The former Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) in Bombay, designed by architect F. W. Stevens, is crowned by a huge 14-15'-tall statue of Progress, executed by Thomas Earp (1828-1893) in marble, and dating to 1887. The female figure has a star above her forehead, flowing classical robes, and a winged wheel at her side suggesting change, forward movement, speed and, of course, transport. Looking down from her great height she wears a benign expression, and holds aloft a flaming copper-gilt torch to illuminate the way and lead the advance towards the future. According to Mary Ann Steggles and Richard Barnes, the architectural sculpture students at the JJ (Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy) School of Art in Bombay at that time put the finishing touches to it (236). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
As Ramachandran Venkatesh points out, this kind of symbolism on parapets and pediments is found on many of the great buildings of the age, across the empire. Among numerous examples are the parapet figures at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall (which also has medallions of important personages on the façade, like those carved” by Earp on the station façade) and the Writers' Building in Calcutta, as well as a number in Mumbai itself. Stevens's own Churchgate Terminus would have a statue which possibly symbolises Progress too. This was a key theme in the Bombay of that period, "as the administration moved from the control of the East India Company to the direct governance of the Crown" and "significant changes in the political and administrative investments were made.... these included the building of grand architectural, civil and public works like waterworks, markets and dockyards" (Venkatesh). In this context, such a figure on an important railway terminus is very appropriate indeed.
Left: Tableau representing Commerce, above one of the west-facing wings. The standing female figure, with one arm outstretched out in welcome, holds a caduceus. Right: Tableau above the other west-facing wing representing Agriculture, with fruit, grains and implements.
The sculptural decoration of the station building "points in various directions," says Stephen Goodwin Howard, noting that Indian life is represented in the important local people shown in some of Earp's medallions, and the pervasive locally-executed carvings of the flora and fauna of the sub-continent on tympana, ledges and so on, while the large figures here proclaim "values and achievements of empire ... each related to the creation and fruits of the railway symbolised" (104).
Apart from Progress, the "large figures" are those on the gables at each side, which are also attributed to Earp "of the firm of Earp, Son & Hobbs" (London 90). These indeed represent the areas in which India was making progress. The welcoming figure of the Commerce group holds a caduceus, a winged staff or wand with two snakes twined around it, symbolising exchange and barter. Next to her on the right is a figure representing trade, one hand resting on the model of a sailing ship, while on the left is a Britannia figure, complete with trident suggesting mastery of the seas. In the Agriculture group, the main figure has a ploughshare in one hand and holds a cornucopia spilling out bananas and other fruits or vegetables with the other. The figure to the right of her looks very weathered, but seems to be holding a small sickle, and is clearly holding a sheaf of ripe grain. Another group, not shown here, represents Civil Engineering, and is on the central gable of the south façade (see Howard 70).
One of the sculptures on the gateposts of the central garden of the station, with thanks to Shabbir Siraj for having allowed reuse of his photograph, with attribution, on Wikimedia under the Creative Commons Licence. It has been slightly modified here, for perspective and colour.
The other notable works by Earp here are the splendidly alert-looking Bath stone lion representing Britain, and the tiger representing India, which embellish the grand gate-piers on each side of the main entrance to the garden and central block. Not rampant but couchant, they are 9'6" long and 5'6" high (Howard 72). So much fine sculpture was shipped out to India during the Raj. Some of it, fortunately, remains intact. More encouraging still, with the growing interest in heritage, it is now being restored (see Shinde).
- The former Victoria Terminus, showing Progress in its context, and six of Earp's medallions on the façade
- British India (homepage)
- Bombay (homepage)
First four Photographs by Ramachandran Venkatesh, who also contributed some of the material here, as noted. Text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. You may use the images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one.
Davies, Philip. Splendours of the Raj: British Architecture in India, 1660-1947:. London: Penguin, 1987.
Howard, Stephen Goodwin. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai. MA thesis presented to the Department of History at the University of York, 2012. Web. 26 June 2016.
London, Christopher. Bombay Gothic. Mumbai: India Book House, 2002.
Shinde, Srishti Ghosh. "Restoring Mumbai's Busiest Heritage Sites." 2 September 2015. Times of India. Web. 2 July 2016.
Steggles, Mary Ann, and Richard Barnes. British Sculpture in India: New Views and Old Memories. London: Frontier Publishing, 2011.
Venkatesh, Ramachandran. "Mumbai series - Standard Chartered Bank building, 23-25 M.G. Road". Heritage Traveller. Web. 29 June 2016.
Last modified 18 December 2017