There is no dearth of landmarks in Mumbai, the city of dreams located on the west coast of India. But if there is one iconic landmark that has become an emblem of the city, it is the majestic Gateway of India. Built in exquisite Indo-Saracenic style using yellow basalt stone, the gateway stands tall in south Mumbai and overlooks the Arabian Sea. The Gateway of India is the point of entry into India from the seaways. Like countless monuments in India, the Gateway of India has a colonial origin and speaks volumes about the political history of the country. Its cultural significance is immense too. If you want to pinpoint that one place from where you should commence your tour of Mumbai, it is definitely the Gateway of India which is the pride of the city.
The foundation stone of the gateway was laid by Sir George Sydenham Clarke, the then Governor of Bombay (the former name of Mumbai) on March 31, 1911, to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to India the same year. The royal couple landed at Apollo Bunder, now known as Wellington Pier, which is only a kilometre away from the Gateway of India. The Scottish architect George Wittet designed the structure which was heavily influenced by the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It took a whopping 13 years to complete the project, and the gateway was finally unveiled on December 4, 1924. The structure has a 26-metre high archway joined by four turrets and is adorned with beautiful latticework all over. In a historical irony, while the Gateway of India was meant to memorialize the British rule in India, the last British ship left India right from the gateway after the end of the regime in 1947!
The Gateway of India is a microcosm of Mumbai. If you want to get acquainted with the spirited, cosmopolitan soul of the city, the gateway is the place to be. It is almost bustling with people from all walks of life and all parts of not just India but the whole world. The magnificent edifice is flanked by the Arabian Sea. The best way to experience quietude amid the usual chaos of Mumbai is by witnessing the sunrise at the Gateway of India. It is a spectacular view that has no parallel in Mumbai. Right across the street from the gateway is the legendary Taj Mahal Palace hotel that has been providing a luxurious abode to those visiting the city since 1903. The grand heritage hotel, whose history is intertwined with that of Mumbai, was the scene of the horrific 26/11 terrorist attacks of 2008 that ravaged the property. The hotel has since been refurbished and now stands as the symbol of Mumbai’s never-say-die spirit.
About two kilometres away from the gateway is the Colaba Causeway market which is the street shopping paradise of Mumbai. It is one of the quirkiest and most colourful street markets of Mumbai and is famous for the knock-offs of luxury merchandise. The most important thing to remember here is to bargain and bargain and bargain! The Gateway of India is also flanked by Marine Drive, the lifeline of Mumbai. The Marine Drive is a 3.6 kilometre-long, C-shaped promenade facing the Arabian Sea and is the place where all Mumbaikars spend their leisure hours. In the evening, a decked up Marine Drive looks like a string of dazzling pearls which has earned it the nickname of ‘Queen’s Necklace’. The Marine Drive is hands down my favorite place in Mumbai. There is something magical about sitting on the Marine Drive late in the night and staring at the Gateway of India washed in lights while the cool breeze from the Arabian Sea blows past you ruffling your hair.
Both Mumbai and the Gateway of India are extremely well-connected. The city has two airports - the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport and the Santa Cruz Domestic Airport. You can avail a cab outside either of the airports to reach the gateway. While trains from north India arrive at the Mumbai Central Station, those from the eastern, western and southern parts of the country arrive at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Junction. You can avail cabs and buses from outside these stations to go to the gateway. Mumbai has an adequate public transport system with several state-run buses plying to the Gateway of India from different parts of the city. While it is feasible to visit the gateway throughout the year, it is better to avoid travelling to the city during the monsoon months of June-August as Mumbai has a reputation for terrible water-logging and thereby coming to a standstill.
Pick up any movie filmed in Mumbai for your next movie night, and you will be hard-pressed to find one that does not have a gorgeous shot of the Gateway of India. And why not! It is the pride and symbol of Mumbai and so much more. There are several beautiful monuments in Mumbai. But none can match the gateway in its historical, cultural and geographical significance. Go to the Gateway of India at any hour of the day, and you will see Mumbai unmasking itself in front of you. And do not forget to carry a camera, as it will be a moment worth cherishing even years down the line.
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