Mumbai General Information
- Area 603 sq. km
- Population 9925891
- Altitude Sea level
- Languages Marathi, Hindi, English, and Gujarati
- Best Time to Visit October-March
- STD Code 022
Introduction to Mumbai
Bombay, or Mumbai as it is now called, is the commercial capital of India, a city of entrepreneurs, concrete towers, clubs and discos, cricket, Bollywood and more. The city, a cluster of seven islands, was named by its native Koli fisherfolk after the goddess Mumbadevi. After the Portuguese gained possession of the islands in 1534, they renamed it Bom Bahia, for the natural harbour, which served as a safe haven for its ships. In 1661, Charles II of England received the islands of Bombay as dowry when he married Princess Catherine of Braganza. The British Government leased the islands to the East India Company, who developed it into a thriving trading port. Mumbai is the fast paced commercial, financial, industrial and celluloid capital of India. Lured by its glamour and the prospects of ‘streets paved with gold’, a large number of people from different parts of the country come to settle in this city every year. And Mumbai continues to grow, to absorb and most importantly to prosper. Just when you begin to wonder how you’re ever going to cope with Bombay, you arrive at Worli and see Haji Ali Mosque standing proudly on a raised walkway in the middle of the sea giving you the feeling that the Gods are there if everything else fails. If you arrive at night, there will be a backdrop of twinkling lights from the skyscrapers that are so much a feature of Mumbai’s skyline. The scenes change as you drive past Chowpatty Beach, ablaze with the lights of stalls selling fruit-juice, ice cream and snacks to the crowds thronging the beach. By the time you reach Marine Drive, your spirits will be restored and the rush of traffic won’t seem half so daunting as it might have been earlier, and the sedate horse-drawn landau will seem a charming anachronism. Once a tiny island overrun by swaying palm trees, Bombay used to belong to the native Koli fisher-folk, who still live here in their little villages surrounded by soaring skyscrapers. Portuguese came here in the seventeenth century and dotted the place with several forts, which stand even today. Later Mumbai came under the British rule and eventually became one of the largest ports in the British Empire.
Places of Interest:
Gateway of India
The Gateway of India is the main attraction of this city. It was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary for the Delhi Durbar in 1911. Situated at the Apollo Bunder, the gateway holds greater historical significance as the last of the British troops that left India by sea, marched through its portals. The monument is complete with four turrets and intricate latticework carved into the yellow basalt stone. You can also go for a short cruise through Bombay’s natural harbour in one of the little motor launches that are stationed here.
Mani Bhawan is one of the important places to visit. Presently functioning as a Gandhi memorial, it used to be the Mumbai residence of Mahatma Gandhi. It is from this famous house No. 19, called Mani Bhawan, that Gandhiji was arrested in 1932. This two storied building houses a reference library with over 2000 books, a photo feature on the Mahatma’s life, some memorabilia, an old Gandhiji’s charkha and a film and recording archive. A minimum entry fee is required to get into the Mani Bhawan.
Prince of Wales Museum
The Prince of Wales museum is another major attraction. Built in the year 1914, it is surrounded by a beautiful landscape forming an ideal getaway for the people of this town. The museum houses art, sculpture, rare coins, and old firearms and a priceless collection of miniature paintings. The Prince of Wales museum is regarded as one of the best museums in the country.
A stroll down the Marine Drive is the best way to discover the city. This winding stretch of road with tall buildings on one side and sea on the other extends from Nariman Point to Malabar Hills. Due to its curved shape and many street lights, it was once called the Queen’s Necklace. A popular sea front, Marine Drive is also the main thoroughfare linking Malabar Hills to the southernmost points of Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Nariman Point, and Fort.
Nicknamed as the uptown bourgeois paradise, Juhu Beach is a place that attracts a large number of visitors throughout the year. Characterised by walkers, screaming children and courting couples, the beach covers an area of about 5 kilometres. Juhu beach is attractively studded with many five star hotels offering the customers a splendid view of the coast. The beach remains noticeably crowded on weekends. Moreover, the beach activities like camel rides, pony rides, acrobats, performing monkeys and entertainers will keep you enthralled all the time. Keep away from hawkers.
