The Ancient Essence
The present day dynamic and vibrant Bombay City was originally an
archipelago of seven small islands - Bombay, Parel, Mazagaon, Mahim,
Colaba and the Old Woman's Island (Little Colaba). Composed of mangrove
forests and marsh lands, crisscrossed with rivers, streams and seas,
these clusters of islands were inhabited by the Koli tribes of fishermen
who worshipped Goddess Mumbadevi, which owes to the name Mumbai.
In the 3rd Century BC these islands came under Maurya Empire under the
expansion campaign of Emperor Asoka. This led to the rapid spread of
Hindu and Buddhist religion. It was the period, which put Mumbai onto
the high pedestal of ancient heritage with the construction of
awe-inspiring caves like Kanheri Cave, Elephanta Caves, Jogeshwari Caves
and the Mahakali Caves. These caves were the veritable place for
Bombay changed hands many a times owing to its strategic locale
commercially. Being a port area, these islands also basked in the golden
era of Gupta Empire. The Silhara dynasty ruled the region between 810 AD
and 1240 AD. A prominent testimony of this dynasty lives in the form of
a mosque at Mahim. The modern Banganga tank and Walkeshwar Temple were
built under the patronage of Silhara dynasty.
The rising commercial importance of Mumbai region led to the advent of
foreign powers. And in 1534 the islands came under the dominion of
Portuguese governance. The Portuguese consolidated their position onto
the Bombay region with the establishment of forts at Sion, Mahim, Bandra
and Bassien. They named this newfound land as 'Bom Baia', which in their
language means 'Good Bay'. This was the period when nine Roman Churches
were built on Sashti Island.
Once under the imperialistic designs, the Mumbai region once again
changed its owner and Charles II gained it as a dowry gift with his
marriage to Catherine de Braganza in 1661. In the year 1668, the English
East India Company took over the command of these money-minting islands
under a lease agreement of 10 Pounds per annum. Under the reign of the
company, Mumbai islands found a fresh breath of commercial boost.
Bombay's history is incomplete without the mention of the Parsi
community who has a substantial contribution to make in its
comprehensive growth both economically and culturally. The first Parsi
to arrive in Bombay was Dorabji Nanabhoy in 1640. The first fire-temple
was by Seth Vachha opposite his residence at Modikhana on the island of
Bombay in 1672. He also built the Zoroastrian Towers of Silence on
Malabar Hills in the same year.
In 1687 the presidency of East India Company was shifted from Surat to
Bomaby. In 1708 Bombay became its official headquarter. With the
outbreak of civil war in America in 1861, the demnad for cotton in the
west was increased greatly leading to the setting up of the first cotton
mill in Mumbai in 1854, leading to the rapid indutrialization of the
region and rising affluence.
The later half of 19th Century saw a massive construction spree with
the building up of the Victoria Terminus Victoria Terminus, the General
Post Office, Municipal Corporation, the Prince of Wales Museum, Rajabai
Tower and Bombay University, Elphistone College and the Cawasji Jehangir
Hall, the Crawford Market, the Old Secretariat (Old Customs House) and
the Public Works Department (PWD) Building, still stand today as major
landmarks. The Gateway of India was built to commemorate the visit of
king George V and Queen Mary for the Darbar at Delhi in 1911.
Mumbai had its own invaluable contribution to make during India's
independence movment. It was a hot seat of revolutionary campaigns. The
Quit India Movement took off from Mumbai on August 7, 1942 by the
Congress Party in a public meeting at Gowalia Tank. The Mumbai Mutiny of
1946 marked the first and most serious revolt by the Indian military
personnel of the Western naval fleet against the British rule.
Post Independence, Mumbai has been one of the most progressive cities
coming up as a seat of domestic and international trade. Mumbai has seen
an exponetial growth at all fronts. The city is the home to India's two
largest stock markets, the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and National
Stock Exchange (NSE). The fast pace lifestyle is reflective of the
modern day Mumbai living. People migrate to this city of dreams in
hordes in quest to earn a decent living and be a part of the gusty land