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Mumbai (formerly Bombay) - The archipelago, which developed into the modern city of Mumbai was inhabited long before the historically recorded period. Stone Age implements have been found at several sites on these islands. Around the third century BCE, the coastal regions and the neighboring islands belonged to the territories of the Mauryan Empire of Maghadh that was ruled by Emperor Ashoka from his capital in Pataliputra (now Patna). After the downfall of Magadhan Empire the Buddhist monasteries established under Ashoka's influence flourished for many centuries. The deep-sea fishermen known under their ethnic name of Kolis populated the coastal regions. The name of the present metropolis originated from the name of the goddess worshiped by Kolis called Mumbadevi. Mumbai, the hub of Indian financial and corporate sectors, is comprised of seven islands - Colaba, Old Woman's Island, Bombay, Mazagaon, Worli, Parel and Mahim.

The Mumbai region came under the rule of many dynasties after the Mauryan Ashoka the Great. The region was under the empire of Rashtrakuta dynasty that ruled from their capital in Manyakheta in Karanataka State from ca. 800 to 915 CE. The Silhara dynasty ruled this area before thirteenth century. The Elephanta Caves and oldest part of Walkeshwar Temple complex most probably belong to this period of Rashtrakuta and Silhara dynasty rulers. The Elephanta Caves are located on an island about 10 kilometers or 7 miles from Mumbai. Tourists take boats from the harbor near Gateway of India to visit the caves. Most historians believe that in thirteenth century Raja Bhimdev ruled the coastal area with his capital in Mahikavati that is in the present day Mahim and Prabhadevi areas. During his reign the early merchants and farmers settled in Mumbai coastal region. The Sultan of Gujarat annexed this region in 1343 starting with the island of Salsette and gradually expanded to cover the entire archipelago. The Mosque in Mahim is one of few remaining landmarks of this period.

The Portuguese under Francis Almeida took control of the deep natural harbor in 1508 and called it Bom Bahia or 'The Good Bay'. They developed their military gradually and in 1534 they defeated and murdered Bahadur Shah of Gujarat to take control of the main islands. They built their Fort in Bassein. The main interest of the Portuguese, however, was not the control of islands. They needed a base from which their ships could go out to control the trade routes from Europe. Just like in southern India, in Mumbai region also, they brutally converted local fishermen to Christianity and built some chapels, St. Andrew's Church in Bandra is one of these Portuguese churches. Mumbai did not figure in fierce competition between the Dutch and the British because their spies probably found out soon after Vasco Da Gama's landing that Portuguese were building their bases on southern India's west coast. The territory remained under control of the Portuguese until the marriage of the Portuguese Princess, Catherine of Braganza with King Charles II of England in 1661. The territory of Mumbai was part of the marriage dowry that the English Monarch got from the Portuguese. The British negotiated with the Mughal Emperor Jahangir to build a trading base in Surat in Gujarat for their British East India Company. In 1668 the company founded the modern city of Mumbai and moved their main holding from Surat under Governor George Oxenden. The second Governor of Bombay was Gerald Aungier who offered very attractive inducements to skilled workers and traders to move from Portuguese held territories as well as from other areas. The Mughal Empire in Delhi did not have any knowledge about the importance of naval forces and international commerce by ocean faring ships. Having only land based armies they were not in a position to offer any resistance to the European naval powers that gradually occupied important harbors. They did not hinder the establishment of the British trading center in Mumbai region. Attracted by various inducements the Parsis and Bohras of Gujarat were among the first to move to this region, followed soon by Jewish traders and Hindu Banias (commercial caste persons) from Surat and Diu. With this mass movement of population, the region grew from about 10'000 in 1661 to about 60'000 in 1675. This migration continued well into eighteenth century, when many more skilled people moved from various local kingdoms. Wadias were the best known shipbuilders in Surat who also moved to Bombay.

