Thursday, 10 February 2011

Rajabai Tower

The Rajabai Tower is a majestic clock tower ornamented with oriental figures. It is located in the precincts of the Mumbai University campus, right next to the Bombay High Court in South Mumbai. It is modelled on the lines of London's famous clock tower the Big Ben.

The Rajabai Clock Tower was designed by the English architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. Since it is elevated to the height of 85 metres (280 feet), the construction for the tower began in 1869 and was completed nearly nine years later in 1878. During its time, the Rajabai Tower was the tallest structure of Mumbai. The total cost of construction was borne by a Bombay based stockbroker Premchand Royachand, a successful stock broker who also founded the Bombay Stock Exchange. The construction cost then was Rs. 200,000, a princely sum in those days. The clock tower owes its name to Rajabai, the blind mother of Premchand Royachand who was also a staunch follower of Jainism and it is believed that she was supposed to consume her dinner before twilight. Thanks to the bell of this tower, she did not require anyone's help in knowing the time and consumed her dinner before evening, on the word of her religion. During the British Raj, it played tunes of "Rule Britannia", "God Save the King", "Home! Sweet Home!" and "A Handel Symphony", amongst the sixteen tunes that changed four times a day. However, the glockenspiel repertoire currently plays only "Big Ben", after every fifteen minutes. 

The Rajabai Tower presents a wonderful fusion of Venetian and Gothic styles of architecture. The tower is constructed out of the locally available buff coloured Kurla stone. The tower has a spiral staircase, which is sadly now closed to the visitors due to past instances of suicides and the stories of doomed lovers. The Rajabai Tower houses the library of the Mumbai University, which has some brilliant stained glass windows in the continent of Asia. It was recently treated by the British conservationists who reinstated the grandeur in these exquisite windows. 

Summing up, the Rajabai Tower is a spectacular structure which stands testimony to the transformation of Mumbai as a city and the growth of the Mumbai University from a tiny classroom to a full-fledged campus. It is worth visiting on a Sunday afternoon when you are most likely to find local boys playing cricket in the maidan opposite the iconic tower.


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