Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

George Wittet, who left beautiful fingerprints across Mumbai


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Indo-Saracenic Architecture

Mains level: NA

The restored and refurbished Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) (erstwhile Prince of Wales Museum) will open this month as the building enters its centenary year.

Who was George Wittet?

  • George Wittet was born in Blair Atholl, Scotland. He studied architecture in Perth, Scotland, and worked in Edinburgh and York before arriving in India in 1904.
  • In India, he became assistant to John Begg, consulting architect to the Government of Bombay.
  • Together, they pioneered the Indo-Saracenic style, using it in many government and public buildings across Bombay.
  • About a decade later, Wittet rose to be consulting architect himself and was also elected as the first president of The Indian Institute of Architects.
  • Besides the Prince of Wales Museum, Wittet also designed the Gateway of India, a fine example of Indo-Saracenic architecture and among the most identifiable landmarks of Mumbai.

What is Indo-Saracenic style?

  • The Indo-Saracenic style was promoted by British architects starting from the late 19th century.
  • It is exemplified by the use of elements seen in architecture across India, from Mughal structures to Hindu temples.
  • The style was dominated by Indo-Islamic elements, but sometimes combined with Gothic and neo-classical elements popular in Britain at that time.
  • Major features of the style include domes and domelets, chhattris, minarets, and open pavilions.
  • Indo-Saracenic was seen as Raj’s efforts to promote “Indian” culture, so that their colonial subjects would view them more favorably, especially after the Revolt of 1857.

Notable monuments

Examples from other parts of India include the magnificent:

  • Victoria Memorial in Kolkata
  • Amba Vilas Palace (Mysore Palace) in Mysuru
  • Senate House (on the Madras University campus) in Chennai
  • Secretariat Building (Central Secretariat) in New Delhi

Mumbai’s notable architecture: CSMVS

  • The dome of the CSMVS is based on the Gol Gumbaz, the mausoleum of king Mohammed Adil Shah of Bijapur.
  • Wittet had toured the historic buildings of Bijapur, which was key to his Indo-Saracenic designs.
  • CSMVS’s finial is based on that of the Taj Mahal.
  • However, even though he won the competition for the museum’s design, it wasn’t his design that was executed finally.


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