Mumbai Lens: The war memorial at Ballard Estate

♦ This blog post was featured in the “Around the Blog” section of the DNA newspaper published on January 14, 2013 (pg.6) 

At a road junction in the busy Ballard Estate area of Mumbai, and near two landmarks of the area — Cafe Britannia and Old Customs House — stands a memorial.

World War I Memorial at Ballard Estate, Mumbai
World War I Memorial at Ballard Estate, Mumbai

This memorial commemorates the employees of the Bombay Port Trust (now Mumbai Port Trust) who fell during World War I (1914-1918) and also Port Trust’s contribution to the war effort. A brass plaque on the memorial reads:

War Memorial 2In the Port of Bombay in the Great War 1914-1918

1,870,000 troops and personnel embarked and disembarked at the docks

3,046 transports and 668 hospital ships were dealt with at the docks. The first transport left Bombay on 21 August 1914.

2,073 troop and hospital trains were railed over the Port Trust Railway.

2,228,000 tons of military stores were shipped from the port.

494 Government ships used the Port Trust dry docks.

War Memorial 3
The lions at the base of the memorial

The base of the memorial has winged lions carved on it. The lions look suitably fierce, but what stands out is the beautiful carving of the lion’s mane and the feathers on the wings. Each feather has been lovingly detailed and look very realistic.

I first saw this memorial when I used to work in the Ballard Estate area, I couldn’t have asked for a better location for my first job as, in my opinion, Ballard Estate is one of the most beautiful areas in Mumbai with its collection of buildings all uniform in architectural style and design. A favourite spot for film and ad shoots, Ballard Estate was built on reclaimed land by the Bombay Port Trust (now Mumbai Port Trust) between 1914–1918.

But in spite of this, I don’t think I really appreciated the history or beauty of the area till I changed jobs and moved to another part of Mumbai. Though my current workplace is beautiful and set in lush green surroundings, I missed the ambiance and the history surrounding me all the time.

So last year, when I got the chance to visit this area and say hello to my old and neglected friends in this area, I took a camera along with me to record them as well. 🙂

Mumbai Lens is a photographic series which, as the name suggests, is Mumbai-centric and is an attempt to capture the various moods of the city through my camera lens. You can read more posts from this series here.

33 thoughts on “Mumbai Lens: The war memorial at Ballard Estate

  1. I cannot agree with you more as I too love the history, the architecture of Ballard Estate. I had always seen the war memorial, but never got around to reading the plaque. So much information about about the war in a few lines.
    Why do the lions have wings? I wonder.
    BTW, that is a lovely blue door in the building behind the memorial!


    1. A visit to the Ballard Estate area is always about a meal at Cafe Britannia after which one really doesn’t want to walk around much ! 😉

      There is another plaque as well, which I did not read and cannot decipher it from the photograph I took. So this is another excuse for a visit to Ballard Estate again. What say? You see the memorial and also feast your eyes on the blue door in the picture !


  2. This area is another one of those in the list of ‘to see places with Sudha’. Are you keeping count? Seeing a place through someone who loves it is always a pleasure and reveals unknown facts and trivia.


    1. Oh yes, I’m keeping count, Zephyr. The list of places to see has reached dangerously long proportions and you may want to have a look at the list before wanting to add some more. 🙂


    1. Ballard Estate is not what can be called a tourist haunt in Mumbai. It is a business place during the day, and a deserted place at night. But if you are a lover of colonial architecture and would like to see Mumbai’s first planned area, then this is the place to visit. The war memorial is perhaps only known to people who visit Ballard estate and notice their surroundings 🙂


    1. You’re welcome. Glad you found the suggestion useful and liked it too !

      Kitab Khana has a good collection of books, has an unmatchable ambiance, and serves great food as well ! So which aspect appealed to you?


  3. Wow! and we have to meet now….what lovely lovely lovely pictures of Ballard Estate..and for some reason I have always associated it with company headquarters..darn!


    1. Ballard Estate was designed and built as a business district and till date it is associated with company headquarters and suited and booted people, swanky cars and all that. It also houses the iconic Cafe Britannia, which, in my opinion, serves the best caramel custard in the world. 🙂 What makes the area so special is its architecture and layout and the best time to visit it is on a Sunday morning — other mornings are too crowded and in the evenings the place is deserted and not safe.

      And as for meeting, I say an enthusiastic “Yea” 😀


    1. Welcome here and thank you so much for stopping by and for you lovely comments too. I love my city and in the fast changing developments taking place try to capture and document whatever little I can here.


  4. Sometimes I dream of being in the past and having a digital camera .. that would have ensured much more vivid memories of the past .. now when I go to old places that I used to visit frequently, I am not sure if they have changed and in which ways ..


    1. I’m sure you must have noticed it, Rachna. Many people think it is a fancy lamp post and do not bother to investigate. the next time you are in this area do check it out 🙂


    1. Welcome here Javed and thank you so much for stopping by and commenting. Inshallah, one day you will be able to visit this beautiful city of mine and experience it yourself. Till the, there are you always have my posts to read 🙂


  5. 1.8 million Indians participated in the First world war? Wow! All this for a British war which had nothing to do with us! What a pity.
    The memorial should continue to stand and remind us how stupid we were to go and fight someone else’s war just because we accepted that entity as our “colonial master”. Makes me admire our freedom fighters more.
    (PS – I now live in London and find it atrocious that we Indians give chaar aane ka bhaav to the Brits who continue to treat us either like garbage or like inferiors who they civilised / “gifted with roads, railways and bureaucracy”!)

    As for the person who mentioned the winged lions, it is a common symbol used here in London too – I thinnk it usually stands for the lions of St Mark, and the evangelist’s elevation.


  6. HI ! Can anybody help me regarding the Architectural and Historical importance of Railway Manager’s Building at Ballard Pier i.e. 6, Kamani Marg , in front of BP petrol pump.


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