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Mumbai

Commertial Capital of India

Visitor’s Checklist

Total Population

15 Million

Location

West coast of Maharashtra

 

 

 

Gateway of India,Mumbai
 
Marine Drive
 
Mahalaxmi Temple,Mumbai
 
Haji Ali,Mumbai
 
Mumbai Stock Exchange
 

 

MUMBAI (FORMERLY BOMBAY), capital of Maha rash tra, is India's most dynamic, cosmopolitan and crowded city. The country's financial centre and its busiest port, Mumbai is also home to the world's biggest cinema industry, popularly known as Bollywood. Some 15 million people, from billionaire tycoons to homeless pavement dwellers, live in this teeming megalopolis.

Consisting of seven swampy islands when the Portuguese acquired it in 1534, Bombay (from the Portuguese Bom Bahia or "Good Bay") came to the British Crown in 1661 as part of the dowry of Catherine of Braganza when she married Charles II. Finding little use for the islands, the British then leased them for a pittance to the East India Company, which quickly realized their potential as an excellent natural harbour in the Arabian Sea. By the 18th century, Bombay had become the major city and shipbuilding yard on the western coast, and by the 19th century land reclamations had joined the islands into the narrow promontory that it is today. The promise of commercial opportunities lured communities of Gujaratis, Parsis and Baghdadi or Sephardic Jews to settle in Bombay, giving the city its vibrant multicultural identity. The city has now reverted to its local name, Mumbai, from Mumba Devi, the eight­ armed goddess worshipped by the Koli fishermen who were the islands' original inhabitants. Mumbai is a city of striking contrasts. Here skyscrapers stand next to stately Victorian buildings, noisy traditional bazaars adjoin glittering new shopping malls, and opulent neighbourhoods are surrounded by sprawling slums. Swelling Mumbai's population and stretching its sub­ urban environs are migrants from all over the country who continue to flock to this "city of gold", in search of fame, fortune, or just a bit part in a Bollywood movie.


Gateway of India

MUMBAl'S most famous landmark, the Gateway of India, was the first sight to greet travellers to Indian shores during the heyday of the British Raj. Ironically, it also became the exit point for British troops after India gained indepen­ dence in 1947. It was built to com-. memo rate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, en route to the Delhi Durbar, but in fact, the King and Queen were met with a mock cardboard and pastiche structure - the actual Triumphal Arch, built in honey coloured basalt, was only completed in 1924, years after the royal visit.
This mon­ umental structure with two large reception halls, arches and minarets, and embellish­ ments inspired by medieval Gujarati architecture, was designed by the Scottish architect George Wittet, and commands a spectacular view of the sea. The Gateway looks particularly impressive at night when it is illumi­ nated, with the inky black sea stretching into the horizon beyond it. This is the hea11 of Mumbai's tourist district, the city's most popular gathering place, and always teems with locals, visitors, vendors and boatmen. Boats and barges moored here provide regular services across the bay and to islands such as Elephanta . They can also be hired for leisurely trips down the Mumbai coastline.
Nonh of the Gateway of India, towards Wellington Fountain, is Chhatrapati Shivaji Road. Formerly Apollo Pier Road, it has now been renamed after Shivaji, Maharashtra's great warrior-hero. Shivaji's eques­ trian sta tue is placed here in a pleasant garden, in line with the Gateway. Stand­ Statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji ing nearby is opposite the Gateway another statue, that of the great 19th-century Hindu philoso­ pher and reformist, Swami Vivekananda. Around the Gateway are some majestic buildings dating from the colonial era. These include the old Yacht Club which now houses the offices of the Atomic Energy Commission (entIy restricted), the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, originally built as a res­ idential annexe to the Old Yacht Club, and the Taj Mahal Hotel , behind which lies the busy Colaba Causeway.

Wellington Fountaine

BUILT TO commemorate the Duke of Wellington's visit to Bombay in 1801, Welling­ ton Fountain (now renamed Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Chowk) is encircled by some magnificent colonial build­ ings. These include the old Majestic Hotel (now the government-owned Sahakari Bhandar) with its mock minarets and Gujarati bal­ conies, and the elegant Art Deco Regal Cinema, designed by Charles Stevens and completed in 1934. His father, Frederick William Stevens, designed the imposing grey stone Indo-Gothic Sailors' Home, with a bas­ relief of Neptune on its front gable, in 1876; it is now the Police Headqualters. Equally impressive are the Edwardian Cowasjee Jehangir Hall, now the National Gallery of Modern Art.

