Mention ‘Kipling’ and ‘Bombay’ (as Mumbai was then called) in the same breath and an image of Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book and Poet of the Empire springs to mind. But dig a little deeper and you will find that it was his father, John Lockwood Kipling, who left an indelible mark on the city of Mumbai.
The story begins in 1851, when a teenaged John Lockwood Kipling, a Methodist preacher’s son from Yorkshire, England, visited London for ‘The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations’ held at the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park. It was a celebration of industrial technology and design, and brought together some of the most exceptional arts and crafts from around the world. The India pavilion was one of the most popular ones and, among other things, showcased the finest examples of Indian craftsmanship.
The Yorkshire boy was dazzled and this started his lifelong affair with India and its arts.
Thereafter, Lockwood trained as a painter and designer at Staffordshire and started his career at the South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria & Albert Museum) in London in 1861. However, India was rarely far from his mind and, in 1865, a 28-year-old Lockwood arrived in India with his pregnant wife Alice, to teach architectural sculpture at the recently established Sir JJ School of Art in colonial Bombay. He went on to become its first principal.
The Sir JJ School of Art wasn’t always the grand institution we know today. Back then, it was a young school peopled by equally young people trying to make a difference in the arts of the country. Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, the renowned 19th century trader and philanthropist, felt that Indians could attain exceptional expertise in the arts if they received proper training. He decided to establish an art school and approached the British government and donated 1 lakh rupees for the establishment of the ‘School of Art and Industry’ in 1857, which was posthumously renamed after him.
In the early years, the school functioned out of makeshift structures in the Bombay campus.
The Dean’s Bungalow of the school is called ‘Kipling House’ because of the belief that Lockwood and Alice’s’ son Rudyard was born there. However, the bungalow was constructed in 1882 (Rudyard was born in 1865) and most scholars think he was born in one of the shamiana-like, makeshift structures from which the school worked out of in its early years.
The 1860s and 70s were an exciting and productive time for architectural sculpture in the city. Bombay was flush with cotton and opium money, and the British were on a spree of building monumental structures to project their power and grandeur.
Thus the students at the school, under Lockwood’s supervision, ended up doing most of the decorative sculptures on many of the city’s most iconic buildings. Here are some of them.
Crawford Market (now Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market)
The market, intended as the primary market for agricultural produce, was completed in 1869 and was a gift of Sir Cowasji Jehangir to the city. The building itself was designed by William Emerson in a mix of Flemish and Norman architectural styles. The architectural ornamentation was done by Lockwood and his students.
There are two significant elements ascribed to Lockwood – the market friezes above the entrance and a fountain inside.
The friezes above the entrance done by Lockwood and his students are idealised depictions of farm and rural life in India. These reliefs depicts a crowd of characters going about their day, and one can clearly see the agricultural and market themes showcased here in keeping with the purpose of the market.
Public fountains were a significant and necessary part of life in the city of Bombay and many have survived to the present.
A fountain was especially required at a busy market with a large number of people passing through it to conduct business. Although in a shabby state today, one can see glimpses of the wealth of animal and floral motifs on the Lockwood-designed fountain.
Keshavji Naik Fountain
The fountain at Crawford Market isn’t the only one he designed. The monumental Keshavji Naik fountain at Bazaar Gate is also ascribed to him.
The elaborate fountain, which rises to 20 feet, has a clock tower on top.
The clock tower portion of the fountain has sculptural panels depicting peacocks and elephants. Interestingly, the base of the fountain has two nandis on it.
Maharashtra State Police Headquarters
The Maharashtra State Police Headquarters was once the Royal Alfred Sailors’ Home. The Gothic building was designed by Frederick Williams Stevens and completed in 1876.
The bands, mouldings, carved corners and finer carvings were done by the students of the Sir JJ School of Art, under Lockwood’s supervision, in a mix of local stones like Kurla stone, Hemnagar stone and basalt.
This was also the time when the Fort campus of the then Bombay University was being set up and the grand Library and Convocation Hall were constructed. The library, which is surmounted by the Rajabai Tower, was started in 1864 and completed in 1878. Lockwood and his students were responsible for much of the decorative elements on these buildings.
Victoria Terminus (CST)
Victoria Terminus (today Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus) was the epitome of Bombay’s grand colonial buildings. A blend of Victorian Gothic and Indian traditional architecture, the station was under construction for over a decade, from 1878 to 1888. Although Lockwood had left the city for Lahore in 1875, the decorative work has been ascribed to him by many authors.
However, the UNESCO World Heritage nomination dossier says that Lockwood was responsible for the training of many of the sculptors involved.
Although he may not have been directly involved, we can see many aspects of his aesthetic sensibilities in this monument, a blend of East and West.
These are just some of the well-known and documented works by Lockwood and his students. While the better-known son may have won the Nobel Prize for Literature, the father’s work has received much recognition as well. His influence is seen at not one but two UNESCO world heritage sites – the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus and the ‘Victorian Gothic and Art Deco Ensemble of Mumbai’.
One would assume that it would take a lifetime for such monumental work. However, Lockwood spent just a decade at the Sir JJ School of Art and moved to Lahore in 1875. He was in Lahore till 1893, working as the Curator of the Lahore Museum and teaching at the Mayo School of Art, first as a professor and then as its principal. This was the longest stint in his professional life. But besides his artistic achievements, one of his most significant contributions was the documentation of local arts that he conducted.
While his later work in Lahore and Punjab may have greater resonance with scholars and has also led to retrospective exhibitions at his former workplace – the Victoria and Albert Museum – his stint in Bombay left an indelible mark on the city and, by extension, on people like us.
While the son might have invoked the city in his writing, it is the father who helped create it.
Stroll through South Mumbai today and you are bound to stumble upon these little-known gems that John Lockwood and his students so lovingly crafted and scattered all around.
Visiting Lockwood’s Legacy
You can still see many of his works in Mumbai
· At CSMT, all the decorative sculptures were done by artists trained by Lockwood
· The friezes at Crawford Market are on the arches to the right of the entrance. The fountain is inside the market
· The Mumbai University campus at Fort opposite Oval Maidan has sculptures done by Lockwood’s students under his supervision
· You can see the Keshavji Naik Fountain at Keshavji Naik Road at Bhat Bazaar in Masjid Bunder