The seaport of Bombay is often referred to as India's "Gothic City." Reminders of British colonial rule are seen throughout South Bombay in its Victorian architecture and sculpture. In the heart of Bombay lies the Victoria Terminus, a towering, hybrid railway station blending gothic and vernacular architectures. Built at the height of the British Empire, the terminus is evidence of the rapid modernization of Bombay through the philanthropy of the Parsis. This religious and ethnic minority became quick allies to the British Raj; their generous donations funded the construction of the "Gothic City." The British viewed the Parsis as their peers, not the colonized. However, Parsi-funded architectural ornament reveals that they saw themselves on equal footing with Bombay's indigenous populations. The Parsis sought to integrate Indian and British art, design, and culture. Through their arts patronage they created an artistic heritage unique to Bombay, as seen in the architectural crown of Bombay, the Victoria Terminus.The Parsi philanthropist, Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy was the most influential in Bombay's modern art world. He was chosen with other Indian elites to serve on the selection committee for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London. He selected India's finest works to demonstrate India's rich tradition of the decorative arts. In turn, these works were viewed within the Indian Pavilion by the Victorian public and design reformer Owen Jones. Jones used many of the objects at the India Pavilion in his design book, The Grammar of Ornament. This book went on to inspire the eclectic architectural ornament of Victorian Britain and eventually Bombay. Jeejeebhoy sold the majority of the works from the exhibition to the Victorian and Albert Museum and the Department of Sciences and Art in South Kensington. The objects were studied by design students in South Kensington who were later hired by Jeejeebhoy to be instructors at the Bombay School of Art. This school taught academic European art alongside traditional Indian design forthe purpose of creating public art works. Thus, the Parsis were important cultural mediators who funded British and Indian craftsmen to create symbols of "progress," such as the Victoria Terminus, for a modern India.
College and Department
Humanities; Comparative Arts and Letters
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Vance, Nicole Ashley, "Integrators of Design: Parsi Patronage of Bombay's Architectural Ornament" (2016). Theses and Dissertations. 6053.
Colonial India, Parsis, Indo-Sacrenic Architecture, Bombay School of Art, Sir, Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, Architectural Ornament, Owen Jones, Victoria Terminus