Colaba Causewaye

CONSTRUCTED BY THE British in 1838, Colaba Causeway helped integrate the main city with Colaba, its southernmost spur. Today, the Causeway, also known as Shahid Bhagat Singh Road (see p456J, is a lively mix of shops, restau­ rants and residential enclaves. Among them is the charming Parsi housing colony of Cusrow Bau'j, built in the 1930s, where the distinct culture and lifestyle of this dwindling community is preserved. Of the Causeway's many restaurants is one that has become an institution, the Leopold Cafe and Bar.

Kala Ghoda

KALA GHODA, OR "BLACK HORSE", takes its name from an equestrian statue of King Edward VII that once stood at the intersection of Mahatma Gandhi Road and K Dubash Marg. The statue has long since been removed, but the name persists in public memOly. Stretching from Wellington Fountain at the southern end of Mahatma Gandhi Road, to Bombay University at the Detail, Clock north, and flanked by the Oval Maidan Tower and the naval base at Lion Gate, this historic area is a hub of cultural activity. It also houses a number of art galleries, cafes, restaurants and fine shops and boutiques.

VICTORIA TERMINUS

The most impressive example of Victorian Gothic architecture in India, Victoria Terminus Railway Station (now renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) is a rich extravaganza of domes, spires and arches. Designed by Frederick William Stevens and decorated by local art students and craftsmen, it was completed in 1888 and named to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Now the headquarters of the Central Railway, over 1,000 trains and two million passengers, including crowds of suburban commuters, pass through the station daily. In 2004, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

FILM CITY

Built in 1978 to meet the needs of Mumbai’s booming Hindi film industry, better known as Bollywood, Film City sprawls over 140 ha (346 acres) in the city’s northern outskirts. Bollywood produces some 120 feature films a year, making it the world’s largest film industry, rivalled only by South India’s Telugu and Tamil film industries. Film City is where many Bollywood blockbusters are shot, as are most TV soaps and serials. Song-and-dance routines, scenes of tear-jerking melodrama and action-packed fight sequences take place simultaneously on Film City’s dozen shooting stages, against outsize backdrops of medieval forts, dense jungles and opulent cardboard palaces. In between takes, mythological heroes rub shoulders with rifle-toting bandits and skimpily clad vamps.

ELEPHANTA ISLAND

The origins of the cave temples at Elephanta are lost in obscurity, but in all probability they date to the 6th century AD and represent the period of Brahmanical revival after Buddhism began to decline. From the pier, where visitors disembark from the boats, a long flight of 125 steps leads to the temple’s main Northern Entrance . This is a huge square hall with sides measuring 40 m (131 ft), supported by two dozen massive pillars. Here, in a deep recess against the rear (south) wall, is the huge triple-headed Shiva statue, the Mahesamurti . This is the glory of Elephanta, and few visitors can fail to be moved by this powerful, compelling image, hailed by art historian Percy Brown as “the creation of a genius”.

The three faces represent Shiva in his different manifestations. The central face with its towering, elaborate crown depicts Shiva the Preserver, sublimely serene and introspective. The one facing west represents Shiva the Creator, gentle, solicitous and graceful. The head facing east, with its cruel mouth, fiercely hooked nose and serpents adorning the hair, shows Shiva as the Destroyer. On either side of the statue are other superb sculptures. The one on the east shows Shiva as Ardhanarishvara – the Lord who is Both Male and Female, and thus symbolizes the Divine Unity in which all opposites are resolved. The image on the west is of Shiva as Gangadhara , helping the river goddess Ganga descend to earth while his consort Parvati and other deities look on.

Contrasting images of peace and violence, joy and fury, can be seen in exquisite sculptures throughout the temple. Thus, one sculpture near the Western Entrance lyrically depicts the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, while opposite it is a powerful panel showing Shiva brutally impaling the demon Andhaka. The Eastern Entrance has Shiva and Parvati contentedly playing dice in their mountain abode, as the demon-king Ravana tries to destroy their home by shaking the mountain.

The Prince of Wales Museum

ESPECIALLY RENOWNED for its superb sculptures and miniature paintings, the Prince of Wales Museum's exhibits are housed in a grand Indo-Saracenic building, designed by George Wittet. Its foundation stone was laid by the Prince of Wales (the future George V) in 1905. During World War I, it served as a military hospital, and was formally inaugurated in 1923. Generous gifts from discerning private collectors have enabled the museum to build a collection of rare quality.

