BENGALURU: If you’ve lived in Mumbai even for a short while, you would have come across Churchgate Station, the first stop on the Western line in the extreme South of Mumbai. But what many people do not know is the reason it is called Churchgate. To the southern tip of Mumbai once stood Fort George. This area is still called the Fort area but over time, has morphed into the commercial capital of Mumbai.
The fort had been built by the British to ward off attacks from Portuguese and European pirates, and patriots like the Marathas. Fort George was built around the Bombay Castle and would have been roughly spread across CST in the north to Kala Ghoda in the south, and from the docks in the east to Azad Maidan in the west today. There is not much left of the fort but you can catch a wall that runs along St George Hospital. You can access this from CST. But the road is dirty and the surroundings are not the best, to say the least.
There were three gates — Bazaar Gate, Apollo Gate and of course, Church Gate or Churchgate. And the gate that stood next to St Thomas Cathedral was called Church Gate. Doesn’t it all make perfect sense now? More than 150 years later, that entire area west of the church is still called Churchgate; though today’s station stands on reclaimed land. The sea came right till Oval Maidan.
St Thomas Cathedral stands very close to Horniman Circle; or as the modern Mumbaikar might say, next to Starbucks! As all churches of those times, this one was built to improve the “moral standards” of the British settlers of this native colony. The road that runs in front of the church was called Church Street, though it was renamed recently. The church opened on Christmas in 1718.
The church is an architectural beauty with a vaulted ceiling, iron brackets and elaborate tablets on all the people laid to rest here. I find the tablets in a church or a cemetery a great commentary on the language and customs of another time. The church also won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Conservation Award in 2004.
Bhavani blogs at http://merry togoaround.com/