Mumbai, or Bombay, as it was formerly known, is the financial hub of India. More millionaires reside in this city than in the rest of the Indian sub-continent combined. For the people of India, Mumbai is a city with the Midas touch, a city where dreams come true; it’s little wonder that Mumbai witnesses the highest migration every year with people from all over the country coming to its shores for their tryst with fame, money and power. Adding to the glamour and glitz is Bollywood, or the Indian film industry, considered to be the largest in the world.
Amidst all the power, wealth and glamour there are extreme cases of poverty. The slums in Mumbai are as much a reality as the swanky skyscrapers. Yet what binds these two contrasting worlds together is the defiant spirit of the city. Mumbai has been the receiving end of many terrorists attacks during the past few years but it has always bounced back, living up to the saying that “come what may but the show must go on”.
Mumbai is also an important port on the Arabian Sea and handles more than two-thirds of the county’s trade. It was an important trading base for the East India Company and later of the British Crown. The impressive Victorian buildings in the Fort Area are reminiscent of the colonial rule in India. Churches and cathedrals rub shoulders with temples and mosques and reflect the religious homogeneity of the city. Brimming with gourmet restaurants, clubs, shopping arcades, pubs, nightclubs, fashion shows and tourist attractions, Mumbai is a city that has it all.
Things To See
Mumbai is a city brimming with tourist attractions. You can explore them at your own leisure or choose from one of the many available tours to take you around the city. Most of the tourist action is centred in the southern part of the city. South Mumbai is brimming with architectural wonders resplendent in their Gothic finery. You can wander through the Gateway of India, Prince of Wales Museum, National Gallery of Modern Art, Jehangir Art Gallery, Colaba Causeway, Crawford Market, and the Taj Mahal Hotel. A little distance away the Haji Ali Dargah and Siddhivinayak Temple are also worth a visit.
Fort Area: The Fort Area is home to the spectacular Gothic Victorian buildings, standing testimony to the wealth and power of the British Empire. Visit the Victoria Terminus (known as CST), one of the world’s grandest railway stations. The station looks more like an extravagantly decorated cathedral than a railway terminal. Then there is the St Thomas’ Cathedral which was built between 1672 and 1718. Another important building in the Fort Area is the Horniman Circle with beautiful arcaded terraces. There is a garden in the interior where you can relax for some leisure time.
Colaba: Colaba plays host to the city’s greatest landmarks, the Gateway to India, the Taj Mahal Hotel and the Prince of Wales Museum. The Gateway to India was built in 1911 to commemorate King George V and Queen Mary’s visit to India of. For the visitors who came and left in steam liners, the monument was the first and last sight of the city. The neighbouring Taj Mahal Hotel was built in 1902 by JN Tata. Legend has it that he built this monument as a statement to Oriental luxury and hospitality when he was refused entry to one of the city’s European hotels simply because he was a native. (The hotel was in the news for the recent terrorist attack in November 2008. It suffered damages but despite attempts to blow up this iconic monument, the heritage building remained intact.) While in Colaba, you can visit impressive Prince of Wales Museum, which showcases a stunning collection of ancient and medieval sculpture, and Indian decorative arts.
Marine Drive: Marine Drive, along the shoreline of the Arabian Sea from Nariman Point to the foot of Malabar Hill, is a favourite spot for watching the sunset. Beautifully lit up in the evenings, it resembles what the tourist agents call the Queen’s Necklace. The top end of Marine Drive houses central Mumbai’s only beach, the Chowpatty Beach. The beach is the best place to watch the annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival, held during August and September. Processions carrying the idols of Lord Ganesha march towards the Arabian Sea and amidst chanting of hymns, these are immersed in the water.