Mumbai, the financial and commercial capital of India, is a modern metropolis as well as a living museum of the British era in India. It was originally a cluster of seven islands namely, Colaba, Fort, Byculla, Parel, Worli, Matunga, and Mahim, which have been linked through successive reclamations. In 1534, the seven islands were ceded to Portugal by the Sultan of Gujarat in the Treaty of Bassein’. The major island of the group Mumbadevi was passed on to Britishers in 1661, as part of the dowry when Catherine of Braganza married England’s Charles II. In 1665, the British occupied all seven islands and leased them to the East India Company. Today, the vibrant metropolis presents a true cosmopolitan outlook.
Gateway of India: The 26 meters high archway was built to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to India in 1911. It has a main, large arch flanked by two smaller arches, at the top are four spires enclosing a small space with large balconies on either side. An equestrian statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji and a statue of Swami Vivekananda have been installed here. There are plenty of launches and cruisers anchored in the sea near the archway, which carry tourists to the famous Elephanta Caves. The famous Taj Mahal Hotel facing the Gateway of India is also a prominent landmark of Mumbai.
Elephanta Caves (9 km. – 11 nautical miles-by sea): The 7th-century rock-cut cave temples on Gharapuri or Elephanta island dedicated to Lord Shiva is a World Heritage Site of UNESCO. The Maheshmurti in the main cave is one of the most renowned and attractive sculptures. Here Shiva is shown in one single carving as the Creator, Protector, and Destroyer of the Universe. Other deities of the Hindu trinity, Brahma and Vishnu are also shown in the panels along with Shiva. The island can be approached by launches and cruises available at the Gateway of India.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus): This first railhead of India is one of the largest and oldest train termini of the East. Designed by F.W. Stevens in Gothic style, the modern terminus is one of the most magnificent railway stations of the world and was built over ten years from 1878 – 88 at a cost of Rs.16,35,562. The station has an imposing dome surmounted by a figure symbolizing progress. Recently, it has been listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Hutatma Chowk (Flora Fountain): The stone figure of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers is set at the junction of five busy streets. It is surrounded by fountains and a host of mythological figures and was built in honor of Sir Bartle Frere, Governor of Bombay (1862 1867). There is also a martyr’s memorial on the same premises. Today, the area around the square is a flourishing business center of Mumbai.
High Court: The imposing white-pinnacled building was built in 1878 and designed by Gen. A.Fuller in English Gothic style. It is 169 meters long and the central structure soars up to 54.2 meters, surmounted by statues representing Justice and Mercy.
Rajabai Clock Tower: The 19th-century clock tower at the university campus rises to a height of 79 meters and is the most conspicuous landmark of Mumbai.
Town Hall: This colonnaded building overlooking the Horniman circle houses the Asiatic Society Library.
Netaji Subhash Marg or Marine Drive: It is one of the most beautiful and popular promenades in the world. Reclaimed from the back bay, the drive starts from Nariman Point via Chowpatty Beach up to Malabar Hill. An exhilarating view of the promenade can be enjoyed from Malabar Hill, especially at night, when the string of lights on the curve shine like pearls and appears like a ‘Queen’s Necklace’.
Taraporewala Aquarium: It houses an exotic collection of marine and freshwater fish.
Museums, Memorials & Planetariums
Bahu Daji Lad Museum (Victoria & Albert Museum): The museum set amidst lush Veermata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan was originally established in 1855, as a treasure house of the decorative and industrial arts. Today, it has a rich collection of archaeological finds, original maps, photographs, prints, and paintings depicting the history of Mumbai. The museum was recently honored with an ‘Award of Excellence’ by UNESCO under its Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation Programme, 2005.
Bombay Natural History Society (Hornbill House): It is located near the Prince of Wales museum and is a treasure house of nature’s wonders.
Mani Bhavan (Gandhi Memorial): Mahatma Gandhi often resided here during his visits to the city. It is now preserved as a national memorial. The building houses a research library, a film and recording archive, and a set of the diorama on Gandhiji’s life.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastusangrahalay (Prince of Wales Museum): It is one of the best museums in the country and was earlier named after King George V, who as Prince of Wales laid the foundation stone in 1905. The museum is housed in an impressive building built in Indo – Saracenic style and is surrounded by well laid out gardens.