In 1853 the first 22-mile long railway line in India was inaugurated in Bombay (now Mumbai). In 1854 the first cotton mill was established in Bombay. Many more cotton mills followed this first one causing yet another mill worker migration from neighboring areas. These Marathi mill workers settled into the famous Chawls - living quarters for mill laborers. The First War of Independence in 1857 put a brief break in this phenomenal growth of Bombay. Like the rest of India, when the British suppressed this first national independence movement, they realized that British East India Company was not capable of wielding the political power that was required to govern the huge territories of the Indian sub-continent. The British Crown took direct control of the entire country by special treaties signed with princely states and Queen Victoria became the first Empress of India. Bombay was the prime jewel in British India that was ruled directly by the British.

The Imperial Governors undertook massive construction projects to put their personal stamp on the history of Bombay. The Royal Governor, Henry Bartle Edward Frere, had Flora Fountain, a major landmark in Bombay, constructed. The imperial fountain is located in the center of one of Mumbai's busiest intersection, where 5 main streets converge. One of these is the Veer Nariman Road. It is surrounded by a busy commercial area with many buildings also dating from this period. In the center of the fountain is a statue of the Roman Goddess of Flowers, from which the fountain derives its name. In modern Mumbai it is a popular place for people to sit and enjoy the ambience of this historic part of the metropolis. Like many other landmarks the Flora Fountain Square was also renamed to give it a Marathi/Hindi character, it is now known as Hutatma Chowk. Near the fountain there are some of the most interesting institutions and buildings of the Bombay like the University, the old Secretariat, and the famous Gateway of India is also not very far.

Originally the train station was called Boree Bunder after the name of locality where it was constructed as the terminal station of the first train route in India connecting to Thane, a total distance of 22 miles. There was an intense competition between Calcutta and Bombay for the construction of the first railway line in India. As the main purpose of the railway line was the transport of goods, specifically cotton, the senior British administrators and the government in London decided that Bombay would be more suitable. The first train entered this terminus before the building was built on Saturday, April 16, 1853 at 3.35 PM. The Governor of Bombay at that time was Lord Falkland but for some reason he was not personally present at the inaugural ceremonies. His wife, Lady Falkland, presided over this historic ceremony. This big monument is known in modern Mumbai as the 'Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus'. It is one of Mumbai's biggest and busiest Railway Stations. The original name of the building was Victoria Terminus after the Empress of India, Queen Victoria. It was named on her Jubilee Day in 1887 and its construction started in 1878. A famous British architect, Frederick William Stevenson designed this imposing, imperial monument and its construction was completed in 1888. It was an expensive undertaking and the final cost of its construction was put at Rupees 1’614 million. The building was built in the Victorian Gothic Revival style, using Italian Gothic elements. Beautiful sculptures of Birds and Animals with elegant arches adorn the façade of this Railway Station. The southwestern part of the building has an imposing dome crowned with the statue of Progress. In the design of this building many typical Indian architectural elements were subtly blended in its predominantly European architecture. Because of its unique architecture and historical importance this train station building was declared an urban heritage site and protected by the Government of India. The train station still is popularly called Bombay VT. Later the historical building of the station was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Other landmarks of this era are the Hanging Gardens and the lakes for the water supply for the metropolitan area. Hanging Gardens are located at the highest point of Malabar Hill and are facing the Kamala Nehru Park. There are magnificent views of sunset over the Arabian Sea from these terraced gardens that are also known as Ferozeshah Mehta Gardens. These Gardens were laid out in early 1880s beside the city's main water reservoir probably to obstruct the contamination of the lake's water from the Parsi (Dhakma) Towers of Silence that are also located nearby. Following their religious beliefs the Parsis (followers of Zoroastrian Religion) do not cremate or bury their dead. Instead they place the dead bodies on a platform above a well, where vultures devour the carcasses.