Mumbai Stock Exchange

INDlA'S FINANCIAL epicentre, the Mumbai Stock Ex­ change towers above Dalal Street. This is Mumbai's Wall Street and derives its name from the many stockbrokers (dalals) in the area. The presence of close to 50 banks on a short stretch underlines the frenetic pace of its com­ mercial activity. Just before lunchtime, the area swarms with dabbawallahs who bring home-made lunch­ boxes to the thousands of office workers in the area.

Flora Fountain

STANDING AT the intersection of three major streets is Flora Fountain, the quint­ essential icon of Mumbai. Crafted out of Portland stone and shipped out from England, the fountain is sur­ mounted by the Roman goddess Flora who stands above eX'''lJberantly carved seashells, dolphins and myth­ ical beasts. Erected in 1869 in what was then a spacious open plaza, Flora Fountain is now swamped in a sea of traffic, and over-shadowed by a Martyrs' Memorial put up by the Maharashtra state government in 1960.

Crawford Market

ONE OF MUMBAI'S most fascinating and lively areas, Crawford Market, now renamed Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Market, lies to the north of Victoria Terminus. Designed by William Emerson and completed in 1869, this architectural extravaganza of Moorish arches and half­ timbered gables, topped by a clocktower, consists of a large central hall with two wings. Tiers of wooden stalls display nearly 3,000 tonnes of fresh produce daily, from fruit and flowers to fish and exotic birds.

General Post Office

COMPLETED IN 1911, this fantastic composition of minarets, domes and arches was designed by John Begg and supervised by George Wittet. A prime example of the Indo-Saracenic style, the General Post Office (GPO) building combines elements of Indian architecture, most notably an Islamic dome inspired by the Gol Gumbad in Bijapur, with classical European traditions. Mumbai's main post office,the GPO has a lofty three­ storeyed rotunda inside, which leads to its various depan­ ments.

Marine Drive

KNOW as the "Queen's ecklace" after the glittering string of streetlights lining the road, Marine Drive (renamed Netaji Subhash Chandra Road) sweeps along a sea-facing promenade which runs from Narinlan Point to Malabar Hill. Built on land reclaimed from the sea in the 1920s, it is also the main arterial link between the suburbs and the city's prime commercial and adminis­ trative centres, Nariman Point and the Fort area . Situated at its eastern periph­ ery is the Oval Maidan, nursery of such modern-day Indian cricketing heroes as Sachin Tendulkar (b.1973) and Sunil Gavaskar (b.1949).

The buildings of Marine Drive are characterized by a strong Art Deco flavour, popular in Mumbai during the 1930s and 1940s. With the advent of elecuic elevators, and with concrete replacing the earlier stone and brick, the apartment blocks on the sea­ front were built to a uniform height of five floors, making this the most fashionable residential area of the time. The best way to enjoy Marine Drive during the day is from the upper floor of a red double-decker bus, which provides panoramic views of the sea and the city's kyline. In the evening, it s\varms with people taking their daily walks, couples meeting after work and families gathering around the vendors selling coconut water and bhelpuri

Mahalaxmi Temple

DEVOTEES bom rich and poor, throng this temple dedicated to Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth and Prosperity, who is also known as Laxmi in Maharashtr" and in ., parts of Gujarat. The approach is lined with stalls selling religious offerings, such as coconuts, flowers and small plastic icons. The temple's histOlY dates to the 18th century, when an embankment being constructed along the bay was repeatedly washed away. The contractor dreamt that if a temple was built to Laxmi, the wall would hold. And this actually happened. Nearby is the Mahalaxmi Race Course, next to Mahalaxmi Station, which has horse races evety weekend from November to April. In its crowded stands the city's fashionable set rub shoulders with the poor and hopeful.

Haji Ali Mosque

APPROACHED by a long causeway which gets submerged at high tide, is the dargah (tomb) of a rich merchant, Haji A1i Shah Bukhari, who gave up his wealdl after a pilgrimage to Mecca. The dargah dates to the 15th centUlY, but the dazzling white mosque was built in the 1940s and seems to float on its small island in the Arabian Sea. The cause­ way, usually lined with beggars, leads to a huge marble courtyard. The tomb lies at its centre and devotees touch their heads to the heavily embroidered chador (ceremonial c1odl) covering it. Female devotees sit behind a a jali (stone screen). IN THE NARROW bylanes of Girgaum in central Mumbai is the old-fashioned neigh­ bourhood of Khotachiwadi (literally, "Headman's Orchard"). Khotachiwadi grew as a suburban settle­ ment, north of dle Fort, in the 19th centUlY, and retains the sleepy quality of a coastal village