The amazing city of Mumbai is home to three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. From ancient Buddhist temples to Victorian-era colonial buildings, the World Heritage Sites in Mumbai are an interesting and varied bunch. To find out more about the UNESCO Sites in Mumbai, read on for our guide!
Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai – World Heritage Site
Our first World Heritage site in Maharashtra is one of India’s most recent additions: the Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensembles of Mumbai. Located in the Fort area of downtown Mumbai, this collection of 94 beautiful buildings date from the 19th and early 20th centuries. They’re a a legacy of the British colonial period. Rich with cash from exports, the local government built enormous grand buildings to make the city of Bombay world-renowned.
And there’s some incredible buildings here. Particular highlights of the Victorian Gothic style include the Bombay High Court, and the University of Mumbai. There’s also the City Civil and Sessions building, plus the incredible Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station. If you can believe it – the CST railway station is also a separate World Heritage Site!
Nearby, around the famous Oval Maidan cricket grounds, stand Mumbai’s beautiful Art Deco buildings. Unfortunately, most are residential and not open to the public, so they’re difficult to fully appreciate. But they’re still impressive, and are an integral part of modern, global Mumbai.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus) – World Heritage Site
Next up, we have Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, or CST for short. It’s a very rare example of two World Heritage sites in the same building! CST is the main train station in Mumbai, and the main station in western India as well. Opening in 1887, it took ten years to build! Built to commemorate Queen Victoria‘s Golden Jubilee, the station was known as Victoria Terminus until 1999.
It’s a supreme example of Victorian Gothic architecture, and is partly based on St Pancras railway station in London. The attention to detail here is just marvellous, with beautiful domes, arches, statues and turrets, both inside and out. There’s also a magnificent entry gate loaded with symbolism, crowned by a British lion and an Indian tiger.
Elephanta Caves – World Heritage Site
Elephanta Caves are located on an island in the middle of Mumbai harbour, just a short boat ride from the iconic Gateway of India. This site covers five man-made caves dug directly into the side of the mountain. The caves are dedicated to the worship of Shiva, one of the main Hindu gods, and they’re a spectacular sight to behold.
The main cave here is immense – roughly square shaped, 40 metres on each side, and nearly 10 metres tall. The walls are all covered in carvings depicting the stories of Shiva, done with exquisite detail.
But the real highlight here is the Trimurti (pictured above), a six metre tall relief sculpture of a three-headed Shiva. This incredible artwork depicts the three personifications of Shiva: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector, and Aghora the destroyer. During our month in India we saw a lot of Hindu artwork, but this was definitely among the most impressive.
So there you have it, the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Mumbai! Like the city itself, the UNESCO sites of Mumbai are an intriguing blend of ancient and modern history and culture, and above all: uniquely Indian.
If you’re interested in other Indian World Heritage Sites, check out the World Heritage Sites of Delhi. Or maybe step a bit further afield and check out the 8 World Heritage Sites of Sri Lanka. If you’re interested to know how World Heritage Sites are chosen, we’ve got the answers to all your questions.
And of course, you can check out our video guide to all the World Heritage Sites in Maharashtra State.