The first printing press was imported and set up in Bombay in 1670. A Parsi master shipbuilder, Lowjee Nusservanji Wadia received a piece of land in Bombay from the East India Company in 1735 and established a shipbuilding business under his family name. The Wadia Shipbuilding Company built the historical ship 'Minden'. Francis Scott Key composed the United States' National Anthem - "the star Spangled Banner" on board this ship. With the passage of time and because of various circumstances like a massive fire in Surat in 1837, most Parsis moved from Gujarat to Bombay. About 75% of whole Parsi community in India lives in Bombay. The Parsi community was very influential in the social, commercial and political life of Bombay. Parsis established the initial cotton mills in Bombay. Bombay's oldest newspaper "Bombay Samachar" was run by this community. Some of the most important founding leaders of the Indian National Congress party were Parsis like Dadabhai Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta and Dinshaw Wacha. Jamshedji Tata established the group of industrial and commercial ventures that later became one of India's biggest industrial enterprises. The Jeejeebhoy and Readymoney Parsi families donated large amounts of money for the building of Bombay's causeways, roads and prominent buildings. The Parsis in India still speak Gujarati as their main language because their historical association with that state.

The Old Town Hall of Bombay: James McIntosh, founded the Literary Society of Bombay in 1804, with the aim of "promoting useful knowledge, particularly connected with India". This pleasantly neo-classical building now houses the library of the Asiatic Society, as well as a small museum. The latter contains statues of some nineteenth century governors of Bombay, some British scholars and administrators, two Indian philanthropists and an Indian scholar. Colonel Thomas Cowper of the Bombay Engineers gave it the neo-classical design. The building is 200 feet long and 100 feet deep. The facade has three porticoes faced by Ionic columns. The plans called for a double row of columns, built out of material brought from England. The building was completed in 1833, after the death of Cowper.

Another important landmark in modern Mumbai is its Municipal Corporation that is located opposite the Bombay VT (Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus). The Bombay Municipal Act of 1872 laid the basis of one of India's oldest municipal corporations. The jurisdiction of this municipal body extends on the entire island from Colaba in the south to Mulund and Dahisar in the north of the city. Arthur Crawford was the first municipal commissioner of Bombay from 1865 for five years. He undertook so many projects to improve the city that it went virtually bankrupt. He was finally sued in a court of law where a famous Indian lawyer, Pherozeshah Mehta defended him. In 1865 he purchased the Agri Horticulture Society's gardens at Sewri for building a separate cemetery for Europeans only.

General Post Office is another very interesting colonial building in Mumbai. Its construction was completed in 1909. A British Architect, John Begg, who took inspiration from the many Indian Islamic buildings on the sub-continent, designed this landmark building. The dome of the building was modeled on the gigantic dome of 'Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur' in Karnataka State. The interior of the building is very luxurious. Its marble topped tabletops and counters, the high vaulted ceilings and the majestic staircases were designed for an ostentatious display of the affluence and power of Imperial British rule in India just before its decline started.

A Scottish architect, George Wittet, designed the building of the 'Prince of Whales Museum'. It is now called the Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya. The visiting Prince of Wales Albert Edward laid its foundation stone in 1905 and its construction was finished in 1914. In India George Wittet was assistant to John Begg, who was the consulting architect in the British Administration in Bombay. They were very much influenced by the Indo-Sarasenic Architecture, which they blended with the Victorian European Architecture in their buildings in Bombay. This museum is famous for its outstanding architecture and the imposing dome following the architectural styles prevalent in western India of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The museum has an interesting and significant collection of objects of art, natural history, and archeology. Besides these there are many other smaller sections devoted to other specialized subjects. Apart from the Prince of Wales Museum, Wittet also designed the 'Gateway of India', the Institute of Science building, the Small Causes Court Building near the Dhobi Talao, the Wadia Maternity Hospital and the King Edwards Hospital Building. The Prince of Wales Museum was inaugurated by Lady Lloyd, the wife of the British Governor, Sir George Lloyd in 1923.

