Within three centuries , seven west –coast islands evolved in to the Bombay peninsula, then in to flourishing centre for trade, ultimately becoming the cosmopolitan , high-rise metropolis of Mumbai.
It is not just about Malabar Hill, The Hanging Gardens, Victoria Terminus, Brabourne Stadium, The Gateway of India or Marine drive. Mumbai , call it a living museum, a cultural maelstrom, a financial hub or a hawker’s paradise-wasn’t just a Hindustani metropolis. It was built by the british with an intention for maintaining trades with India. Who would have imagined it to grow on & become a town as humongous as it is today! But in it’s destiny layed a glorious evolution, an evolution that made Mumbai an alchemy, varied in architecture, ethnicity, social grouping, urban formations all culminating in to city of magic – MUMBAI .
History of Mumbai:
Colaba , Mazgaon , Old Woman’s Island, Wadala, Mahim, Parel, Matunga, Sion were the 7 islands owned by Ashoka ,the great king of Magadh.
The seven islands of Mumbai passed through many hands, the sultans of Gujarat, the Portuguese and the British. Every ruler left behind proof of residence in Mumbai.
The Mauryans left behind the Kanheri, Mahakali and the caves of Gharapuri more popularly called Elephanta.
The sultans of Gujarat built the Dargahs at Mahim and Haji Ali, the Portuguese built the two Portuguese churches, one at Prabhadevi and the other St Andrews at Bandra.
They built forts at Sion, Mahim, Bandra and Bassien. The Portuguese named the group of seven Islands ‘Bom Baia’, Good Bay. The British built a city out of the group of seven islands and called her Bombay.
The original settlers of the seven islands, the Koli fishermen, worshiped Mumbaidevi, her temple still stands at Babulnath near Chowpatty. The Kolis called the island Mumbai, ‘Mumba, Mother Goddess’.
The Mumbadevi temple was built originally by a koli in 14th century at Dongri hill. The temple miraculously escaped destruction during the muslim & Portuguese rules. but british demolished it in 18th century. It was rebuilt at Pydhonie by a gold smith , Pandurang Shivaji Sonar.
Origin & Evolution of Mumbai:
In 1662, King Charles II of England married the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza, and received the seven islands of Bom Baia as part of his dowry. Six years later, the British Crown leased the seven islands to the English East India Company for a sum of 10 pounds in gold per annum. It was under the English East India Company that the future megapolis began to take shape, after the first war for independence Bombay once again became a colony of the British Empire.
The first Parsi settler came to Bombay in 1640, he was Dorabji Nanabhoy Patel. In 1689-90, a severe plague epidemic broke out in Bombay and most of the European settlers succumbed to it. The Siddi of Janjira attacked in full force. Rustomji Dorabji Patel, a trader and the son of the city’s first Parsi settler, successfully defeated the Siddi with the help of the Kolis and saved Bombay.
Gerald Aungier, Governor of Bombay built the Bombay Castle, now called Fort. He also constituted the Courts of law. Another governor William Hornby breached the plug between Mahalaxmi and Worli by building Hornby Vellard in 1784.
During this period of four decades the city of Bombay took shape. The Sion Causeway connecting Bombay to Salsette was built in 1803. Colaba Causeway connecting Colaba island to Bombay was built in 1838. A causeway connecting Mahim and Bandra was built in 1845.
Greater Mumbai Reclaimed from the Sea :
In 1872 William Hornbay , then Governor of Bombay Presidency, initiated the Hornby Vellard Project of connecting the isles, despite resistance from East India Company.By 1845 the southern islands connected to form old Mumbai, with an area of 435 sq.km.
Raiway Viaducts and Road bridges were built in 19th century to connect Mumbai island to sashti, and sashti to mainland. The old raiway bridges over the Bhayandar & Naigaon creeks can still be seen from the Virar locals.The channels separating Mumbai and Turbhe islands from Sashti island were filled in the early 20th century.
The present day area from Bandra to Dahisar are a part of sashti island. The ancient Kanheri caves, Jogeshwari kaves, Mahakali caves fall in this region.
Mahalaxmi Temple :
As per legend ,1784 ,when the Hornby Project kept failing to fill the breach at Worli, the chief engineer, a Pathare Prabhu , dreamt of Goddess Laxmi in the sea near Worli.He searched the waters & actually found an idol of the Goddess & built the Mahalaxmi temple in the sea. Only then did the Hornby Project work resumed without failures.
Lady Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, the wife of the First Baronet Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy donated Rs 1, 57,000 to meet construction costs of the causeway. She donated Rs. 1,00,000 at first. When the project cost escalated and money ran out half way through she donated Rs 57,000 again to ensure that the vital causeway was completed. Lady Jamsetjee stipulated that no toll would ever be charged for those using the causeway. