Once armed with cannons to keep pirates at bay, Mumbai's historic Prongs Lighthouse still sits tall
Prongs Lighthouse, situated on the Prongs Reef near Colaba, is a hidden jewel in the midst of Mumbai's chaotic cityscape. Not only does it symbolise the city's rich history, but it also plays a vital role in safeguarding the navigability of ships in the Arabian Sea.
Established in 1872, during British rule, Prongs Lighthouse has become a symbol of hope and leadership for seafarers, since its inception. This Victorian structure has quietly watched the city grow from 'Bombay' to Mumbai. Read on to know details.
A Peek Into the History of Prong's Lighthouse
In the early 16th century, the Portuguese established control over the island of Bombay, which they later transferred to British authorities on March 12th, 1668. Initially, a watchtower stood on the island known as 'Old Woman's Island' (Colaba), which was later adapted and transformed into a lighthouse by the British Port Authorities, between 1768 and 1771.
The lighthouse underwent further enhancements in 1799-1800 when a powerful wick lamp was installed within a lantern, featuring a 4th-order optic system. Once again, this structure was upgraded in 1844, marking the beginning of the major lighthouses established in British India.
This Colaba lighthouse was equipped with first-class optical equipment, lighting up with a 55mm photovoltaic (PV) burner. It was installed and operated since 1875 but by 1912, the 55mm burner had been replaced by an 85mm one, which is still in use today.
A Victorian Masterpiece
Prongs Lighthouse is a work of Victorian architecture, that reflects the colonial design of the era. The lighthouse stands 145 feet tall and is a red- white-black striped tower, that combines form and function in an elegant manner. Constructed using locally sourced porbeagle stone, the lighthouse is not only aesthetically pleasing but also functional.
The light mechanism of Prongs Lighthouse is one of its defining characteristics. Initially, this lighthouse used a large oil lamp, but this was later modified to an electric lamp. This light, with its precise optics, was visible from a great distance, providing a critical point of reference for ships approaching the port of Mumbai. Prongs Lighthouse was also equipped with cannons, to keep the bay safe from pirates!
Additionally, this lighthouse is one of the three lighthouses in the Mumbai Harbour area. Sunk Rock Lighthouse and Dolphin Rock Lighthouse, are the other two, which stand forgotten yet have had major impact on the city's history.
How to get there?
Prongs Lighthouse is not only the sole manned lighthouse in the area but also one of the few offshore lighthouses in the world that are still operated by staff. Prior permission of the Mumbai Port Trust Authorities needs to be sought, to reach this popular site.
When the tide is low, the lighthouse can be approached on foot. However, when the tide is high, access to the lighthouse requires the arrangement of a motor boat, through the Mumbai Port Trust authorities.
Location: Situated at the southernmost point of Mumbai, in the Colaba (Navy Nagar) area.