If you’ve lived in Mumbai even for a short while you would have come across Churchgate station — that is the first stop on the Western line at the extreme South of Mumbai. But what many people do not know is the reason why it’s called Churchgate? Don’t we sometimes say words so often we even forget why they must have had an origin? What’s the ‘Church’ and what’s the ‘gate’? This post explains it all!
To the Southern tip of Mumbai stood Fort George. This area is still called the Fort area but overtime has morphed into the commercial capital of Mumbai. This was built by the British to ward off attacks from the Portuguese, European pirates and patriots like the Marathas. George Fort was built around the Bombay Castle and should have stood roughly from today’s CST in the North to Kala Ghoda in the South and from the docks in the east to Azad Maidan in the west. There is not much left of this fort; you can catch a stray wall that run along St. George Hospital. You can access this from CST. However, the road is dirty and the surroundings not the best; to say the least.
There were three gates – Bazaar Gate, Apollo Gate and of course, Church Gate or Churchgate. The gate that stood next to St. Thomas Cathedral Mumbai 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 Church gate; 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 also built to improve the “moral standards” of the British settlers of this native (wild) colony. The road that runs in front of the church was called Church Street, though it has been renamed recently. This church opened on Christmas in 1718.
Let’s step into the church and admire the vaulted ceiling, the iron brackets and elaborate tablets of all the people laid to rest here. I find reading tablets in a church or cemetery a great commentary on the language and customs of another time. Outside this church stands a fountain that might have once been a drinking water fountain, but one cannot be too sure! A point of interest – this cathedral won the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Conservation Award in 2004. Even when I visited recently, renovation work was going on.
Step in for a walk through St. Thomas Cathedral.