Mumbai ~ Gateway of India January, 2018

On our trip to South India, Mumbai is the first city that we visit.

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Mumbai, with the former name of Bombay, is a very important economic hub, commercial and financial centre of India and home to more than 20 million people.

It is a growing cosmopolitan, multi-cultural city where all kind of people from India are immigrating to and is also the center of India’s entertainment and film industry, Bollywood.

Mumbai consists of seven islands. The name of the city Mumbai is derived from the name of Goddess Mumbadevi.

Mumbai has a special charm and attracts thousands of people every year from different communities. There have been historical events which shaped the city for decades and which create todays multicultural and colorful City of Mumbai.

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In the 14th century Mumbai was under the rule of the Gujarat Sultanate and the city was named “Bom Bahia” which means “Good Bay” and later on anglicized to “Bombay”. In 1534 the Portugese gained control over the country and took it over from its Muslim rulers . Thousands of natives were converted to Christianity in those days.

In 1626 the islands were part of the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganzas dowry when she married England s King Charles II. King Charles was not interest in Bombay and just gave it away to the East India Company. Until then all 7 islands were separate but in 1771 William Hornby , governor of Bombay, decided to build a causeway to connect the 7 islands with each other.

The construction of this causeway was a major engineering project for Mumbai.

In 1845 the islands were connected to each other as one large island .

Another big influence to the region was the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869  as the new canal reduced the travel time from London to Bombay in those days by three quarter as there was no need to overpass Cape of Good Hope any more . This event had a major influence to the trade and the marine life of Mumbai – Mumbai became an important port for the exports to the USA and Europe. Another event that is distinctive for Mumbai s history was the construction of the railway in 1853 which was also the oldest railway in the whole Asian world.

In 1966 Shiv Sena was founded which stood for local Marathi nationalism and Hindu nationalism. During this era of Shiv Sena the dream of changing Bombay’s name to Mumbai became reality. Bombay was the name of the British era whereas Mumbai was the new name of the city in respect for the goddess Mumbadevi, the deity of the aboriginal Koli people.

For sure one of the influencing events is also the start of Bollywood in Mumbai in 1913 when Raja Harishchandra started to produce his first film in Mumbai in his film studio in Dadar. Within the next decades Bollywood became the most colorful and most well known film industry after Hollywood in all over the World.

Unfortunately in 1992-93 the peaceful structure of Mumbai was destroyed by attacks and bombings. About 1000 people were killed in fights between Hindus and Muslims. 13 bombs exploded on 12th of March 1993 -during these bombings 257 people died and 700 were injured. In August 2003 about 107 tourists were killed very near to the Gateway of India. Explosions in 2006 and in 2008 followed, killing another 166 people.

Nevertheless the City moved on striving – in textile business, in IT, in Back Office Services, Finance and Healthcare .While on one side millionaires were living in expensive apartments and luxurious sites , on the other side millions of poor people were forced to live in the slums.

During our stay in Mumbai City of course the Gate of India is one of the most significant landmarks at Appollo Waterfront , built in 1924 – a very impressive, historical arch, 26 m high – being part of so many incidents, events over here at this place.

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Actually the gate was built to welcome King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai -India — just 24 years later the same gateway witnessed the last British troops leaving India forever on the 28 February 1948 via this port when India gained its independence .

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Another significant landmark that definitely needs to be mentioned together with the Gate of India is the Tac Mahal Hotel that is standing next to the Gate of India.

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The Tac Mahal , also called “Jewel of the Sea “, is of architectural beauty , built in 1898- 1902 , at an earlier stage than the Gate of India itself.

It is told that Jamshedji Tata once was refused to enter the Watsons Hotel as the entrance was restricted to white people only and this incident led him to the decision to build up his own hotel with the same majestic experience as the Watsons Hotel.

Lateron the statement was corrected in a way that it was his gift to the City , worth of Mumbai with its glorious architecture.

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In the first World War ( 1914-1918 ) the Tac Mahal Hotel was converted to a hospital with 600 beds.

In 1947 the first Speech of Independence of India was made in this hotel as well.

In 2008 the hotel was place to a series of terrorist attacks where 167 people died , out of those victims 31 people lost their lives directly in the hotel building.

The re-opening of the hotel then took place 2 years later on 15th of August 2010, Independence Day in India .

In November 2010 Barack Obama was one of the first foreigners staying in the hotel after those attacks and in his speech on the terrace of the building he mentioned that the Tac Mahal Hotel in Mumbai is “the symbol of strength and resilience of the people in India “

Next to these historical 2 buildings , there is the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya also called Prince of Wales Museum which is absolutely worth a visit and which is home to numerous wonderful ancient sculptures of the Hindu mythology as well as beautiful paintings.

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The museum itself is also a beautiful building with a nice garden and a huge inclining Buddha statue at its entrance.

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Every single piece in the museum looks unique and outstanding.

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Moreover we visited Elephant Island (Unesco Heritage ) , Dhavara (the huge ancient street laundry) , the slum area of Mumbai (area where the” Slumdog Millionaire “was filmed) and some other places but time was absolutely too short for this beautiful and amazing city with so many faces, surprises and diversity.

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I do hope that one day I will have the opportunity to come back again.

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