NOT many of the millions who pass through Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) are aware of its rich history, its architectural gems hidden away on upper floors or even its age. Come July 2, and that’s what the Central Railway hopes to change when it will conduct a heritage walk in the historical property, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
“The railways has requested conservation architect Vikas Dilawari to conduct the walk and he has consented,” said A K Shrivastava, additional general manager, Central Railways.
The heritage walk will include a tour of a railway museum as well as two floors of the building.
The CST — more commonly known by its old name the Victoria Terminus — is considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, with Mughal and Hindu styles blended in.
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The turrets, intricate designs along the facades, a grand staircase leading up to the marbled dome with stained glasswork and the Statue of Progress at the apex of the building, combined with the fact that the building serves millions of commuters daily, make CST one of the world’s most unique railway stations.
Unknown to many, parts of the heritage site have been open to visitors since December 2012. It is open during the weekdays from 3 pm to 5 pm, and remains closed during the weekends and national holidays. The entry fee per person is Rs 200 and Rs 100 for students.
A CR official said, “We are not doing this for revenue. This is an initiative for the people of Mumbai to know about this rich heritage and for those interested to get proper guidance.”
Despite its treasures, the museum in the building doesn’t seem to attract a lot of visitors.
“In the beginning, we did get visitors but as time passed, the number of tourists decreased. The days are unpredictable for us. Someday, we do get tourists, while the other times, the number is just zero,” said Ashfaq Sheikh, a guide at the site.
He also added that the timing for which the site is open to tourists is to be blamed for the poor visitor rate .
“The site is only open on weekdays and that too at peak office hours. That is the main reason for the decrease in the number of tourists because people are busy this time ,” he said.
The visitors mostly include foreign tourists and architecture students. “It is always a 60:40 ratio amongst the foreigners and the Indians. Also, there are situations where people entered the premises but didn’t opt for the walk, because of the entry fees that seems somewhat high for a commoner,” said Ashfaq.
The building is now being cleaned up for the heritage week’s walk that starts on July 2.