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Map of Mumbai
Skyline of Mumbai

Mumbai, previously known as Bombay, is the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the most populous city in India, and the fifth most populous city in the world, with a total metropolitan area population of approximately 20.5 million. Along with the neighbouring urban areas, including the cities of Navi Mumbai and Thane, it is one of the most populous urban regions in the world. Mumbai lies on the west coast of India and has a deep natural harbour. In 2009, Mumbai was named an alpha world city. It is also the wealthiest city in India and has the highest GDP of any city in South, West or Central Asia.

The seven islands that came to constitute Mumbai were home to communities of fishing colonies. For centuries, the islands were under the control of successive indigenous empires before being ceded to the Portuguese and subsequently to the British East India Company. During the mid-18th century, Bombay was reshaped by the Hornby Vellard project, which undertook reclamation of the area between the seven islands from the sea. Along with construction of major roads and railways, the reclamation project, completed in 1845, transformed Bombay into a major seaport on the Arabian Sea. Upon India's independence in 1947, the city was incorporated into Bombay State. In 1960, following the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, a new state of Maharashtra was created with Bombay as the capital. The city was renamed Mumbai in 1996.


  • Leaving aside the Presidency and confining oneself to the City of Bombay, there can be no doubt that the record of the city is the blackest. The first Hindu-Muslim riot took place in 1893. This was followed by a long period of communal peace which lasted up to 1929. But the years that have followed have an appalling story to tell.... Taking the total period of 9 years and 2 months from February 1929 to April 1938 the Hindus and Muslims of the City of Bombay alone were engaged in a sanguinary warfare for 210 days during which period 550 were killed and 4,500 were wounded. This does not of course take into consideration the loss of property which took place through arson and loot.
  • Bombai also used to be considered a pearl of the Orient, with its necklace of lights along the corniche and its magnificent British Raj architecture. It was one of India's most diverse and plural cities, and its many layers of texture have been cleverly explored by Salman Rushdie—especially in The Moor's Last Sigh—and in the films of Mira Nair. It is true that there had been intercommunal fighting there, during the time in 1947-48 when the grand historic movement for Indian self-government was being ruined by Muslim demands for a separate state and by the fact that the Congress Party was led by a pious Hindu. But probably as many people took refuge in Bombay during that moment of religious bloodlust as were driven or fled from it. A form of cultural coexistence resumed, as often happens when cities are exposed to the sea and to influences from outside. Parsis—former Zoroastrians who had been persecuted in Persia—were a prominent minority, and the city was also host to a historically significant community of Jews. But this was not enough to content Mr. Bal Thackeray and his Shiv Sena Hindu nationalist movement, who in the 1990s decided that Bombay should be run by and for his coreligionists, and who loosed a tide of goons and thugs on the the streets. Just to show he could do it, he ordered the city renamed as "Mumbai," which is partly why I include it in this list under its traditional title.
  • Architecturally, Bombay is one of the most appalling cities of either hemisphere. It had the misfortune to develop during what was, perhaps, the darkest period of all architectural history.
    • Aldous Huxley, (1969). Jesting Pilate. The diary of a journey.
  • The name of Mumbai is also connected in the spiritual tradition of the city. In the Sanskrit Sthala-Purana or local history, as related by city historian K. Raghunath in his book Hindu Temples of Bombay, published in 1900, it is explained that there was once an island in the city’s vicinity where lived a powerful giant named Mumbarak. The island was named after him. After engaging in great austerities, Mumbarak pleased Lord Brahma who gave him a blessing that he would be free from death at anyone’s hands, and would be successful in his undertakings. Upon receiving such a blessing, Mumbarak became a source of trouble to the people and the devas or gods. Therefore, the gods and people went to Lord Vishnu for a solution, that they be protected and the demon destroyed. Thereafter, both Vishnu and Shiva extracted a portion of their luster and made it into the Goddess Devi to destroy the giant. The Goddess beat the demon almost to death, and threw him on the ground and told him to ask for one last blessing. He begged that she join his name with hers and perpetuate that name on earth. The Goddess agreed and named herself Mumbadevi. In this way, the name Mumbai is connected with that tradition. “Mumbai” is the invocation of the Goddess for protection of the city.
    • Knapp Stephen, Spiritual India Handbook (2011)
  • Bombay was central, had been so from the moment of its creation: the bastard child of a Portuguese-English wedding, and yet the most Indian of Indian cities. In Bombay all Indias met and merged. In Bombay, too, all-India met what-what-not-India, what came across the black water to flow into our veins. Everything north of Bombay was North India, everything south of it was South. To the east lay India’s east and to the west, the world’s West. Bombay was central; all rivers flowed into its human sea. It was an ocean of stories; we were its narrators, and everybody talked at once.
  • Bombay was the safest city in the world and it continues to be the safest.
    • Bombay Joint Commissioner of Police D. Shivanandan, August 25, 2000. [1]
  • This is indeed India! the land of dreams and romance, of fabulous wealth and fabulous poverty, of splendor and rags, of palaces and hovels, of famine and pestilence, of genii and giants and Aladdin lamps, of tigers and elephants, the cobra and the jungle, the country of a hundred nations and a hundred tongues, of a thousand religions and two million gods, cradle of the human race, birthplace of human speech, mother of history, grandmother of legend, great-grandmother of tradition, whose yesterdays bear date with the mouldering antiquities of the rest of the nations — the one sole country under the sun that is endowed with an imperishable interest for alien prince and alien peasant, for lettered and ignorant, wise and fool, rich and poor, bond and free, the one land that all men desire to see, and having seen once, by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for the shows of all the rest of the globe combined. Even now, after the lapse of a year, the delirium of those days in Bombay has not left me, and I hope never will.
  • The kolis who succeeded the stone-age men on the island brought with them from Gujarat their patron goddess Mummai[sic] whom their descendants still worship in Kathiawar. The name of Bombay is derived from this koli goddess.
    • R. N. Mehta, Bombay – An analysis of the toponym (1983), p. 138–140
  • Hark! from Salsette's once fair and flowery shore
    The jackall's cry, the tiger's hollow roar;
    Where dark-eyed Nautch-girls danced in beauty's pride,
    The toad spits venom now, and serpents glide.

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