Afghan Church stands in Duxbury Lane, Colaba. It is also known as The Church of St John the Evangelist. The church was built in memory of the British troops who fell in the first Afghan War (1838-42). Work began in 1847 and the church was consecrated in 1858. The 60-metre tall bell tower was not completed until 1865.
The church is 3.8 km from Churchgate station. Taxi fare will be about Rs. 60. Alternatively, BEST bus no. 123 will take you to the church. Holy Communion Service is conducted at 8:30 am on all Sundays. It is a Prebysterian church.
The monument looks grand although the grounds and gardens seemed rather forlorn. I found the main doors shut. The caretaker lives in a cabin in the same compound. He came and opened the doors for me.
The main door was impressive and still functions well. But it obviously had seen better days.
Inside the church, your eyes are drawn towards the five large stained glass panels above the altar. These panels are installed in the chancel arch which is at a height of about 50 ft. The high ceiling is supported by soaring Gothic arches. The roof is varnished teak wood. The rows of wooden benches are from mid nineteenth century.
Memorials to the soldiers who fell in the First Afghan War can be seen on the walls on both sides. The architectural style of the church is a forerunner to the Gothic structures in South Bombay such as Mumbai CST and the High Court.
The architects were Henry Conybeare and Henry Butterfield. They are responsible for the Gothic look of the Church. It was considered the first Gothic Church in India.
The walls are made of Kurla stone while the arches and pillars employ Porbunder stone. The floor tiles were imported from England.
On my way out, I observed three more stained glass panels just above the entrance to the church. Above the entrance can also be seen memorials of officers who fell in the Second Afghan War (1878-80).
On the grounds can be spotted a cross which had been erected by the officers and privates of H.M. 45th Regiment. The plaque says that the memorial had been built to commemorate the soldiers who died in Neemuch and Colaba during 1865-66.
You may have wondered why the monument was raised in Bombay and not England. The explanation is that many of the soldiers who died in Afghanistan came from the East India Company’s Bombay Army. The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall attended a Remembrance Sunday Service at the church on 10 November 2013.
The tall spire was meant to serve as a landmark for ships at the harbour and could be viewed from quite a distance.