The massive Archway on Apollo Bunder, the Gateway of India is the most prominent landmark of Mumbai. It was built to commemorate the landing of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911. The British Governor of Bombay approved the final plan of the architect George Wittet and laid its foundation stone on March 31, 1911. The foundations were completed in 1920 and the Gateway of India was formally opened in 1924 by the then Viceroy, Earl of Reading. It is 85.3 feet high with four turrets and has intricate lattice work decoration. The Gateway is built from yellow Kharodi Basalt and reinforced concrete in an interesting blend of European and Indo-Saracenic architectural style of sixteenth century Gujarat. The central dome of the Gateway of India is 48 feet in diameter. At the back of the Gateway arch, steps lead down to the Arabian Sea front. The whole harbor front was realigned in order to come in line with a planned esplanade, which would sweep down to the center of the downtown. The cost of the construction was Rs 2’100’000, borne mainly by the Government of India. For lack of funds, the approach road was never built, and so the Gateway stands at an angle to the road leading up to it. The last British troops to leave India, the First Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, passed through this gate in a ceremony on February 28, 1948. The Taj Mahal Palace and Intercontinental Hotel opposite the Gateway of India is also a historical landmark of Mumbai. The statues of the Maratha leader Shivaji and Swami Vivekananda, stand nearby adding to the appeal of this monument and giving some Indian character to the place.

Even before the Gateway of India was built, the Parsi industrialist, Jamsetji Tata, decided to build India's first luxury hotel in Mumbai. The hotel was built by the founder of India's Tata Group of industries, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata. The initial design in Indo-Saracenic architecture was by two Indian architects, Sitarao Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza. Its construction was later completed under W. A. Chambers, a British engineer,. The contractor for its construction was Khansaheb Sorabji Ruttonji. The foundation stone of the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel was laid in 1898. It was officially opened to guests on December 16, 1903, full 21 years before the Gateway of India that is located just opposite the hotel.

At present the hotel's entrance is from Arabian Sea side but originally it was from the City side. The hotel played a role in the Indian independence struggle. Many of the freedom fighters and leaders of the Indian National Congress stayed at this hotel and many important speeches for the country's independence were given in this hotel. A few of the extraordinary guests who stayed in this noble hotel include: various Kings, Presidents, legends, performers, religious figures and entertainers such as George Bernard Shaw, Irving Stone, Barbara Cartland, Douglas Fairbanks, Sir Richard Attenborough, Baz Luhrmann, Yehudi Menuhin, Andrew Lloyd Weber, Mick Jagger, Margaret Thatcher, Prince Charles, Jacqueline Onassis, William Jefferson Clinton, David Rockefeller, Robert McNamara and Lord Wedgwood, just to name a few. Over its history of more than a century the hotel has been decorated with an impressive collection of art works which make it a virtual museum.

Bombay played a very important role in the freedom struggle of India. Many of the rich Indian industrialists and traders of Bombay donated generously for the cause of freedom of India. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who had gone to Britain to study law and then practiced law in South Africa, returned back home at a time in India's history when the freedom movement was at its peak. On January 12, 1915 he disembarked at the Seaport of Bombay. A retired British civil servant, A. O. Hume inspired 73 western educated and very progressive professionals like lawyers, university professors and journalists to establish a nationwide organization that would coordinate the freedom movement activities all over the country. The founding session of Indian National Congress took place in 1885 in Bombay. Mahatma Gandhi got immersed in the movement immediately after his landing in Bombay. After many ups and downs on August 8, 1942 in the Gowalia Tank Maidan near Kemp's Corner, there was a historical gathering of Indian National Congress in which there was a declaration of 'Bharat Chodho Andolan' or 'Quit India Movement'. This led to the independence of India at mid-night preceding August 15, 1947.

The phenomenal growth of Bombay continued unabated after the independence of the country. All strata of population from all corners of the country came to this ever growing metropolis. The migrating population included the rural poor, the constantly expanding middle class, the very rich as well as the elite. In the two decades between 1950 and 1970 there was a general lack of opportunities for many people all over the country. In contrast during this period there was a population boom in Bombay. The very glamorous and flattering portrayal of Bombay by its extremely popular and influential film industry also attracted many people to Bombay. There were some setbacks in the growth of Bombay also. The most important was during the language upheaval all over India that resulted in the restructuring of the entire nation on linguistic borders. In Maharashtra in general and in Bombay in particular, there was a movement to uplift the Marathi speaking local population at the cost of all others. Shiv Sena under Bal Thakerey rose to national prominence on the basis of this linguistic regionalism and his anti-Islamic philosophy. During this period in 1990s the city was in turmoil. It was officially renamed to Mumbai in 1996 and many of its most important landmarks were also given Marathi or Hindi names.

