The city of Bombay originally consisted of seven islands, namely Colaba, Mazagaon, Old Woman's Island, Wadala, Mahim, Parel, and Matunga-Sion. This group of islands, which have since been joined together by a series of reclamations, formed part of the kingdom of Ashoka, the famous Emperor of India.
After his death, these islands passed into the hands of various Hindu rulers until 1343. In that year, the Mohammedans of Gujerat took possession and the Kings of that province of India ruled for the next two centuries.
The only vestige (mark) of their dominion over these islands that remains today is the mosque at Mahim.
In 1534 the Portuguese, who already possessed many important trading centers on the western coast, such as Panjim, Daman, and Diu, took Bombay by force of arms from the Mohammedans. This led to the establishment of numerous churches which were constructed in areas where the majority of people were Roman Catholics. There used to be two areas in Bombay called "Portuguese Church". However, only one church with Portuguese-style facade still remains; it is the St. Andrew's church at Bandra. The Portuguese also fortified their possession by building forts at Sion, Mahim, Bandra, and Bassien which, although in disrepair, can still be seen. They named their new possession as "Bom Baia" which in Portuguese means
A hundred and twenty-eight years later the islands were given to the English
King Charles II in dowry on his marriage to Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza in 1662. In the year 1668 the islands were acquired by the English East India Company on lease from the crown for an annual sum of 10 pounds in gold; so little did the British value these islands at that time. The Company, which was operating from Surat, was in search for another deeper water port so that larger vessels could dock, and found the islands of Bombay suitable for development. The shifting of the East India Company's headquarters to Bombay in 1687 led to the eclipse of Surat as a principal trading center. The British corrupted the Portuguese name
"Bom Baia" to "Bombay". The Kolis used to call the islands
"Mumba" after Mumbadevi, the Hindu deity to whom a temple is dedicated at Babulnath near Chowpatty's sandy beaches.
The first Parsi to arrive in Bombay was Dorabji Nanabhoy Patel in 1640. The Parsis, originally from Iran, migrated to India about 900 years ago. This they did to save their religion, Zoroastrianism, from invading Arabs who proselytized Islam. However, in 1689-90, when a severe plague had struck down most of the Europeans, the Siddi Chief of Janjira made several attempts to re-possess the islands by force, but the son of the former, a trader named Rustomji Dorabji Patel (1667-1763), successfully warded off the attacks on behalf of the British with the help of the
'Kolis', the original fisher-folk inhabitants of these islands. The remnants of the Koli settlements can still be seen at Backbay reclamation,
Mahim, Bandra, Khar, Bassien and Madh island.
Sir George Oxenden
became the first British Governor of the islands, and was succeeded later by
Mr. Gerald Aungier who made Bombay more populous by attracting Gujerati traders, Parsi ship-builders, and Muslim and Hindu manufacturers from the mainland. He fortified defenses by constructing the Bombay Castle (the Fort, since then vanished except for a small portion of the wall) and provided stability by constituting courts of law.
Mumbai City Weather
The period between October and February is the most pleasant time to visit Mumbai, when the city enjoys a balmy season of blue skies and a cool breeze. From March, the temperature gradually rises and the humidity reaches saturation point. It is very hot just before the monsoon rains break in mid-June. The rains last until September. They come as a welcome relief to Bombayites but when the drainage system fails everyone encounters difficulties getting around town. After the initial few days of flooded roads, however, Bombayites take the downpours and regular drenching in their stride. In September, the humidity and temperature begin to fall. Luckily Mumbai does not suffer from the incessant power cuts that plague other parts of India, so offices and hotels remain air-conditioned and bearable through the hot months.
The city, being in the tropical zone and near the Arabian Sea, does not experience distinct seasons, but the climate can broadly be classified into two main seasons - the humid season and the dry season.
The humid season, between March to October, is characterized by high humidity and temperatures of over 30 °C (86 °F). The monsoon rains lash the city during June to September and supply most of the city's annual rainfall of 2,200 mm (85 in). The maximum annual rainfall ever recorded was 3,452 mm (135.89 in) in 1954. The highest rainfall recorded in a single day was 944 mm (37.16 inches) on 2005-07-26.
The dry season, between November and February, is characterized by moderate levels of humidity and warm to cool weather. Cold northerly winds are responsible for a high wind chill factor during January and February. The annual temperatures range from a high of 38 °C (100 °F) to a low of 11 °C (52 °F). The record high is 43 °C (108 °F) and record low is 7.4 °C (45 °F) on 1962-01-22.
Gateway of India
What could be more appropriate a beginning than the 'entrance' to the port of Mumbai? The ceremonial arch was built in 1927 to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary for the Delhi Durbar in 1911. Constructed in honey-co-loured basalt, the gateway was designed by George Wittet, inspired by 16th century Gujarat Style.
The changing light of the rising andsetting sun gives varied hues of gold, ruset and pink to the imposing arch. Historially, the Gateway holds greater significance as the last of the British troops left Independant India by sea, marched through its portals.
This sweeping Queen's Necklace, flickering with a thousand lights at night turns into the main thoroughfare linking Malbar Hill - and the northern parts of the island - to the southern most points of Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Nariman point and Fort.
Victoria Terminus (Shivaji Terminus)
Terminus is no mere Railway Station it is a prominent city centre around which metro life ebbs and flow. Built of yellow sandstone and granite, it is one of the finest examples of British Raj architecture, combining elements that are distinctly Gothic and Victorian, and embellished with blue-gray basalt that has been sculptured in fine detail. The handsome building could have been anything but a railway station, and in fact, in recent times, was converted into a public art gallery in a unique experiment of taking contemporary art to the people.
It stands at a busy five-point intersection in the heart of the comercial fort area. The beautifully sculptured fountain was erected in the memory of the Governer, Sir Henery Bartle Edward Frere, as a tribute for his contribution towards the building of Mumbai.
This colourful market north of VT, also known as Mahatma Phule Market, is the last outpost of British Bombay before the tumult of kalbadevi's bazaars begins, it was built in 1871 by William Emerson, the bas-reliefs, at a height, adorning the facade, were designed by J.L.Kipling at the School of Art, a stone's throw away. It is the largest wholesale fruit market in the country and a visit there can be a 'fruitful' experience, especially during the mango season. But sadly, most of the vegetable & fruits are moving to New Mumbai's Wholesale Market.
Eight km from the center of the city is located a center which tells about the universe. the Nehru planetarium is engaged in recreating image of the sky as seen from any where on the Earth any time. It unfolds the mysteries of the cosmos. They also screening regular film shows on the outer space which are of particular interest for children. Close by is the Nehru Science center which is a science park and permanent exhibits on intricacies of life. The antique models of Railway engines, aeroplanes, tramcar and steam lorry are very exciting to see.
Kamala Nehru Park
The modest Kamala Nehru Park(located on Bal Gangadhar Kher Rd) has several vantage points with panoramic views of Chowpatty Beach, Back Bay and the city. Named after the wife of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. The park covers an area of 4000 sq. yards and from here one enjoys a magnificent view of Marine Drive 'Queen's Necklace'. A constant source of enjoyment is the gigantic 'Old Lady's Shoe' meant for children to play in. From the top of the shoe you can survey the entire garden. Another feature here is the lovely pavilion, which is surrounded by beautiful flowers and huge lawns. There is also a map of the city engraved in copper.
The Hanging Gardens or Ferozshah Mehta Gardens were laid in 1881 on top of a reservoir on the Malabar Hills. This place has become a heaven for dating couples nevertheless the place provides a good view of the city. Nearby is the Kamla Nehru park. From the park one can have the best possible views of the Marine drive and the Chowpatty beach.
The uninspiring Taraporewala Aquarium has a
motley collection of freshwater and ocean fish, a tacky shell collection, a Christ crab with a crucifix on its shell, and a Qurban fish that supposedly has verses from the holy book inscribed on its tail.
