Left: Flora Fountain, whole structure. Right: Close-up of Flora.
The Flora Fountain, Mumbai, was designed by a committee including Richard Norman Shaw as architect: he is credited in Jan Morris's index as "co-designer" (234). It was not carved by an engineer, as sometimes stated, but by the very able Scottish sculptor James Forsyth (1827-1910). Constructed of Portland stone, it was inaugurated in 1869. Originally, it was intended to commemorate Sr Bartle Frere, Governor of Bombay 1862-67, and destined for Victoria Gardens, but both name and location changed. It stands at the south end of Dadabhai Naoroji Road (or D. N. Road), where Church Gate once stood. According to the inscription on it, it was built with funds by the Esplanade Fee Fund Committee, with a large donation contributed by Seth Cursetjee Furdoonji Parekh, and formally opened on 18 November 1869.
The lower part of the fountain, over the basin.
Jan Morris describes the fountain as "a figure of the Roman goddess Flora, attended by less explicit figures of myth" and says that the whole structure is "one of the city's most familiar and most frequently reviled possessions." To her mind, it is "one of the oddest of all legacies" left by this architect (185). George Michell and Philip Davies are even more forthright in their Gazetteer, calling the lower part "a confused jumble of dolphins, shells and beasts" (444), while Davies in his own book, Splendours of the Raj, says rather amusingly that it just goes to show how "even the most gifted architect and distinguished sculptor could go wrong when substituting frenetic European eclecticism for authentic native styles" (163-64).
The fountain in its context, seen against the backdrop of the Oriental Building — an edifice which was remodelled into Gothic splendour by the important Bombay architect F. W. Stevens in 1898.
However, the fountain is considered an important part of Mumbai's heritage, and there seems to be a good deal of affection for it. Ramachandran Venkatesh points out that it "is part of a Bombay Gothic theme that was integral to the designing of the Fort area after the bringing down of the Ramparts [of the old Fort]. The backdrop and the surroundings are as important to the Fountain as the Fountain itself is to its context, since it is axially placed in heart of the Gothic area and this picture captures the ambience in which the Fountain is placed." Venkatesh adds that the fountain cost the princely sum of £9000, and that the D.N. Road was originally called Hornby Road, named after William Hornby, the enterprising Governor of Bombay from 1771-84, who, along with Frere and Lord Elphinstone, can be justifiably called the one of the founders of Victorian Bombay.
Gillian Tindall reported in 1992 that the fountain had been "re-plumbed, cleaned and floodlit" (xviii), and it certainly looks nicely kept now.
Photographs by Ramachandran Venkatesh, and commentary by Jacqueline Banerjee with contributions by Venkatesh. You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.
Davies, Philip. Spledours of the Raj: British Architecture in India, 1660-1947:. London: Penguin, 1987.
Michell, George, and Philip Davies. Penguin Guide to Monuments of India 2: Islamic, Rajput, European. London: Viking, 1989.
Morris, Jan.Stones of Empire: The Buildings of the Raj. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983.
Tindall, Gillian. City of Gold: The City of Bombay. New Delhi: Penguin, 1992.
Created 13 May 2016