General Post Office
Popularly known as the ‘GPO’, the General Post Office is strategically located behind Victoria Terminus (now Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), and is the central post office of Bombay, dispatching and receiving most of the city’s mail.
Charles Elphinstone, the then Postmaster General for the Bombay Presidency, established the General Post Office in 1794, much before this building was constructed. Initially, the GPO was housed in a group of small buildings near the Apollo Pier. However, following a fire, the office moved into another building that eventually proved to be insufficient. And so, John Begg, a consultant architect to the British government, was handed the task of constructing a new building. Work began in 1904 and was completed 9 years later in 1913.
The structure, a prime example of Indo-Saracenic style, was modelled on the Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, Karnataka. It covers an area of 11,000 square metres (120,000 square feet). Its chief architectural feature is its ethereal central hall that rises up to the great dome.
The main materials used in its construction were black basalt with a dressing of yellow Kurla stone and white stones from Dhrangadhra. Inside, its marble topped tables, high vaulted ceilings and sweeping staircases were designed for an ostentatious show of the wealth and power of the last few decades of Imperial rule in India. It cost the government a sum of Rs 1,809,000 to build.
Today, the GPO is the biggest post office in the country; it controls smaller post offices in the city, issues stamps, prints inland letterheads and postcards, and houses a philately section.