This grand architectural feature is the second largest dome in the country after the Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur.
The occasion was timed to coincide with the 110th anniversary of the GPO’s construction. Rather than call celebrities, postmaster general, Mumbai region, Swati Pandey, invited the postmen and women who work in the building to release 110 tricolour balloons into the sky at the inauguration.
She said, “The primary dome is a composite structure of steel and concrete that had fallen into disrepair due to weathering and corrosion. It has a finial made of wood. Moreover, the building has not been renovated properly in its entire history. This is the first time we are undertaking a full repair and restoration of GPO. Previously, each time some piecemeal repair was undertaken to the dome, layers of concrete were added which made it far heavier than it should be. All that excess concrete has been shaved off, and it is lighter now. The external dome has been completed while the inner portion is in progress.” The three-phase repair of the GPO building is expected to finish by the year 2025.
The GPO building was designed in Indo Saracenic style by noted British architect John Begg in 1902. Construction began September 1, 1904. It was completed March 31, 1913 at a cost of Rs 18 lakh. The dome is located right above the familiar central hall where scores of employees work and hundreds of customers visit each day. Its diameter spans 65 ft, about half of the Gol Gumbaz which is 125 ft. There are 64 inverted lotus petals surrounding it.
Heritage consultant INTACH (Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage) and contractor Shrinivas Sulge of Laxmi Hericon carried out the task of repair for six months under the watchful eye of Pandey, who says she has monitored “each tile” that has been laid in the building.
Sulge showed before and after pictures of the dome which pointed to grave deterioration at the start. Cracks had developed in the structure, which if not arrested in time, could have posed a danger to the people below. Extensive structural repair and waterproofing was carried out at a cost of Rs 1.10 crore. Pandey said the funds sought were readily approved by their ministry in New Delhi.