Afghan Church Travel Pleasures and Tour DelightsChurches | April 11, 2012
Come to Mumbai, and experience the pleasures of enjoying the greatest travel delights in this part of the world. Enjoy the pleasures of the constructions here and feel closer to history in India.
While on pilgrim tours in India, the churches here form a major tour locale. The church of St. John the Evangelist is one such church which is popular in Mumbai. Also called Afghan Church is actually a Presbyterian Church which is found in the Southern part of Mumbai in India. It was the British who built this and they constructed it in reverence of the dead who died in the war between the Afghans and the British. The first Afghan War of 1838 saw many disastrous deaths in this part of the world. The church was built commemorating all those who died during the war.
It is situated in the Navy Nagar in the Colaba region of Mumbai. It is built in the memory of all the soldiers in many languages. It also reveres the Madras Army, the Bombay Army, and the Ranjit Singh’s army from Lahore. There are records which show that only Surgeon William Brydon who was a medical officer, who survived and came back to Jalalabad and narrated the tale of the war. Out of the 16,000 men who fought in this battle he was the single survivor who braved the battle and came out unscathed. The British suffered the maximum defeat in this war.
The Afghan church started as a small chapel lying around a kilometre to the south of what was then called the Sick Bungalow. Today it is the Indian Naval Hospital and is called the INHS Asvini. It is said that the patrons had to bring it up on their own. Then the government alloted a new plot of land and decided to set up a church here, but there was a condition that the spire should be visible from a long distance and thus be the landmark for all the ships coming from the harbour.
In the year 1843, the Oxford Society for Promoting the Study of Gothic Architecture got a request for designing a new church. The request was made by the Chaplain and he made it to the East India Company. Then John Macduff Derick who was an architect from England presented the model to the Society sometime in the month of Nov ember in the year 1843 and then the Society approved it. In the year 1845 however it was said that the designs were not fit and the building would be very expensive. So the English Gothic Revival architecture of the Afghan Church was then submitted in the year 1847 and it was Henry Conybeare who gave got it approved. Then William Butterfield redesigned the entire design and the Afghan War Memorial Mosaics came into being and the screen, pews and the tiles were also reviewed. The total church was consecrated in the year 1858 and it was Bishop Harding who did this. At a cost of Rs. 5, 65000 the spire was built and it got over in the year 1865. It was Sir Cowasji Jehangir who gave a lot of contribution towards the construction and he also got an illuminated clock in the tower here.
With the buff coloured limestone and basalt available the entire edifice was built and the insides were very widely known for the beautiful arches built on gothic kind and also for the magnificent glass windows which formed the mainstay of construction here. The chapel has an aisle and also a nave with a chancel with is around 50 feet in total length and around 27 m in width. The western and the eastern windows were completely the brainchild of William Wailes who was a great stain glass expert. The stain glass used here is of a greater quality than the ones found in the Victoria Terminus and Rajabai tower constructions. There are eight large bells in the bell tower and these come from the bell foundry in the country of England and were brought in the year 1904. It is said that they are the best in the western part of India with a spire and a tower as tall as around 198 feet.
There is a stone inscription and a brass panel here and then Afghan Church today stands tall in the list of tours in Mumbai.