All About The 65-Million-Year-Old Gilbert Hill In Mumbai

Step into the population-dense heart of Andheri, and take a staired trek up the Mesozoic-era, basalt rock Gilbert Hill
The Gilbert Hill from afar
The Gilbert Hill from afar Wikimedia Commons / Nicholas (Nichalp)

Around ten minutes from the bustling and chaotic Andheri railway station in buzzing metropolis of Mumbai lies a part of the invaluable geological heritage of India, Gilbert Hill. At 65 million years of age, the basalt rock hill is a remnant of the Mesozoic era, which spans from about 252 to 65 million years ago. This means Gilbert Hill was here before there was even a trace of humans, who are about 13 million years old, let alone the hyper-city of Mumbai. Gilbert Hill, which affords the city's best panoramic views, was declared a National Park in 1952 and a Grade II heritage in 2007. 

One Of The Trio

While not much has been done to conserve the hill, except for stopping its destruction for the construction of roads and high-rises, its high-profile labels have kept some parts of it safe. The 'hill' is only one of three outcrops of volcanic rock worldwide. The other two, well-preserved and protected, are in the United States of America one is in California, named the Devils Postpile National Monument, and the second is in Wyoming and called Devils Tower National Monument. Despite being on protected-structure lists in Mumbai, the 225-foot-high Gilbert Hill is fighting hard for its survival under heavy and nefarious encroachment activities. 

An Explosive Past

Gilbert Hill's formation from a forceful volcanic eruption led to it being formed as vertical basalt pillars that look like a put-together block. Known as laccoliths, or columnar basalt, the rock of these square and rectangular pillars, is the same as that of the Deccan Plateau, which was formed from the same volcanic activity that created Gilbert Hill. 

The rock mass is an integral part of the geographical relief features of the Mumbai region. It was part of the protrusions and outcrops of the vertically columnar basalts of Jogeshwari, Ambivli, and others in north Mumbai, before they were demolished to create the city. Did you know that basalt is the main rock that constitutes the ridge starting from Ghatkopar, Vikhroli, Jogeshwari east, Aarey Milk Colony, and further, and was once spread over 50,000 square kilometres These areas of Mumbai are now over-built suburbs which sit on dust multiple-million years old. 

What's In A Name

Some say the hill received its name from American geologist Grove Karl Gilbert, who coined the term 'laccolith', while some sources point to a British officer who was in-charge of Andheri. Whatever the case, Gilbert Hill is better known to locals as the location of the Hanuman Mandir and Gaondevi Durga Devi Mandir. These temples, set on its more than 8,000-square-foot flat top, perhaps inadvertently, have done more for the preservation of Gilbert Hill than any other agency.  

A centre of religious tourism, Gilbert Hill's only other visitors are geologists, historians, scholars, and the odd tourist group. This is when it should be on the priority lists for conservation by the government and part of tourism packages and school city tours. Although awareness about the exotic and rare nature and origin of Gilbert Hill is spreading, the process is a slow one and awaits a full-force, persistent initiative of the concerned tourism authorities. Currently, a four-phased project, with the participation of experts from IIT-Bombay, was conducted to strengthen Gilbert Hill with protective nets and bolts.

The Information

Best time to visit&nbspWinter or sunrise and sunset. Avoid a visit during the monsoon.  

How to get there&nbspGilbert Hill is a short walk/auto rickshaw ride from Andheri railway station and the DN Nagar metro station. 

Top tip&nbspWear flat, comfortable shoes, as the stairs are steep and many. Carry a sun hat and refreshments. 

For more information, visit the website

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