Shiv Sena in collaboration with the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party tried and was to a limited extent successful in weakening the cultural diversity of Bombay by discriminating against all those who were not native Maharashtrians. Muslims also suffered under this vicious political climate. In 1992 the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party under the influence of its sister organizations like the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad took control of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh and razed it to ground. Some of the under ground gangsters of Mumbai belonging to the Islamic community allegedly in cooperation with ISI, the foreign intelligence service of Pakistan, exploded 13 bombs in busy centers like the Stock Exchange creating a mayhem in Bombay in March 1993. The D-Company gang led by Dawood Ibrahim was the main force behind this biggest terrorist act in Indian history. This blast killed 260 people and injured many others. The Government of Pakistan is sheltering some of the main instigators of this bombing despite the fact that the USA and other western Governments have declared them wanted international terrorists. Again on Monday, August 25, 2003 there were two successive bomb blasts that took the lives of 48 people and injured another 153. Both bombs were inside the trunks of taxi cabs. One of the bombs blew up near the colonial-era Gateway to India monument. The second bomb went off close to the Hindu Temple of Mumbadevi. A few hours later nine mine detonators were found on a major railway track at Kafara about 50 miles north of Mumbai. This is a busy railway line that leads to Nasik where an important Hindu festival was being celebrated. These incidents created a rift in the diverse population of Mumbai for a brief period. By and large Mumbai has been quite peaceful since these acts of violence. The population of Mumbai in 2005 was estimated to be about 18 million and the city is India’s most important business, financial and movie industry center.

On November 26, 2008 ten terrorists belonging to Lashkar-i-Taiba landed by a hijacked boat in Mumbai after killing the captain of the hijacked boat. They shot randomly at 8 different sites in south Mumbai killing about 166 people and wounding another 308 persons in attacks that lasted for four days. The last site to be cleared was the famous, historical wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel at Gateway of India. All but one, Amir Ajmal Kassab, were killed by Mumbai armed police and commandos. Pakistan initially denied that the terrorists were its citizens until in a statement, its Information Minister, Sherry Rehman, acknowledged that they were Pakistani citizens on January 7, 2009. Kassab was tried in a special court for terrorist crimes and found guilty. He was sentenced to death. After the appeals process and the mercy petition being rejected by the Indian President, he was hanged to death on November 21, 2012 in Yervada Jail in Pune. A US citizen, Daud Jeelani, son of a Pakistani Diplomat and an American woman from Philadelphia, was convicted in a drug related case. In October 2001 US DEA employed him despite warnings by his ex-wives about him being in contact with terrorist organizations. Under cover of his US government employment and under a changed name of David Coleman Headley, he was able to get Visas to visit India many times to research for the Pakistani terrorist organization, Lashkar-i-Taiba. The 10 Pakistani terrorists were greatly assisted by this prior information by David Headley. He is now in a US jail, cooperating with US authorities as he had done many times before, in hope of avoiding extradition to India or death penalty.

On Wednesday, July 13, 2011 there were simultaneous bomb blasts in Opera House, Zaveri jewelry bazaar and Dadar area of Mumbai. 21 people were killed and many more injured in these blasts.

Despite these repeated terrorist attacks the commerce and industry has progressed and developed at a high pace. Tourist centers and hotels are well protected by security establishment and by private security companies. Although the metropolitan area of Mumbai is geographically limited, being built on 7 islands that are now almost merged and all the land that could be reclaimed from the Arabian Sea already recovered, the city keeps growing. The new growth now is in the adjoining Navi Mumbai where there is a plan to build a second international airport soon.

Some of the other attractions of Mumbai are:

The Jehangir Art Gallery is situated just next to the Prince of Wales Museum. Here many art and photographic exhibitions are held, where visitors can view the best of modern Indian painting and sculpture. Just outside the entrance, at the meeting point of Rampart Row and Mahatma Gandhi Road, is one of the best sculptures in Bombay, the statue of King Edward VII, by Boehm.