Nehru Planetarium: This imposing structure at Worli, houses the only astronomical center of the city. The circular sky theatre of the planetarium recreates an image of the sky as seen from anywhere on the cart. A library here has a rich wealth of books specializing in astronomy, astrophysics, and space sciences. Nehru Science Centre, adjacent to the planetarium is specially designed for children and youth.
Parks, Gardens & Amusement Parks
Kamla Nehru Park: The children’s park named after the wife of Jawahar Lal Nehru is perched on the beautiful slopes of Malabar Hill. It was laid in 1952 and commands a panoramic view of Marine Drive and Chowpatty Beach. The “Old Woman’s ‘Shoe” along with the swings and slides in the park is the center of attraction for children.
Pherozshah Mehta Gardens (Hanging Garden): This beautiful garden was laid out in 1881, atop a water reservoir. It is Kamla Nehru Park also a popular picnic spot and the sun-set view from here is spectacular.
Veermata Jijabai Bhonsle Udyan (Victoria Gardens): The lush garden is a comprehensive complex of a Botanical Garden, Zoo, and Museum, which has cultural and historical exhibits. Elephant, camel, pony, and boat rides are available.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park: It is located near Borivali railway station, which is about 35 kms. by suburban electric train from the town. The park also called Krishnagiri Upvan, has the Gandhi Smriti Mandir on Pavilion Hill. Lion Safari Park is very exciting. Kanheri Caves, one of the largest groups of Buddhist caves in western India, are another attraction of the park.
Essel World & Water Kingdom (70 kms., near Gorai beach): This very popular theme park offers exciting rides and games. The Water Kingdom nearby is a great experience for any water-loving individual. The nearest railhead is Malad or Borivali from where the journey has to be made by road and sea. It is also approachable by road via Bhayandar on Western Express Highway.
Fantasy Land (29 kms. at Jogeshwari): This amusement park is smaller in size and cheaper as compared to Essel World.
Some Sacred Sites
Babulnath Temple: This temple of Lord Shiva to the south of Malabar Hill, was built in 1780 and a tall spire was added to the structure in 1900. It enshrines a black stone Shivalingam and idols of various gods and goddesses.
Bholeshwar Temple: It is dedicated to Lord Shiva also known as Bholeshwar (the Pure One). The temple is covered with brass plates and has a red flag adorned with representations of the sun and moon.
Iskcon or Hare Rama Hare Krishna Temple: The magnificent shrine at Juhu is worth visiting, especially during the morning and evening prayers.
Mahalaxmi Temple: The shrine of Mahalaxmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity is set picturesquely on a rocky promontory at the edge of the sea and is one of the most popular shrines of Mumbai. The present temple was built in the 18th century and enshrines elaborately ornamented statues of Mahalaxmi, Mahakali, and Mahasaraswati.
Mumba Devi Temple: It is dedicated to Mumba Devi, the patron goddess of the city, and is believed to have been originally built by Koli fisherman in the Ist century B.C. The temple was erected at the present site of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus and was demolished by the British in 1739. The new shrine was later reconstructed at Kalbadevi in 1753 and enshrines a beautifully ornamented image of the goddess.
Siddhi Vinayak Temple: Mumbaites have great respect and devotion for this holy shrine of Lord Ganesha, at Prabhadevi.
Walkeshwar Temple: This ancient temple near Malabar hill is said to have been built in 1000 A.D.by Silhara Kings. It was vandalized by the Portuguese in the 16th century and was beautifully rebuilt by Rama Kamthi, a wealthy Brahmin in 1715. As per legends Lord Rama made a Shivlingam out of sand (Waluk) and prayed here. The sacred Banganga Tank nearby is said to have been created by Lord Rama.
Afghan Church or St. John’s Church: The magnificent church at Colaba, with wide Gothic arches and beautiful stained glass windows was built in l847, in the memory of the British soldiers who fell in the Sindh and Afghan campaigns of 1838 and 1843.
