How Jamshedji Tata Built The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai
The Icon of Bombay, The Taj Mahal Hotel
The Taj Mahal Hotel facing the Gateway of India is the first thing travelers used to see when they alighted at Ballard pier close to the Gateway of India. The Gateway of India is an imposing structure built to honor the visit to India of the Prince of Wales in 1911. At that time the Prince of Wales had come by ship from England and had alighted at Ballard pier and entered Bombay through the arch of the gateway of India. He had gone on to spend time at the Taj Mahal Hotel, which is just opposite the Gateway.
The Taj Mahal hotel is an iconic structure of Bombay and was built by the Parsi industrialist Jamshedji Tata. Jamshedji Tata is famous for many things like the building of the first steel plant at Jamshedpur in Bihar as well as the Taj Mahal Hotel.
The Taj Mahal hotel may never have been built, but for an incident that took place in about 1896. There was another Hotel called the Watson Hotel in Bombay. This hotel was built in 1864 and is a cast iron construction. The pillars for this hotel were brought from England and in its prime the Hotel had 130 rooms with a glass roofed ballroom, which allowed natural light to filter in. The Hotel was meant only for Europeans and at that time English waitresses served in its bar and restaurant.
Jamshedji on a visit to Bombay checked into the Watson hotel, but he was refused entry as he was an Indian. This was the period of the Raj and the English discriminated against Indians in many ways and this was one of them.
Jamshedji went away and spent the night at the Parsi Agiary in Colaba. He also decided to construct his own hotel. This is the tale that led to the construction of the Taj Mahal Hotel. The name was chosen by Jamshed as the Taj Mahal at Agra is a representative piece of architecture in Indian history. It is a mausoleum built by the emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz after her death.
The Taj Mahal Palace hotel is built of stone and was commissioned on 16 December 1903. The hotel was the brainchild of 3 architects Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya, Ashok Kumar and DN Mirza. Later the services of an English engineer WA Chambers were used. It was built in Indo-Saracenstyle at a cost of £250,000 (£127 million today).The entire building contract was given to another Parsi builder Khansaheb Sorabji Contractor.
Jamshedji Tata did not spare any expense in the construction of the hotel and the dome of the hotel was made of imported steel. It is the same steel used in the Eiffel Tower. In 2008 the hotel was attacked by Pakistan based terrorists, but it recovered very fast and remains an icon of India and Bombay city in particular.
As far as the Watson Hotel was concerned it lost its pre-eminent position and after 1947 was bought by the Tata’s who closed it in 1964.