MUMBAI – The city that never sleeps! Pulsating, Alive, On the Move, Vibrant, Fun -- this is Mumbai or as it is still frequently referred to -- Bombay. The most modern city in India, it captures the spirit of the changing pace set by liberalization and modernization. It is better known as Economic Capital of India.
Once a cluster of seven islands, Mumbai was presented to King Charles II in 1661 as part of the dowry when he married Princess Catherine de Braganza of Portugal.
Over the years, as colonialism gave way to independence, Mumbai has transformed itself into an entity with thriving markets, business houses and many different communities reflecting a cosmopolitan and trendy atmosphere rarely seen elsewhere. On the surface, it represents the ever-changing face of today's India -- the old coupled with the dynamic new, and yet at its very core, the heart of the city is steeped in Indian customs and values.
A unique feature of Mumbai, the dhobi is a traditional laundryman, who will collect your dirty linen, wash it, and return it neatly pressed to your doorstep. The "laundries" are called "ghats": row upon row of concrete wash pens, each fitted with its own flogging stone. The clothes are soaked in sudsy water, thrashed on the flogging stones, then tossed into huge vats of boiling starch and hung out to dry. Next they are ironed and piled into neat bundles. The most famous of these Dhobi Ghats is at Saat Rasta near Mahalaxmi Station where almost two hundred dhobis and their families work together.
Located nine kilometres by sea from the Gateway of India, are the Elephanta Caves. The Caves are characterized by rock temples carved out of two hills that emerge from the centre of the island. It is said that the Portuguese named this island after the stone elephant they found here. At Elephanta you can see the cave shrine of Lord Shiva, which belongs to the sixth century, and a massive three-headed sculpture representing Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.
Excursion to Bhaja Cave
The caves, 18 in number, are beautifully sculptured with many images of different postures of Buddha, some animals and situations of some stories of the tales of Buddhism. There are some representations of Buddha, in symbolic terms too. As usual with cave culture, there are many Viharas in Bhaja also, which, most probably, served as hostels for the learning Buddhist monks. The caves are also interesting for the fact that they are one of the oldest among all caves in India. There are stupas, a common feature to all the caves, also adds to the fact that these caves, at different places, were motivated by the same motifs.
Excursion to Karla Cave
Rock-cut structures are one of the most primitive forms of architecture found in several parts of India. The Karla Caves in Maharashtra are one of the finest examples of this architectural style. The Caves are located high in the surrounding hills. A narrow winding path, leads up to them. Built by Buddhist monks, the caves are keeping with the Buddhist ideas of simplicity. The caves are characterised by many halls and a huge stone stupa along with the 2000-year-old teak wood ceiling, which is still intact. Outside the cave is a pillar crowned with lions. This was an emblem of the Buddhist King Ashoka, now adopted by the Indian Government as the state emblem.
Gateway of India
The Gateway of India - a 26 mt. triumphal Archway designed Century to commemorate the visit of King George and Queen Mary to India in 1911 - is Mumbai's most famous landmark. Ironically, when the Raj ended in 1947, this colonial symbol also became a sort of epitaph: the last of the British ships that set sail for England left from the Gateway. Behind the arch, there are steps leading down to the water. Here, you can get onto one of the bobbing little motor launches, for a short cruise through Mumbai's splendid natural harbour.
Behind the arch, there are steps leading down to the water. Here, you can get onto one of the bobbing little motor launches, for a short cruise through Mumbai's splendid natural harbour.
Perched at the top of Malabar Hill, on its western side, just opposite the Kamala Nehru Park, these terraced gardens; also known as Ferozeshah Mehta Gardens, provide lovely sunset views over the Arabian Sea. The park was laid out in the early 1880s over Bombay's main reservoir, some say to cover the water from the potentially contaminating activity of the nearby Towers of Silence.
Kala Ghoda Art district
The Kala Ghoda Art District, covering roughly 2 square kilometres, drew its name from a huge statue of King Edward VIII astride a black horse (Kala Ghoda in Hindi) that once graced the centre of the main thoroughfare. Beginning from the Regal Cinema (behind the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, Mumbai), this hub of culture is home to a heady mix of quaint restaurants, museums, educational institutions, cultural organisations, theatres and art galleries, making it comparable to many international art districts.
Kamla Nehru Park
Perched on the top of Malabar Hill, Kamala Nehru Park is essentially a vantage point that presents a panoramic view of the glittering city - Mumbai. It extends to 3,300 sq m in the most luxurious and posh residential area of the Bollywood city of India. The park was christened after Kamla Nehru, who was the wife of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India. The park is a pleasant place with foliage all around and well-maintained green lawns.
A small trip of about four miles will take you to the famous Kanheri Caves a must visit excursion spot of Mumbai. The caves are believed to have been carved out by Buddhist monks between the 2nd and 9th centuries and have many interesting facts related to them. An unusual feature at Kanheri is the number of open benches cut out of rocks. Almost all the caves have benches in their verandahs or frontcourts. Sit down on one of these and with the evening breeze that comes from the sea refreshing you, you realise their purpose at once.
A memorial dedicated to the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi. He used to stay at House No.19 called Man Bhavan, from time to time between 1917 and 1934. He was arrested here in 1932 and taken off for one of his many prison terms. The building now contains a pictorial gallery, a 20,000-volume research library, a film and recording archive and a set of diorama on the Mahatma's life.
Built in 1920, Marine Drive runs along the shoreline of the Arabian Sea from Nariman Point to the foot of Malabar Hill. It passes Chowpatty Beach along the way. It's one of Mumbai's most popular romantic spot and sunset view is amazing. Tourist brochures are fond of stating it as the Queen's Necklace, because of the dramatic curve of its streetlights at night.
Prince of Wales Museum
Prince of Wales Museum is the erstwhile name of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya of Mumbai. In 1905, George V laid down, the Prince of Wales himself, who came on a visit to India its foundation stone. George Wittet, an architect, designed the splendid structure. The construction work was concluded in 1914, but Lady Lloyd inaugurated the full-fledged museum in 1923. Art, Archaeology and Natural History are three exclusive sections in the museum. It houses some of finest collections, ranging from ancient Indus Valley relics to the artifacts from the Gupta and Maurya Periods.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
Sanjay Gandhi National Park is acclaimed to be an exclusive and largest park in the world to be located within city limits. The bustling forest of the park is abode to almost 800 species of flowering plants, 284 species of birds, 5,000 species of insects, 36 types of mammals, 50 kinds of reptiles and 150 species of butterfly. It also has numerous endangered species of plants and animals. It has the distinction of comprising Atlas moth, which was discovered here and known to be the world's largest moth.
Tower of Silence
A peculiar site to visit in Mumbai is the Tower of Silence. Mumbai has a large number of Parsi populations. The Parsis have the custom of leaving their dead in the open. These particular places are called "Towers of Silence", where the vultures come to eat the dead. For the Parsis, this is regarded as the final act of charity. Mumbai's Towers of Silence have virtually disappeared today. Only a handful remains that attract a considerable number of tourists every year.