Mother of Cities to me,
For I was born in her gate,
Between the palms and the sea,
Where the world-end steamers wait.
-Rudyard Kipling on Mumbai (Bombay)
Mumbai or Bombay (call it whatever you want), with its little over 400 year old history is the financial and cultural capital of India. A city of many colours and faces it is, without doubt, the place where fortunes are made and dreams are realized. From being the birthplace of Indian cricket to the spiritual home of ‘Bollywood’ and Indian Cinema it is a vibrant cosmopolitan melting pot.
Take one part Hollywood from Los Angeles, Six Parts Traffic Jams straight off the roads of NYC, stir in a dozen odd Victorian Gothic architectural masterpieces from London and add a dash of swish bars and restaurants from Paris, to this put in equal parts of mayhem and order; as many ancient bazaars as you have lying around; a handful of Hinduism; a dash of Islam and a dollop of every other religion one can find on planet Earth and add some Indian curry masala for flavour, throw it all into a pressure cooker and presto: Mumbai!
Mumbai formerly known as Bombay is the capital of the state of Maharashtra and by being home to almost 17 million people is India’s most populous city. It is the country’s financial powerhouse and its vogue centre of fashion, film and after-dark frolics. The birthplace of Bollywood and the great Indian dream, Mumbai is the place everyone comes to from all over India to make it big. As of 2009 it has been designated an Alpha World City.
Mumbai’s fairytale story began on 11th May 1661. Princess Catherine of Braganza was married to King Charles II of England and as part of the dowry, the Treaty of Surrender was signed which transferred the islands of Bombay from Portuguese to English hands. The English established Bombay into a major port of trade and commerce and it was built from 7 small islands into a bustling cosmopolitan city first by the British East India Company and later by the Royal crown. The British went on to develop Bombay into a centre of culture and learning, arts and sciences were promoted and some of the best colonial architectural masterpieces were built.
In 1947 India was granted independence and Bombay became the capital of the erstwhile Bombay State. The 1950’s saw feverous demands by the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement for a separate state of Maharashtra. Following protests during the movement in which 105 people were killed by the police, Bombay State was reorganised on 1st May 1960 into the state of Maharashtra with Bombay as its capital.
In 1996 Bombay was renamed Mumbai and as Mumbai the city grew into the financial, cultural and sporting powerhouse that it is today. Mumbai is host to some of the most important financial institutions of India including the Bombay Stock Exchange and the Reserve Bank of India Headquarters. It is the home to Bollywood and the Indian film industry which is arguably the biggest in the world with super stars like Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Shah Rukh Khan. In the sporting arena Mumbai is the host city to the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team and the Mumbai Indians IPL team in cricket and has produced some of India’s finest cricketers in Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar. In the I-League (the local football (soccer) tournament), Mumbai is represented by three teams, Mumbai FC, Mahindra United and Air-India.
Mumbai has sister city agreements with Berlin, London, Los Angeles, Saint Petersburg, Stuttgart and Yokohama.
Only once the initial shell shock of Mumbai’s chaos subsides, can one start to appreciate the city’s allure: a wealth of Art Deco and grand colonial relics; cacophonic temples; warrens of bazaars; and the odd spiritual bastion of tranquillity. In Mumbai you can dine at some of the finest restaurants in the country, and work off the appetite gyrating at ultra chic bars alongside Bollywood starlets and wannabes. With a pinch of gumption, a dash of adventure, an open wallet and a running start, there’s no excuse not to dive into the Mumbai madness head-first.
- Viraat Kasliwal