terminus, it was officially renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in 1996, when the Sena-BJP government came to power in Maharashtra for the first time.
It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on July 2, 2004 as an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India.
What’s in a name?
On June 20, 1887, which was the Jubilee Day of Queen Victoria, the building was named Victoria Terminus in honour of the Queen-Empress, who was celebrating 50 years of reign.
The announcement was made with huge illuminated letters incorporated in the lights decorating the building that night. Sources/A City Icon by Sharada Dwivedi and Rahul Mehrotra, and the official website of UNESCO World Heritage Centre
Yes, it’s a good decision. A Shivaji statue will look good here. - Sanil charade, Accountant
I was against the station’s renaming too. The British have made a beautiful building. Why change anything? - Pravin Parkale, Clerk
It is a good idea, provided the statue and area around it is maintained and kept clean. Manoj Paswan, - Corporate employee
If CST is named after Shivaji Maharaj, then why not have his statue there? - Meenal Lad, Beautician
The main building is a heritage structure with Victorian architecture. It shouldn’t be touched. But if the statue comes up near Platform 18, that’s not an issue. — Rajendra Aklekar author of book on Indian railways
History should not be tampered with. Those who built the Indian Railways were a mix of Indians and British. Their faces are already etched on the entrance of the main building. We should build something new instead; perhaps, a new station that could even be an extension to the existing one, and give it a name of our choice. It will be a real piece of pride. — A conservation architect