St. Thomas Cathedral: The church at the fort is a fine blend of the classical and Gothic styles of architecture. It also has several interesting memorials and monuments.
The Gloria Church: The church located at Byculla, was originally built by the Portuguese in 1632. It was demolished and built in Gothic style in 1911.
Mount Mary Basilica: The church dedicated to Mother Mary at Bandra is one of the most important Marian pilgrim centers of the world.
Haji Ali: It houses the tomb of a Muslim saint, who died while on pilgrimage to Mecca. When the casket containing his mortal remains floated and came to rest on a rocky bed in the sea, devotees constructed the tomb and mosque at this spot. The mosque set amidst the waters of the sea can be approached through a causeway, which gets submerged during the high tide.
Raudat Tahara: It has a marble mosque and mausoleum built by the Dawoodi Bohra Muslims in honor of their spiritual leader, the late Dr. Syedna Tahar Saifuddin.
Chowpatty Beach: The popular beach in the ‘Heart of Mumbai’ has a special place in the life of Mumbaites. It is the venue for important festivals like Coconut Day and the Ganesh Chaturthi immersions.
Erangal Beach: 35 km. by suburban electric train to Malad, thence by road. Hotels and shacks are available at this lovely beach.
Gorai Beach: The clean and calm beach ofGorai, is located 59 km. from the city center. The nearest railhead is Borivali, from there by bus or auto to Gorai creek, which has to be crossed by ferry. The famous theme park- Essel World is located nearby.
Juhu Beach: The second most popular beach in Mumbai lies on the Bandra-Khar road, about twenty kms. from the city center. The crowded beach lined by bungalows and high rise apartments offers various entertainment and amusements.
Madh, Marve & Manori Beaches 44.8 km.,38.4 km. and 40 km. respectively by suburban electric train to Malad, and thence 12 km., 5.6 km. and 6.4 km. respectively by road. Ferry services available from Marve to Manori beach.
Alibag (112 kms.)
This fine beach resort was the home of Shivaji’s admiral, Angre. There are two sea forts known as Khanderi and Undheri. Nearby, Chaul is an old fortress town. It is also a convenient base for visiting Kihim and Nagaon beaches. The resort is well connected by road with Mumbai via Panvel and Pen.
Ambarnath (70 kms.)
The Hindu pilgrim center is famous for the 11th century Somnath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also a popular picnic spot connected by local trains from Mumbai.
Bassein Fort: The 15th century Portuguese Fort is 76.8 km by sub-urban electric train to Bassein Rd. and thence 4.8 km. by road.
Karnala Bird Sanctuary & Fort (61 kms.)
The sanctuary lies on the Mumbai – Goa road. An old fort nearby is quite interesting.
Matheran (105 kms.)
This clean and quiet hill resort in the Western Ghats is a favorite weekend destination for Mumbaites. Some of the important sites are Charlotte Lake, the Panorama, and the Sunset Points, and various other viewpoints. Matheran is also known for cane and leather articles and chikki, a special sweatmeat. The Toy Train’ plying between Neral and Matheran was started in March 1907, covering a distance of 21 kms. on 610 mm gauge. The beautiful section is very popular among visitors.
The beautiful coastal town is famous for Janjira, an impregnable island- fortress, 5 kms. south of Murud. It was built in 1140, by Siddi Johar and became the capital of Siddis during the 16th century. The fort remained virtually invincible in its 1lifespan. The palace of the Nawab and the Janjira Caves are worth visiting. Murud lies 45 kms. south of Alibag and the nearest railhead is at Roha (50 kms.) on the Konkan Railway.
Tansa Lake& Sanctuary
Tansa lake is 103 km. by sub-urban electric train to Atgaon and thence 14.4 km. by road. The lush forests around the lake are a haven for many species of birds and animals.
Vaitarna Lake & Dam
The scenic lake and dam lie on the Kalyan – Nashik railway route. It is 122 km. by sub-urban electric train to Khardi and thence 12.8km. by road.