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India Travel Guide

History of Mumbai

The British Influence is still visible in the buildings of Mumbai.

The series of seven islands which are now Mumbai were originally occupied by the fisherfolks called the Kolis. The Kolis community in Mumbai is now centered around the Backbay Reclamation, Mahim, Bandra, Khar, Madh Island area.

In the 3rd century BC, the coastal regions were part of the Magadhan Empire under Emperor Ashok's rule. Evidence shows that the Silhara Dynasty reigned Mumbai in the 13th century. In 1343, the island of Salsette and subsequently the whole archipelago passed onto the Sultan of Gujarat.

Bahadur Shah of Gujarat eventually lost control of the islands when he ceded power to the Portuguese in 1534. In 1661, Charles II of England inherited the islands as dowry when he married Catherine of Braganza. The British East India Company eventually took possession in 1668 and laid the foundations to what today has become the modern, vibrant city of Mumbai.

It was the second governor of Mumbai Gerald Aungier who saw the opportunity to develop Mumbai as a centre for trade and commerce and enticed workers, traders, businessmen to move to this British holding. This saw a large influx of Gujaratis, Parsis, Banias, Wadias who came to call Mumbai their home.

In 1817 the British embarked upon large scale engineering projects and reclamation in Mumbai. The arduous task of uniting the group of seven islands into one large landmass was also undertaken during this period. The first railway line in India connecting Mumbai to Thane, a suburb of Mumbai was inaugurated in 1853.

With the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, exports from Mumbai mainly cotton became the mainstay of British India's economy. The development of Imperial Mumbai continued well into the 20th century. Most of the city's landmarks including the Gateway of India, Flora Fountain, Hanging Gardens all date back to this period.

In the meanwhile, the Indian Freedom Struggle was gaining momentum. Mumbai played a pivotal role during the Quit India Movement. During this time Greater Bombay came into existence by an act of the British Parliament. In the 1960 Mumbai then Bombay was made the capital of Maharashtra and in the 90's Bombay became Mumbai. Today, Mumbai is a pulsating city set on an exponential growth path.


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