The clock tower at Jijamata Udyan

It’s quite amazing, you know, of the things one notices, but does not really see. Take for instance the subject of this post. I must have passed it a countless number of times, glancing at it idly but mostly ignoring it. You might have noticed it too, if you are travelling on the Lalbaug flyover towards Byculla, which looms up about 100 metres before the exit on your left.

That day, when I was passing by this structure I felt I was seeing it for the first time. And indeed I was for the slender and elegant clock tower glowed in the mid-morning winter sun in spite of the very obvious look of neglect that it had and stones blackened due to pollution.

Clock Tower, Rani Bagh, Victoria Gardens, Mumbai, Jijamata Udyan

The Clock Tower at the entrance to Jijamata Udyan and photographed from the Lalbagh flyover

Situated at the entrance to the Jijamata Udyan (formerly known as Victoria Gardens and also known as Rani Baug) and among trees, this beautiful clock just begs to be explored. When I attempted to do just that, I found that it is closed to the public with a several “Keep Out” signs placed all around. There is no information board on the clock tower and I had to be content walking around the barrier erected and look at the details through my camera lens. And what did I find?

That the clock tower was erected in A.D. 1864, which makes it nearly 150 years old ! The archway shown in the picture below also has David Sassoon’s name on it, but I’m not sure if he built the clock tower or if it is dedicated to him

Clock Tower, Rani Bagh, Victoria Gardens, Mumbai, Jijamata UdyanThat the design of the clock tower is very Italian. The little information that I found about this clock tower on the Internet says that the design is similar to the Italian Renaissance style.Clock Tower, Rani Bagh, Victoria Gardens, Mumbai, Jijamata Udyan

That the clock tower is covered with the most beautiful tiles I have ever seen. The tiles range in design from geometrical prints to trellis borders, to what looked suspiciously like a Graeco-Roman border design and even trailing ivy leaves. The colours may have faded on the tiles, but their effect on the overall design of the clock tower has not. This made me imagine how the clock tower must have looked like when it had just been built; the colours on the tiles would have just glowed like jewels.  Clock Tower, Rani Bagh, Victoria Gardens, Mumbai, Jijamata Udyan

Clock Tower, Rani Bagh, Victoria Gardens, Mumbai, Jijamata UdyanThat the clock in the tower still works much to my delight. :-)Clock Tower, Rani Bagh, Victoria Gardens, Mumbai, Jijamata Udyan I was surprised and very disappointed to not find any substantial information on the clock tower. Who built it? Why was it built? What was the purpose? There is no information on this. Whatever mentions I found was in connection with the Jijamata Udyan or the botanical gardens or the Bhau Daji Lad Museum. There was nothing about the clock tower per se.

Somehow, I am not surprised. Most Mumbaikars, on being asked about the city’s clock towers, would probably only remember the iconic Rajabhai Tower in the Fort area of the city. But I would say that while Rajabhai Tower may be overwhelmingly grand in design and size, this clock tower at Jijamata Udyan stands out with its understated beauty and elegance.

Dear reader, if you like architecture, history and design, then a visit to the clock tower is an absolute must. Besides such neglected structures need to be shown some love and attention.

:-) Update on January 19, 2013 3.45 pm: I came across some information on the clock tower in The Bombay Builder: An Illustrated Journal of Engineering Architecture dated July 5, 1865 (pg.14). It was known as the David Sassoon Clock Tower.

The cost, Rs.30,000, has been entirely defrayed by David Sassoon, Esq.

The style of the building is Italian; 12 feet square at the base by about 75 feet high. The base plynths are in trap stone, the body of Porebunder-stone, with ornamental tile panels occasionally introduced.

The key stones to the ground floor arches …contain subjects representative of morning, evening, noon, and night.

The article also goes on to say that the tiles came all the way from England and are the now famous Minton tiles.

P.S.: If you come across any other information on this clock tower, would you please share them with me?

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40 thoughts on “The clock tower at Jijamata Udyan

  1. Splendid Description out of nothing on very information gathering materials. Good Notice of the vintage structure. And finally superb pics.