Juhu beach is situated in the northern suburbs of Mumbai. This beach is always crowded, bustling and offering visitors an array of opportunities to enjoy themselves. This lovely palm-fringed beach is no more suitable for bathing because of the polluted sea water. Being near the international and domestic airports (Sahar and Santa Cruz), the beach is lined by some of the famous five-star hotels like Sun N Sand.

Chowpati Beach is located between Marine Drive and Malabar Hills. It holds a special place in the life of Bombay, being the venue of mass political meetings during the freedom struggle. Today, it is a popular place for Mumbai folk to enjoy the views of Arabian Sea and have fun in the evenings. During the celebrations of Ganesh Chaturthi, hundreds of processions with huge idols of Lord Ganesh converge on this beach.

The Haji Ali Mosque rises squarely from the sea on an island. Inside the mosque is the tomb of the Islamic Sufi saint Haji Ali. It is built in a typical Islamic architecture. People from all different religions visit the mausoleum of the Sufi saint to get his blessings and have their wishes fulfilled.

The Chor Bazaar literally means "Thief's Market". It is located near Bhendi Bazaar. It is a popular market for antiques and curios. One has to be careful in identifying the antiques.

The Sanjay Gandhi National Park is situated at Borivli, off the Western Express Highway. It is sprawled over an extensive area of 5000 acres and has a number of beautiful picnic cottages. This park is considered an ideal place to unwind. A major attraction of this park is the lion safari.

Besides, these attractions there are many other important and interesting places to see in Mumbai. Some of them have religious significance whereas the others are important for the tourism industry. The bazaars of Kalbadevi and Bhuleshwar, north of Crawford market are the major shopping spots visited by tourists as well as by the local residents. Other highlights include Mangaldas Market, Zaveri Bazaar, the Nehru Planetarium and the Nehru Science Center, located at Worli. The Marine Drive is another major attraction of the city. This Arabian Sea coastline stretches from Nariman Point to Malabar Hill with tall buildings on one side. Near the Marine Drive, Malabar Hill extends from the northern parts of the island to the southernmost points of Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Nariman Point, and Fort. Taraporewala Aquarium, ISKCON temple, amusement parks like Essel World, Fantasy Land, beaches like Madh Island, Manori, Versova, Goral and Marue are some other attractions.

5-star hotels:

  • Taj Mahal Palace and Tower – 565 rooms

  • Taj President Hotel – 312 rooms
  • Taj Lands End Hotel – 368 rooms
  • The Oberoi Hotel and Tower – 333 rooms

  • JW Marriott Hotel – 322 rooms
  • Leela Kempinski Hotel – 423 rooms
  • ITC Grand Maratha Sheraton & Tower – 386 rooms
  • Le Royal Medidien Hotel – 171 rooms
  • Hyatt Regency Hotel – 416 rooms
  • Grand Hyatt Mumbai 547 rooms
  • Hilton Towers Mumbai – 547 rooms
  • Sun N Sand Hotel – 120 rooms
  • Ramada Plaza Palm Grove – 114 rooms
  • Holiday Inn Bombay – 192 rooms 

4-star hotels:

  • Intercontinental Marine Drive – 59 rooms
  • Hotel Marine Plaza – 68 rooms
  • The Ambassador Hotel – 123 rooms
  • The Shalimar Hotel – 67 rooms

3-star hotels:

  • The Emerald Best Western, Juhu – 55 rooms
  • Hotel Atithi – 70 rooms
  • Mirador Hotel (Andheri East) – 100 rooms
  • Hotel Parle International – 89 rooms
  • Hotel Godwin (Colaba) – 52 rooms
  • Hotel Four Seasons (Juhu) – 61 rooms
  • Hotel Fariyas (Near India Gate) – 87 rooms
  • Hotel Chateau Windsor (Churchgate) – 50 rooms

Distance from Mumbai:

City Kilometers Miles

  • Ahmedabad 545 / 338
  • Aurangabad 403 / 250
  • Kohlapur 396 / 246
  • Nashik 185 / 115
  • Pune 163 / 101
  • Vadodara (Baroda) 448 / 278
  • Jalgaon 405 / 251
  • Lonavala: 115 / 72

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