Mumbai’s most famous landmark, the Gateway of India is always teeming with crowds: tourists gawking at the Gateway or casting yearning glances at the luxury yachts, regulars sitting on the parapet and relishing a break from their routine, couples posing for cameras, kids chasing pigeons or feeding gulls, and people waiting for ferries to Elephanta Island or Alibag. If the shore is a teeming mass of people, the sea here is a melee too, with ferries, launches, yachts and fishing boats, all jostling for space. Amidst all this chaos, stands a small structure, forgotten and unnoticed.
This is the Dolphin Rock Lighthouse, built in 1856 to help ships find their way into the port. Around 58 feet tall, the lighthouse is unattended and emits a white-green occulting light every four seconds, with a visibility of seven miles. I have no idea if the lighthouse is still used, invisible as it stands among all the boats which dock at the Gateway jetty. Interestingly, this is just one of the three lighthouses in the Mumbai harbour.
Located around five kilometres from the Gateway of India, the Sunk Rock Lighthouse was built in 1884. This is an operational, though unattended lighthouse. The 66 feet tall lighthouse flashes a red light with white rays every six seconds.
The Prongs Lighthouse is among the most well-known lighthouses of Mumbai. Its tapering 144 feet high tower is visible from Colaba, and can be accessed on foot during low tide (with all due permissions, of course).
This is also the only manned lighthouse in the area, and is among the few offshore lighthouses in the world that are still staffed. It is used even today for the purpose it was built, in 1874. This lighthouse marks the entrance to Mumbai Harbour, and replaced the onshore Colaba Point lighthouse, of which no trace remains today. Located about 2.5 kilometres off the southernmost tip of Colaba, it emits a white flash every 10 seconds.
Further away, between Mumbai and Alibag, lies the Kennery Lighthouse. Now called the Kanhoji Angre Lighthouse, it is situated on what was known as the island of Khanderi. The island was once in the hands of the Portuguese, who built a fort there. It was later occupied by the Marathas, and eventually by the British, who built the lighthouse in 1867. This lighthouse is no longer operational, but is being developed into a tourist spot.
These lighthouses are reminders that Mumbai grew into the city it is, all because of its natural harbour. The port has played an important role in the development of the city, and continues to do so. Standing as silent sentinels, these lighthouses have played their part through history.
The Dolphin Rock Lighthouse can be seen from the Gateway of India. You can get better views when you go on a boat ride, but you can still catch a glimpse of it between all the boats moored at the jetty.
The Sunk Rock Lighthouse can only be approached by boat. However, you can only see the lighthouse from a distance, since entry is prohibited, and so is approaching too close.
The Prongs Lighthouse is managed by the Directorate of Lighthouses and Lightships, and permission to visit needs to be taken from them. The lighthouse can be approached by the sea as well as land. Approach by boat is risky, since fishermen lay nets in this area. Also due to its location, permissions are needed from the Port Trust as well as the naval authorities. The lighthouse can be approached from the reefs during low tide, and involves a trek of about 2.5 kilometres each way. However, the approach is once again through naval land, so permissions are needed.