Gilbert Hill, Andheri, Mumbai.

A Bombay Winter

Fans of the 1977 movie classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind would remember the strangely menacing mountain that for much of the movie is the centre of much alien curiosity. Yes I’m talking about the Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, USA . Devil’s Tower, from what I can understand from Wikipedia, is a 1267 feet (386 m) Monolith (or more technically an igneous intrusion); which in plain people speak is a giant column of sedimentary rock sprouting out from the earth. It is a hardened magma plug from an extinct and long eroded volcano. Definitely a place I would love to visit.

[Devil's Tower : A picture Henk & Anna on Flickr]

I don’t know how many of you Mumbaiwasis [people of Mumbai] know this but our very homely suburb of Andheri is home to a baby cousin of the Devil‘s Tower - Gilbert Hill.

[I would have tried to get you a better picture but many sides of the hill were simply inaccessible]

Wikipedia Says
Gilbert Hill is a 200 foot (90 m) (the height of a 10 storey building) monolith column of black basalt rock in Andheri, Maharashtra, India. The rock has a sheer vertical face and was created when molten lava was squeezed out of the earth's clefts during the Mesozoic Era about 65 million years ago. During that era, molten lava had spread around most of the Indian states of Maharashtra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh, covering an area of 50,000 km². The volcanic eruptions were also responsible for the destruction of plant and animal life during that era.

Gilbert Hill was interestingly much bigger but sadly urbanisation and constant quarrying has eaten away at the edifice of this monolith. The hill has incidentally been declared a National Geological Monument. The hill is home to two temples and is accessible via a steep staircase.

The hill is closed to the public between 12 noon and 4 p.m. I for one, did not know this so I hung around the base of the hill talking to some kids, who live in a slum nearby. Children provide a great outlook of a community- you can tell a lot about where society is going by talking to the children growing up in the society in question. These kids were sharp, inquisitive and very witty. Talking to them was quiet enthusing

Twinkling Eyes
[The children were fun to talk to and we had a long conversation mostly on Bollywood and their love for a computer game called Need For Speed. Their favourite actors were Salman Khan and Sunil Dutt. They explicitly mentioned that they don't like Shahrukh Khan.]

Gilbert Hill, Andheri
[The temple priest on Gilbert Hill]

School Girl in Blue
[She was smilling a minute ago but now is more pensive]

The hill was a quiet reflection of Mumbai, an oasis of green on a 90 metre high plateau of solid rock, surrounded by the man-made sprawls of concrete. The temple priest sat in his chair, the peaceful environ summoned him into a deep sleep. In front of him lay compartmentalized the prasaad.-a prasaad of coconut water, tiny cut coconut and sugary delight. The low flying Brahmani kites adjusted their flight paths as they shrieked past just above head just as a gentle sea breeze blew in the opposite direction. It was as if I had left the city that enveloped me on all four sides; it was just me, the temple priest, the cheery school girl, a few lazing crows and many fearless kites. It was a pleasant 20 minutes of casual thought watching the city around me.

Gilbert Hill

[Gilbert is not the only monolith I've visited. Here is Sigriya Rock in Sri Lanka. If you wish you could read about it here]

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Vignesh said...

Hey Akshay,
Terrific work man, just saw ur comment on my blog. Im free after 13th . Lets meet up sometime. gimme ur cell number...mines the same.

Vignesh said...

Hey Akshay,
Terrific work man, just saw ur comment on my blog. Im free after 13th . Lets meet up sometime. gimme ur cell number...mines the same.

Nick said...

A great write-up, thanks. The pictures were also good.
If you ever come and visit, I will be sure to take you to Atlanta's Stone Mountain. It is pretty big.

Anonymous said...

u too have comment moderation!!!!!who possibly can leave obscene comments on your blog??????
anyways good to know that you coming towards north of mumbai since i remember you telling me that your knowledge of mumbai stops somewhere after juhu.the hill in third encounters of the kind is more scary than our gilbert hill.

Mridula said...

You take such amazingly good pictures of people, whereas I sweat for an hour before approaching them!

Unknown said...

vignesh -
hey long time, we should definitely meet
I think rohit finishes with his exams on the 16th. We could have a small school reunion of sorts.

nick -
Stone Mountain sounds cool. Would love to see if I'm in Georgia. Hope is sooner rather than later.

aparna -
gilbert hill not scarry - I'll take offense to that. Well true its not all that scary its just a chunk of basalt. So what are you up to these still working ?

Raj said...

Awesome photos!!

Rahul Bhatia said...

The temple priest on Gilbert Hill... what a picture!

It has the light and dark of a pen and ink sketch, of a sumi-e painting. It's beautiful.