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    • Thank you :-)

      We are a society paranoid about the wrong things. What if the clock tower becomes a haven for anti-social elements? What if someone decides to climb the clock towere and commit suicide? And what is there anyway in an old structure? These were questions posed at me when I asked a security guard about why the clock tower was not open. I seriously felt like hitting him at that time.

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  2. It’s amazing what architectural marvels we can uncover in our own backyards if only we stop to look, isn’t it? That must have been one beautiful clock tower when it was shiny and new. What a story it must have to tell, if only it could!

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    • The clock tower still looks beautiful, MG, in spite of the faded and chipped tiles or in some areas even missing tiles, the very obvious neglect and the slightly forlorn air it has surrounding it. The saving grace is that the clock works. I would love to hear the stories it has to share and the times it saw. But first I must try and find out what has been written about it in the archives of the city’s municipal corporation. Hopefully they will have some record of it.

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  3. The words on the archway say ‘Erected David Sassoon.’ Maybe the ‘by’ was eaten up by time, or omitted because of lack of space? Even so, we wouldn’t know why he did it, would we? I agree with the others here that it takes a keen eye to uncover and then appreciate such treasures. I will look out for this one if and when I pass that way :)

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    • Thanks, Zephyr. :-)

      It’s frustrating to not know details sometimes. But today was a good day as I came across some information on the David Sassoon Clock Tower (yes, that is what it was named) in a journal published in 1865. Read the update section that I added a short while back.

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  4. Have seen it during school picnics (where else) but the focus then was to run and play and eat the dabba that amma had packed. I am glad that this tower is dedicated to Jijamata. Too often, the grand buildings, the opulent towers are dedicated to “important men”. We need better representation of women leaders, thinkers, path breakers in our architecture.

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    • I must have see it too during school picnics too, but who wanted to stare at an stone structure when the zoo awaited just past the clock tower? And of course the lunch dabba :-)

      The tower is not dedicated to Jijamata Udyan, but to David Sassoon. The tower is located at the entrance to the Jijamata Udyan.

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    • Welcome here Jeevan and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

      We all see and notice things differently, so in that sense I guess it’s natural that some things attract publicity while others don’t. But what gets to me is the very obvious neglect of a part of the city’s history, the lack of available information and the “don’t care” attitude that prevails. In the case of this clock tower, it is within the premises of one of Mumbai’s most visited places – the zoo – so all the more reason why it should be showcased and not ignored.

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  5. Your post reminded me of that W.H. Davies’ poem and its opening stanza,

    “WHAT is this life if, full of care,
    We have no time to stand and stare?”

    Indeed as we hurry through our lives, we see without seeing the beauty and wonder all around us.

    Loved the pictures and the description. Would definitely pass by this clock tower when I am in Mumbai next.

    Cheers

    Shakti

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    • What beautiful lines and how very apt ! A lovely reminder to stop and see and appreciate the world around us. :-)

      Welcome to my blog Shakti, and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting.

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    • Yes, Puru. It is a lovely piece of our heritage, isn’t it? And it is galling to see that (a) it is kept under lock and key, (b) the very obvious neglect, and (c) absolutely no information about the clock tower. The update that I gave came from a 150 year old journal accessed from my organisation’s library network.

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    • This is very much Mumbai. :-) This city’s colonial past is quite interesting — Portuguese style architecture in the Western suburbs and British style in South Bombay. And some Art Deco inspired architecture in South Bombay and some parts of Central Mumbai as well.

      And I’d love to take you around when you come to Mumbai :-)

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  6. Thank you for this article and great photographs! I have been leading community research and crowd-sourced activities aimed at ‘mapping’ historic Minton tiles (+ other manufacturers/ architectural ceramics) made in ‘The Potteries’ (Stoke-on-Trent, England). I am currently researching a series of ‘shared stories’ aimed at exploring key historic ceramic exports and using these as a way of promoting and ‘re-connecting’ local communities using these global individual stories.

    It would be wonderful to communicate further with you. Thanks, Danny (Callaghan) – you can find contact details here:
    http://www.thepotteriestiletrail.org

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-stoke-staffordshire-21633906

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  7. Pingback: The Jewish heritage of Mumbai | My Favourite Things

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