History of Gilbert Hill
Gilbert Hill in Mumbai is as old as ‘The Age of the Reptiles’, dating 65 million years. It’s made up of black basalt rock columns that were a result of molten lava that got squeezed from the Earth’s clefts. Geologists have compared Gilbert Hill to the Devils Tower in Wyoming and the Devils Postpile National Monument in Eastern California. This also translates that these 3 monuments are the only one of a kind in the world.
Basalt rock column formations – (Left) Gilbert Hill and (Right) Devils Tower, Wyoming
In India, Gilbert Hill was granted a National Park status in 1952. More recently, efforts from environmentalists and geologists has resulted in making the Gilbert Hill a Grade II Heritage structure. Of course, nothing much has been done about all this. On the contrary, the hill is eroding and the area surrounding it has been nibbled by builders and slum dwellers over the years.
Growing up in Mumbai, I was told by many that Gilbert Hill is not safe to visit and inaccessible. But there was always some part in me that wanted to see this crumbling geological monument, so I decided to put all rumours to rest and visit the place.
Visit Gilbert Hill
On a Sunday morning, when I set out, I was amazed to learn that Gilbert hill is located so close to the Andheri station. As I kept approaching the hill, the roads got narrower and then bumpy and finally I was riding on unpaved roads (kachcha rasta). When I reached the location, Gilbert Hill looked stunning and as if undeterred by the damage that its neighboring buildings and slums were causing to it.
Buildings have been erected barely 12 meters away from Gilbert Hill
It did not seem as if builders are paying heed to the stay orders on constructions near Gilbert Hill as many more buildings were half way through development. A large amount of debris from these construction works lay at one side of the hill. And the number of slums surrounding this geological structure is beyond imaginable.
I tried to find the entrance to climb Gilbert Hill and reach the Gaondevi Durgamata temple atop, but was informed by a local that the entrance is a separate route altogether. Climbing the steps to Gaondevi temple was underwhelming. Roads, although not in good shape, but are present leading you almost half way to the hill.
The view atop Gilbert Hill is amazing. The expanse of Mumbai suburbs can be seen in a 360 degree view. Buildings, clustered slums, green open grounds, clear blue sky and a sunrise or sunset view (depending on the time of your visit) is what you can expect, positively.
The Gaondevi Temple atop Gilbert Hill is beautifully maintained unlike the hill itself – says a lot about how we care about religious structures more than nature. The temple is closed between 12pm and 4pm, so try to make this either a sunrise trip or a sunset visit.
How to reach Gilbert Hill
There are 2 routes. First is to reach the bottom of Gilbert hill. The other is through an entrance gate for Gaondevi temple atop the hill. The latter is simpler and more accessible. Both the routes, however, can be reached from Andheri station. Once you reach the NADCO shopping center on the Andheri S.V. Road, take the turn just opposite NADCO to go uphill. Keep going straight and take the second right which will lead you to the entrance to climb Gilbert Hill. Another landmark for this route is the Andheri Jamatkhana (a place of gathering and worship for Muslims). To reach the bottom of the hill, come back to the junction from where you took a right and drive further down (8 to 10 minutes).
Why visit now?
You’ll need a really strong will to visit Gilbert Hill. Accessing this place can be tricky. But once you make it here, the bitter-sweet feeling is that of discovering a monument on its way to crumble.
Gilbert Hill isn’t a tourist spot in any sense, not yet! So keep your expectations in check. Although, there are Government plans to make this a tourist spot, it is unlikely that this will happen anytime soon. On the contrary, if you do not visit this place sooner, the hill is eroding and getting smaller in size until one day when there would be barely any remains of this monolith to claim its existence.
Tips to visit Gilbert Hill
- Cars cannot reach till Gilbert Hill. Roads are extremely narrow with potholes and there are some climbs as well. Two-wheelers would be just fine or local transport like autorickshaws are good. The location can also be reached by walking from Andheri station in no more than 20 minutes.
- Do not hesitate or shy away from asking for directions if the route gets confusing. I asked nearly 5 people for directions; they were all friendly and politely guided me.
- Bear in mind that there are two different routes. So if you want to reach the bottom of the hill, you ask for directions to Gilbert Hill; but if you want to climb the hill and reach the temple, you ask for the route to Gaondevi Temple.
- If you’ll use online maps, better to type Gaondevi Temple. The location is the same, but the entrance to Gaondevi Temple is from where you climb Gilbert Hill.
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My other posts on offbeat experiences in Mumbai
- 7 budget restaurants in Andheri East for a corporate lunch
- Top 5 things to do in Navi Mumbai
- In search of the Nagla Bunder fort and an unexpected discovery
- The last bungalow of Seven Bungalows survives
- A cricket museum for a cricket crazy nation
- Bassein fort in Vasai is seeped in history
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