Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, is the fastest moving, most affluent and industrialised city in India. Mumbai is part of India's beautiful west coast, that runs down from Gujarat, through Mumbai to Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. The city has a natural harbour, which was developed by the British. It is one of the most busy ports of India, handling approximately 40 percent of India's maritime trade.
Mumbai (till recently known as 'Bombay'), derives its name from the local deity Mumba Devi, whose temple is still there. The Portuguese predecessors of the British preferred to think of the name as Bom Baim, the Good Bay. Mumbai is a group of seven islands which are today known as Colaba, Mahim, Mazgaon, Parel, Worli, Girgaun and Dongri. Large expanses of open sea have been filled in, and tidal swamps have been reclaimed for furthering the land area. These reclaimed areas include Churchgate and Nariman Point.
Mumbai is home to people of all Indian creeds and cultures. It is a fascinating city, throbbing with life, and, for many people, the gateway to India.
What to See
Gateway of India, the principal landmark of Mumbai, was the principal port when the visitors came to India by ship. The gateway was conceived, following the visit of King George V to India in 1911, and was officially opened in 1924. Its architecture is akin to the conventional Arch of Triumph, with elements derived from Muslim styles of 16th century Gujarat. Near the gateway is the Colaba Causeway, which extends to the end of Colaba promontory, the southern end of Mumbai Island. Sassoon dock is always interesting to visit at dawn, when the fishing boats come in and unload their catch.
The area north of Colaba is known as Mumbai Fort, since the old fort was once located here. There are a lot of impressive buildings from Mumbai's golden period here. St. Johns church, dedicated to the soldiers, who laid down their lives in the Sindh campaign of 1838, and the first Afghan war of 1843, is also worth a visit. The Prince of Wales Museum, built to commemorate King George's V visit to India, was opened in 1923. It is modelled on the Indo - Saracenic design, and has sections for art and paintings, archaeology, and natural history. The Jehangir Art Gallery is within the compound of the Museum, and displays paintings of modern Indian artists. Flora Fountain is also nearby, and is the business centre of India, housing many of the major banks and offices. It was erected in 1869 in honour of Sir Bartle Frere, who was governor of Mumbai from 1862-67. Close to the fountain is the Cathedral of St. Thomas begun by Gerald Aungier in 1672, but formally opened in 1718.
One of the most popular promenades of Mumbai is the Marine Drive, built on land reclaimed during 1920, and runs along the shoreline of Back bay, starting at Nariman point, and sweeping around by Chowpatty beach upto Malabar hills. Chowpatty beach is one of Mumbai's famous beaches, and is a popular spot for people seeking evening outs. It is also a scene for the vibrant annual Ganesh Chaturthi festival. A major landmark of this vibrant city is the VT or Victoria Terminus which was designed in Italian Gothic style by F. W. Stevens. The first train to steam out of Mumbai was from here to Thane in 1853.
Taraporewala Aquarium is also on Marine drive, and has both fresh water and saltwater fishes. On top of the Malabar hills are the Hanging Gardens and Kamala Nehru Park, which offer superb views over Mumbai. Some distance away from Malabar Hills is Mahalaxmi Temple, the oldest temple in Mumbai, dedicated to the Goddess of Wealth. Haji Ali tomb and mosque is located nearby, and can be reached by a long causeway, which can be crossed at low tide. Other attractions of Mumbai include the Juhu beach and the Nehru Planetarium.
Places which you should visit when in Mumbai are the Elephanta islands, about 10 km northeast of Apollo Bunder, or Gateway of India, Krishnagiri Upavan National Park, Kanheri caves (42 km from Mumbai), Manori beach (40 km), Montepezir and Jogeshwari Caves and Bassein, which separates Mumbai city from the mainland, and was a Portuguese fortified city from 1534 to 1739.
When to Visit
Mumbai can be visited any time of the year, though the hot and humid months of June, July and August are best avoided.