The building where Mahatma Gandhi stayed during his frequent visits to Bombay has been turned into a modest museum. It was the home of diaomond merchant and Indian National Congress supporter Revashankar Jhaveri. Gandhi's simple room remains untouched and contains little more than his trademark charkha (spinnig wheel) and charpoy (rope bed). It's said that this is where the Mahatma first learned how to use the spinning wheel, which became such an important part of his philosophy. There's library of Gandhian literature and also a cabinet marked 'Books Read By Gandhi', which includes lots of Tolstoy and Shakespeare and a well-thumbed copy of Les Miserables. The rest of the museum is devoted to photographic exhibits, framed leters and 3-D tableaux of key events in Gandhi life. Mani Bhavan is at 19 Laburnum Rd, near August Kranti Maidan where the campaign to persuade the British to 'Quit India' was launched in 1942.
National Gallery of Modern Art
The national gallery of Modern art in Mumbai exhibits lots of modern Indian art which are of a very high quality. The showcase includes a collection of some very interesting pieces of art. National Gallery is the revamped version of Sir Cowasji Jehangir Public hall. Near the National Gallery is the Jehangir art gallery which is the venue for exhibitions to many artists and on various occasions. The place also organises exhibitions for touring exhibits.
Chowpatty Beach is in the heart of Mumbai. Chowpatty has rich historical links to the freedom movement; several important meetings were organized here during the freedom struggle. At present, this is where images of Ganesha are immersed after the ten days of Ganesh Chaturthi. Though the beaches remain empty throughout the day, it is a hub of activity in the evenings. On this beach the most famous are the Kiosks. These stalls sell all kinds of Chatt & Tikki and who can forget the famous Bhelpuri of Chowpatty. On the beach itself is a small colony of the original inhabitants of Mumbai, The Koli fishermen who can be seen drying their catch or mending their nets. Statues of Lokmanya Tilak and Sardar Patel, two of the most outstanding Maharashtrian freedom fighters, stand on the beach.
The rock-cut temples on Elephanta Island, nine km north-east of Apollo bunder, are Mumbai's major tourist attraction. They are thought to have been created between 450 and 750, when the island was known as Gharapuri, the Fortress City. The Portuguese renamed it Elephanta because of a large stone elephant near the shore. This statu collapsed in 1814, and the British removed the remaining pieces to the Victoria Gardens where it was reassembled and still stand today. Unfortunately the Portuguese took their traditional disdain for other religions to its usual lengths at Elephanta and did considerable damage to the sculptures, though their size, beauty and power remain impressive. There is one main cave with a number of large sculpted panels, all relating to Siva, and a seperate lingam shrine. The most famous of the panels is the impassive Trimurti, or Triple-headed Siva, where the God also takes the role of Brahma the creator and Vishnu the preserver. The central bust of Siva, its eyes closed in eternal contemplation, may be the most serene sight you witness in india. There are also figures of Siva dancing the Tandava, the marrige of Siva an Parvati, Ravana shaking Kailasa, a scary carving of Siva killing the demon Andhaka, and one in which Siva appears as Ardhanari, uniting both sexes in one body
Air : Mumbai is the main international gateway to India, with far more flights than Delhi, Calcutta or Chennai. It also has the busiest network of domestic flights, The international terminal (Sahar) is about four km away from the domestic terminal (Santa Cruz). They are 30 km and 26 km respectively north of Nariman Point in downtown mumbai. Most international airline offices in Mumbai are in or close to Nariman Point.
Two railway systems operate out of Mumbai. Central Railways handles services to the east and south, plus a few trains to the north. It operates from Victoria Terminus (VT), which is also known as Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). A few Central Railways trains depart from Dadar, several stops north of Mumbai Central. They include the Chennai Express and the Dadar Express the two fastest train to Chennai. Some useful expresses to Bangalore, Calcutta, Varanasi and Gorkhpur depart from kurla, which is located 16 km to the north of VT. The other railway system is Western Railways, which has services to the north from Churchgate and Mumbai Central stations.