Mumbai - A tete a tete with the city
Earlier known as : Bombay
Location : Western India, Maharashtra
Best time to visit : October to March
Local Transport : Suburban trains, private taxis, auto rickshaws, metered taxis
Souvenir : Handloom fabrics, footwear, silver and gold jewellery,handwoven and hand printed silk and many more
Places to see : Gateway Of India, Hanging Gardens, Juhu Beach, Siddhivinayak temple, Mahalaxmi temple, Elephanta caves, Prince of Wales Museum, Jehangir Art Gallery, Nehru Planetarium, Haji Ali Dargah, and many more.
The Tale of the city
Mumbai, earlier Bombay finds its occupation from Stone Age. The aboriginal tribe or “Kolis” as they are known are supposed to be the earliest inhabitants of Mumbai. The area where they stayed is present day Kandivili, was known to the Greek astronomer and geographer Ptolemy, as Heptanesia. It was the centre of trade in maritime zone between Persia and Egypt. This was in 1000 B.C. Mumbai again found its roots being traced to 3rd Century BC as part of Asoka’s empire. The Chalukyas ruled it from 6th to 8th century AD. It was the Chalukyas who left the village Gharapuri or the present day Elephanta Island. During the 9th to 13th Century AD, the Shilahara chiefs ruled over and built the Walkeshwar temple at Malabar Point. During the same time, the Yadavs of Dogiri settled in Mahikavati or present day Mahim. It was an island then. The Yadavs found this island in response to the raids by the Khilji dynasty in 1294. The settlers then continued to be there and the descendants of these settlers are found in today’s Mumbai. The places are named from that time. This island became part of Gujarat in the 13th century when the Muslim forces conquered it. In the 15th century, the Portuguese tried to conquer Mahikavanti but Sultan Bahadur Shah, the then ruler of Gujarat, gave the island to the Portuguese themselves. In the 16th century, the island, which is present day Mumbai, came under the British and King Charles II and Catherine Of Braganza took it over as a marriage settlement. The British royal gave it to the east India Company in the 16th century. Once it came under the hands of the British East India Company, Mumbai just helped to keep a control on the West Coast. The Mughals, Maratha, and the Gujarat princes were more powerful. Thus by the 19th century the city of Mumbai started growing considerably. This is how the city of Mumbai was established.
Mumbai - Down the Ages
Mumbai, the cotton centre began to grow gradually and steadily. This was more because the Mughal power began to sway in Delhi and the instability in Gujarat began to force the artisans and merchants to seek shelter in Mumbai. Mumbai the island began to grow. When the Maratha power decreased, the people could take actions on having their own trade and communications. Down the ages, saw Mumbai getting the first spinning and weaving mill being established in the 18th century. Besides, in 1860, Mumbai came to be recognized as one of the largest cotton markets. There was a trade boom in Mumbai during the American Civil War between 1861 - 1865, as cotton could not be transported. The cotton prices came down after the war got over but the hinterland had been exposed to the world and Mumbai or Bombay slowly became a strong center of import. In1869, the Suez Canal was opened so, the prosperity progressed in spite of the 1896 plague. The first seawall was proposed to be constructed and executed. It is the present day Netaji Subhash Road from Nariman Point to Malabar Hill. Mumbai down the Ages became the capital of Maharashtra in 1960. The first session of the Indian National Congress held in 1885 and the city being witness to the Quit India movement Mumbai was divided into Gujarat and Maharastra in 1960 and today is the financial hub of the world.
Mumbai, the Gateway of India city with its lively and vibrant lifestyle is the confluence of Culture, tradition and practices across the country. It is the most multi ethnic city of India. The city actually is composed of seven small islands. With the trademark “ Bindaas” attitude that defines the Mumbai spirit the tourist here has enough and more to add to his travel kitty.