Anonymous said...

oh yes still working.i got paid too.

Flypig said...

Ahhh... have been looking at that hill for the last 4 years and wondering what it reminded me of. Now you mention close encounters. It looks so out of place. I suggest you add some pictures of it from further away maybe across the feilds so that people can see just how odd it is sticking out off an otherwise almost flat area.

Anonymous said...

I live few mins away from the hill. Another good view of the hill youcan get is from the 'The Club'.

However there have been lot of snake problem there.

G Shrivastava said...

Oh I've always wanted to go up that hill- spent many a looooong minute waiting at the Juhu circle signla staring at that hill and wondering about it...

Archana Ramesh said...

Jumped a couple of blogs to get here.. Your photos are simply brilliant..

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I get tired of seeing Sharukh Khan in every cotton-pickin' Hindi movie too, but the girls in my house don't. (mark)

mucastic said...

Priest on the Hill..moving.
The url chasing was worth it!

david raphael israel said...


I've presumed to attempt a poetry-commentary regarding (or interpretation of -- or maybe I should just say riff on) your bird-on-branch photo. [Backchannel note for formal photog permission is also in the pipeline.]

cheers, d.i.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Great pictures. Just a point - 200 ft. is closer to 20 storeys than to 10, you should correct the Wiki entry.


Selma Mirza said...

Akshay, I could get you a zoomed-out picture of Gilbert Hill against the morning sky.

The best place to get it from the road would be from Juhu Circle.

Anonymous said... glad ppl are soo awe struck by the hill...i've been researching abt the plc for abt a yr now...the gilbert hill is in real derelict state now.. becoz of the encroachment by the builders...and the slums....
such a rare and unique natural monument deserves its due recognition..Apparently, the fight to save the rock has been goin on for last 40 yrs now,......the builders shall always win....thts the outcome of a redundant and corrupt system
thts sad , very sad to know...

Anonymous said... body ever cared about that hill or "piece of rock" anyways...dont be sorry and dont blame the builders. If it wasnt for them, you guys would be living in is sad but you all need to focus more on poverty and hunger in Bombay and if your answer is its going to stay there then dont hope for such "monuments" or "historical" places or rocks to survive.

Anonymous said...

Great pictures! I just happened to see this hill while driving on a road in Andheri(W) and immediately decided to go there. Enquired the route from few and i was at the base in few minutes. Although the approach road is narrow but i could manage my vahicle somehow. The sign board said its closed from 12 to 4 but the security guard didnt say anything and opened the main gate. Parked car inside the compound and climbed up. Great panoramic view from the top. The temple security guard told the history of the place. I was surprised to see the info board at the base which said its 9 Crore years old....Thats too old! Took couple of pictures from top, lots of kites(bird) flying around and cool shade of trees. Very nice place to relax. I would recommend this to all those who wish to see cityscape from within the city.

Anonymous said...

Hi,I checked this for the first time, I live in Andheri West for last 30 years and have never know Gilbert hill so well. Great photos keep it up,


Unknown said...

well i believe in sustainable development. Its a hard fact that 60% of mumbai lives in slums and they do deserve decent living. But then not at the cost of such monuments. These structures are ours Natural Heritage. Recall its significance. Its the only kind in the world after the Devils Tower and The Srilankan Monolith. It cant be thrown away into the hands of builders lobby. Already the sagar city constucted right next to it has scaled down its beauty.


Unknown said...

it is an amazing place

thought to do some research on it
related to Bio-diversity

i had given lecture on Star Gazzing on GILBERT POINT
during Solar eclipse 13th June 2009

that was my first time to see these Natural Heritage made up of Tectonic plates similar to Devils Tower in USA

Some serious steps should be taken to make common people and goverment aware



manasi said...

hey frnds m studying geology and want to visit gillbert hill
.many ppl say its not accessable lots of sticky mud is surronding the hill
.is it true?
i wanna take my college mates here for a field trip. i live in andheri e .i know the road till rto office but hw to go there near the hill?
sumone said the road is narrow.can i go on my scooter?is it ok if i go in monsoon?

Prerna said...

i grew up at a building off juhu galli, and from the top floor the view of gilbert hill always sparked my imagination. i went there in my childhood but regret not going on my last two trips back to mumbai from the states. thanks for the lovely photos and the geological background about this beautiful place that to me was iconic and wonderous

Prerna said...

i grew up at a building off juhu galli, and from the top floor the view of gilbert hill always sparked my imagination. i went there in my childhood but regret not going on my last two trips back to mumbai from the states. thanks for the lovely photos and the geological background about this beautiful place that to me was iconic and wonderous