The Hanging Gardens makes another must see site. The park was built during the early 1880s over Mumbai’s main reservoir at the top of the Malabar Hills. The reason of its location being to cover the water from the potentially contaminating activity of the nearby Towers of Silence. Located just opposite the Kamala Nehru Park, this terraced garden, also known as Ferozeshah Mehta Garden, is famous among the locals as well as tourists. The garden provides lovely sunset views over the Arabian Sea.
Kamla Nehru Park
Kamla Nehru park, located at the top of Malabar Hills is another site to visit in Bombay. Overlooking the Marine Drive, the park houses “Old Woman’s Shoe”, wonderfully cut hazes and roomy walkaways. Moreover, the park also provides you a spectacular view of the city and the sunset. The Kamla Nehru park also makes a favourite gateway for the locals here.
Another sandy gateway of Mumbai is the Chowpatty beach in the suburbs of the city. Chowpatty is perhaps the most famous beach, characterised by the usual hustle and bustle of stallwalahs, people snoozing under the shade of its stunted trees, screaming kids, Ferris wheels, pony rides, wayside astrologers, monkey shows, and even the odd self-styled gymnast demonstrating their skill for a fee. Moreover, the bhelpuri shops and sometimes the film shoot or a street play also adds to the festive atmosphere of the beach. A beach of action, Chowpatty makes a must visit.
Tower of Silence
A peculiar site to visit is the Tower of Silence. It has a large number of Parsi population. The Parsis have the custom of leaving their dead in the open. These particular places are called “Towers of Silence”, where the vultures come to eat the dead. For the Parsis, this is regarded as the final act of charity. Mumbai’sTowers of Silence, have virtually disappeared today. Only a handful remains that attract a considerable number of tourists every year.
Jain temple also makes the interesting place to visit in the city. Located on the Malabar Hill, the Jain temple houses frescoes depicting various events in the lives of the 24 Jain Tirthankaras. It also has a black marble shrine decorated with celestial personifications of the planets painted onto the ceiling. A large number of devotees as well as tourists come here every day.
Located nine kilometres by sea from the Gateway of India, are the Elephanta Caves, a place you must include in your excursion itinerary. The Elephanta Caves are characterised by rock temples carved out of two hills that emerge from the centre of the island. It is said that the Portuguese named this island after the stone elephant they found here. At Elephanta you can see the cave shrine to Lord Shiva, which belongs to the sixth century, and a massive three-headed sculpture representing Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer. You can also find the other interesting sculptures here include those that depict the marriage of Shiva and Parvati.
A small trip of about four miles will take you to the famous Kanheri Caves a must visit excursion spot of this city. The caves are believed to have been carved out by Buddhist monks between the 2nd and 9th centuries and have many interesting facts related to them. Situated in the centre “Borivili National Park”, the Kanheri caves are also regarded as one of the biggest Buddhist monastic establishment on the Konkan coast. An unusual feature at Kanheri is the number of open benches cut out of rocks. Almost all the caves have benches in their verandahs or front courts. Sit down on one of these. And with the evening breeze that comes from the sea refreshing you, you realise their purpose at once.
Rock-cut structures are one of the most primitive forms of architecture found in several parts of India. The Karla Caves in Maharashtra are one of the finest examples of this architectural style. The Caves are located high in the surrounding hills. A narrow winding path, leads up to them. Built by Buddhist monks, the caves are in keeping with the Buddhist ideas of simplicity. The caves are characterised by many halls and a huge stone stupa along with the 2000-year-old teak wood ceiling which is still intact. Outside the cave is a pillar crowned with lions. This was an emblem of the Buddhist King Ashoka, now adopted by the Indian Government as the state emblem.