Mumbai is famous for providing the tourist with the best travel kitty ever. The downtown area has many bazaars for flowers, fruits, and the place captivates you with its immense activity. The Colaba Causeway and Fashion Street are places that are best to shop for small stuff. More trendy stuff is found in the Kemps Corner and Breach Candy. Chor Bazaar is a place where there is lot of antique stuff sold. The Zaveri Bazaar is famous for its diamond, silver and gold jewellery. The arcades of the main hotels like the Taj, The Oberoi are good places to shop for clothes, leatherware,jewellery and nice looking handicrafts. Dadar T.T is a good place to shop for children’s clothes, saris etc at reasonable prices. The atmosphere there is electric in the evenings. The “Queen of the Suburbs” also sells a lot on the streets. Places like Linking Road are a good bet for a casual shopper. Crossword is a good place to shop for books. There is also the Strand Book Stall, which gives any book under the sun.
Mumbai - Joie de vivre in the city
Mumbai with its broad boulevards, Mumbai with its coolies jostling around and Mumbai with its endless stream of commuters is a symbol of unity and prosperity. From the office hub to the temple calm , from the lashing waves to the slums of Dharavi, Mumbai is a kaleidoscope of life and youth. A person coming here would get to see the following :
Gateway of India : This huge arch was built by the Prince George when he took over as the King. When King George V and his queen Mary came in 1911, they came through this arch. This is the starting point of a tour in Mumbai normally. The arch is situated in Apollo Bunder.
Flora Fountain or Hutatma Chowk : This was erected in 1869 in memory of a British Governor Sir Frere. It is known as the “Piccadilly Circus “ of Mumbai. It has mythological figures decorated in the four corners. The Fountain is actually a structure made out of dull stone with the Roman goddess of flowers at the top.
Mumbai Fort : The old British fort was once upon a time located here. Hence, this area to the north of Colaba is called Fort. Today this place has many magnificent buildings of the British Era and it reflects the golden period of Mumbai. This is where the St. John’s Church is. It is dedicated to the soldiers who laid down their lives in the Sind Campaign in 1838 and the Afghan War of 1843.
Marine Drive : Located in Central Mumbai this has been built in the 1920’s and 1930’s. This was obtained from land reclaimed from the sea. This is Mumbai’s much-haunted place. This is referred as the Queen’s Necklace. This is because in the night when this place is lit up it looks like a queen’s studded necklace. It has been recently renamed as Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road. On one end is Nariman Point and on the other end is Babulnath.
Chowpatty Beach : This is a beach at the end of the Marine Drive. It has a decent covering of sand and has many ceremonies taking place here. These include the annual thread tying ceremony of the Indian Brahmins. It also is witness to the immersion of idols during the festival of Ganpati. It lies in the central part of Mumbai.
Juhu Beach : This is one of the largest beaches of India. It lies to the north of the city. This place is home to many film stars and earlier it was the venue for shootings too. The serene , calm waters of the beach against the backdrop of the setting sun are a remarkable sight to watch here.
Marve - Manori - Gorai Beaches : These beaches lie 40 km fromMumabi. They are in the north of the city and are favorite spots for tourists who want to unwind. All the three beaches are preferred by everyone for get-togethers and parities in the beach.
Ganeshpuri : This is the place of Swami Nityanand Maharaj. Lying on the banks of the Tansa river, this place was earlier famous for its hot springs. Swami Nityanand built an ashram here, which was later renamed after him by his disciple Swami Muktananda.
Mumbai High Court : This attractive piece of construction is built in English Gothic style. It is situated next to the Oval ground and is known for its architectural excellence. The statues of Justice and Mercy occupy the top of the structure.
Rajabai Clock Tower : This is situated in the gardens of the Bombay University. It has five storeys and each storey is exquisitely decorated. The top of the cupola has a lot of ornamentation work with sixteen statues showing various castes. The tower is 280ft high.
Taraporewala Aquarium : This is found along the Marine Drive in Mumbai. It houses the most exotic marine species. All kinds of fishes and exquisite pearl jewellery are found here. It is under renovation for a high tech aquarium.
Jijamata Udyan Zoo : This has been laid out in 1861. It has the rare and endangered species of animals and birds. Spread over 48 acres in Byculla, the entrance has a clock tower, which has long stopped working though. The gardens have some of the oldest trees and there is a museum within the zoo, which has the best collection of archaeological discoveries. There is a huge stone elephant at the entrance, which was found in Gharapuri in 1864.
Balodyan Gardens : This is a garden for the creativity of the children. This is a garden where only women and children are allowed. This was built in the year 1952 and inaugurated by the President of India Dr. Rajendra Prasad.
