A standing statue of Queen Victoria, for years considered the jewel in the crown of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, appears to have mysteriously vanished years ago, with railway officials clueless on whether it was removed decades ago or if its disappearance was a handiwork of some miscreants.
A record of what happened to the iconic statue of Queen Victoria, from which the station drew its identity and its original name Victoria Terminus, is now nowhere to be found — neither in the dossiers of the Indian Railways, nor with the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum where it was supposedly kept.
A Right to Information application filed by The Indian Express regarding the status of the statue yielded this response: “No whereabouts of statue of Queen Victoria are known and no record of removal of this statue is available with this office.”
Back in the 1950s, said a former general manager of the Central Railway (CR) who was posted at CST decades ago, authorities had begun to remove statues of the British rulers from government buildings and public spaces based on a directive from the Government of India.
“Most of the statues, including that of Queen Victoria, were sent to Rani Baug garden. There were so many in number that they were left lying on the grass in the open. Until the 1980s, this statue of the queen was very much lying on the Byculla zoo grounds. After that I never saw it,” he said.
The open ground he was referring to is a patch behind the Dr Bhau Daji Lad museum located inside Rani Baug, or the zoological garden in Byculla. “Sadly, no record of each statue which was then used as a decorative piece on the building was maintained. But this particular statue due to its prominence must be on record,” added the retired CR official.
When he further enquired at the Byculla museum about the statue, he was told no such statue was at the museum. Museum authorities showed him a Queen Victoria statue, among others, but it was in a seated position.
Dr Tasneem Zakaria Mehta, art historian and also managing director of the Dr Bhau Daji Lad Museum, told The Indian Express, “The museum has a seated statue that was earlier at Fort.” With the statue nowhere to be found, historians now believe it might have been sold or smuggled out.