Once a cluster of seven islands covered with coconut palms, Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is a sprawling, vibrant city on India’s west coast. It is a busy, densely-populated city, home to India’s most prolific film industry, Bollywood, and the largest tropical forest in an urban zone.
Mumbai can prove to be a surprising introduction to India.[ReadMoreMob] On its harbour waterfront stands the iconic Gateway of India stone arch; through it is India’s centre for finance and fashion, and a fervent religious crossroads. As such the city’s furious energy – and often heavy air pollution – can make it a totally different experience for visitors.
But once in Mumbai’s heart, some of the most imposing colonial-era architecture on earth is on view, as are its secret bazaars, hidden temples, and India’s top restaurants and intense nightlife. [ReadMore]
The cultural mix is extraordinary: religious sites like the Jain Temple and the closely guarded Parsi Towers of Silence all exist happily next to the Victoria Railway Terminus, the Royal Bombay Yacht Club and the Ghandi Memorial Museum. The unique and popular bazaars offer souvenir trinkets, traditional shawls and shoes all ready to be bartered over.
Venturing beyond Mumbai, the elusive and lesser known Elephanta Caves are captivating. Set in attractive surroundings of lush green vegetation, vines and towering trees, Elephanta Island offers a stark contrast from the bustling inner city of Mumbai. The eerie Buddhist and Hindu caves, and their honeycomb of halls, shrines and pillars, are a must-see.
Most of the heritage structures that stand in the city today were built in the British period and display Victorian neo-Gothic, the Indo-Saracenic and neoclassical architectural styles. These include, the UNESCO-listed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, the Gateway of India (commemorating visit of King George V), Rajabai Clock Tower (modelled on Big Ben) and Prince of Wales Museum.
Dabbawalas are a common sight in Mumbai and deliver hundreds of thousands of meals on foot and bicycles in one of India’s busiest cities every day. When translated the word ‘dabbawala’ literally means ‘one who carries a box’.
Dhobi Ghat is an open-air laundromat and also the largest in the world. The washers, known as dhobis, work in the open to clean clothes and linens from Mumbai’s hotels and hospitals. There are rows of open-air concrete wash pens, each fitted with its own flogging system.