Hanging Gardens : This is also known as the Pherozesha Mehta Gardens. This was built in 1880 and was renovated in 1921. They are also known as the Hanging Gardens because of their natural slope on a hill. A terrace garden gives a total aerial and panoramic view of the city. One can see the life of Mumbai and the serene sunset from this place. The gardens are built over three reservoirs, which store around 30 million gallons of water. This water is supplied to Mumbai city.
Kamala Nehru Park : This is on top of the Malabar Hill and was built in 1952. It has been named after the wife of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The park extends over an area of 4000 sq yards. The place offers a stupendous view of the Queen’s Necklace.
Chota Kashmir : This colorful garden has been developed by the Aarey Colony. It is full of beautiful flowers, blossoms and is a popular picnic spot for many people.
Jehangir Art Gallery : This is situated in Kala Ghoda, which is the venue for the prestigious fair of Indian artists. It has four exhibition halls, and has the best collection of works of art. There is an unending list of applicants who want to put up their works in the gallery. It was built in the year 1952. Cawasji Jehangir bore the cost of this entire beautiful mansion. This is one of the city’s most visible art galleries. It is a great treat for artists.
Prince of Wales Museum : This was named after Prince George who visited India in 1905. He laid the foundation stone of the building. The architect of the Prince of Wales Museum, George Wittet also built the famous Gateway of India on the seafront. This arch was built for the Prince to make his Royal Entrance as the King George V for the Delhi Darbar in 1911.
Nehru Planetarium : This is the only astronomical centre, which is also a concert cum move auditorium. The place is stupendous as it recreates the image of the sky as seen in the sky at night or day. The planetarium has collections of lunar and astronomical photographs. It is located at Worli.
National Maritime Museum : Mumbai has a natural harbor. It was developed by the British. The Mumbai port is one of the busiest ports in India and handles around 40% of India’s maritime activities. The Indian Navy has set up the museum to store all the historical treasures that India gets from other countries. It also displays models of ships that have been built in India.
Mani Bhavan Mahatma Gandhi Museum : Situated on Laburnam Road, this is found near the August Kranti Maidan where the Quit India movement started in 1942. Mahatma Gandhi lived here between 1917 and 1934. Today it has been turned into a modest museum. Revashankar Jhaveri an Indian National Congress supporter and diamond merchant also lived here.
Veermata Jeejamata Museum : Also known as the Victoria and Albert Museum, this is found in Byculla inside the zoo. The museum stores all the story of the city’s past with many archaeological findings, maps, photographs. All these depict the history of Mumbai vividly. All these are on display here.
Mahalaxmi Temple : The temple is located at the foot of the Malabar hill. It lies on the northern side of the Malabar Hill. A part of the temple is now called Breach Candy. This temple is one of Mumbai’s oldest temples. It is dedicated to Mahakali , Mahalaxmi and Maha Saraswati. It is a place, which is visited by devotees all over India.
Jain Temple : This temple is dedicated to Adinath. Adinath was the first “Teerthankar”. It is located on Malabar Hill. It was built by the Jain community in 1904. The entire temple is made out of marble. It is not maintained well, and the frescoes in the temple show many events of the 24 Jain apostles or the 24 Teerthankars. The top floor has a black marble shrine, which has been magnificently decorated with many divine representations. There are celestial personifications of the planets, which are painted on the ceiling.
ISCKON Temple : This temple is better known as the “Hare Rama Hare Krishna Temple”. It is situated at Juhu. This place propagates worship, meditation and spiritual knowledge. It also spreads the principles of Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is the holy book of the Hindus which lays downs principles of life as told by Lord Krishna.
Ayappa Temple : This is a temple that has been built on the lines of the main temple at Shabari Mala, Kerala. The temple is dedicated to the Lord Ayappa and is complete with a tiny stream originating nearby. This is at Kanjur Marg, Mumbai.
Babulnath Temple : This temple situated in Marine Drive has been built for the Indian God Lord Shiva. We get an illusion of Mount Kailash here. The serenity and the tranquility of the place is relaxing and people can feel the peace seeping through their psyche making them feel good.
Balaji Temple : This temple situated in Nerul has been built on the same lines of the Balaji temple at Tirupati. This was built in 1991.
Mumbadevi Temple : This is located in Bhuleshwar. The city’s goddess is revered as Mumbadevi. She is respected as the main deity of Mumbai. The temple of Mumbadevi was earlier where the present day Victoria Terminus is located. In fact, legend has it that the name Mumbai comes from this deity.
Siddhivinayak Temple : This is devoted to Ganesh, the Indian elephant headed God. It is located at Prabha Devi in Mumbai. There are people who pray to this deity before any new venture or project. This is a very famous temple.
Walukeshwar Mandir : This is one of Mumbai’s ancient Hindu Sites. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva. According to the great Indian epic “Ramayana”, Lord Rama came here during the journey when he went down south to save his wife Sita from the clutches of the evil demon king Ravana. He created a phallus or linga out of the sand to worship Lord Shiva.
Haji Ali Dargah : This shrine was built in honor of a Muslim Saint. It is 600 yards into the sea and can be approached only when the tide is low. There is a narrow rock causeway that is built above the sea level. Devotees from all over the world come to pay homage here.
Mahim Shrine : This shrine of Makhtum fakih Ali Paru, is a noteworthy monument in Mumbai. He was of Arab origin, and has studied and travelled greatly. This great person was noted for his commentary on the Holy Koran. This shrine has been built in 1413 in memory of him.
Jama Masjid : The original Jama Masjid was situated near Dongri. Then the new Jama Masjid was removed and erected at Esplanade. In 1770, Governor William Hornby ordered this to be demolished and stopped the construction of any building here. The work on the present day Jama Masjid could be completed only in 1802.
Mount Mary Church : This is one of the most important churches in Mumbai. It is situated on a hill in Bandra. It is dedicated to the Mother of Jesus Christ. Locally this place is known as the “Math Mauli”. There is a statue of Mary installed outside the Church. People with faith come here and light the wax candles before the statue.
Afghan Memorial church of ST. John the Baptist : This is located in the Colaba area. Established in 1847 AD, this is a memorial in memory of the people who died in the First Afghan War of 1843 and Sind campaign of 1838. This is an Anglican church and this church is dedicated to ST. John the Evangelist. The wide Gothic Arches and the wonderfully stained glass windows, add beauty to the church.
Cathedral Church of ST. Thomas : This is the city’s first Anglican Church is situated in Fort. The construction of this church started in 1672, during the time of Gerald Aungier, and it got over in 1718. It is still under a lot of additions. The interior of the Church has a lot of exquisite artistic work.
Tulsi Lake : it is located within the Sanjay Gandhi National Park. It has lovely, lush green surroundings around the suburbs. The lake also has many reptiles too.
Vihar and Powai Lakes : These adjoining lakes are popular spots for picnic. There is a lovely park that has been made on either side of the lakes. There are a number of shady trees for relaxation. The visitors have a variety of trees and flowers and recreation facilities here.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park : This is set amidst the hills in Borivali. It has pleasant surroundings and its lovely greenery is an attraction for people coming here for excursions, nature walks etc.
Krishnagiri Upvan : This area has been reserved exclusively for recreation and has the attractive Lion Safari as its attraction. The Safari extending for 12 hectares gives firsthand experience of the lions within the safety of special buses. Recently the Tiger Safari also has been added in the 20-hectare area of the recreational area. In this safari, we can not only see the tiger but also understand the species of the tiger. The white tiger is also present.
Kanheri Caves : This is located deep inside and displays a lot of history and culture of the Buddhist religion. There are 109 Buddhist caves in the centre of the park. They are all proof of the actual existence of monastic developments and them settling down from the 2nd to the 9th century AD. These caves are a collection of Viharas and Chaityas and they are well connected with pathways and have stone beds and cisterns.
Besides all this, Mumbai has the best pubs, hotels, and recreational spots like the Fantasy Land and the Essel World. Mumbai also is home to a lot of Bollywood or Hindi Movie actors. The entire city exhibits a Diaspora of religion, culture and traditions. The Kala Ghoda festival adds color to the city and it encourages artists from across the world to come and participate. IN this manner as we leave the city we only have one thing to say,” East or West Mumbai city is the best”.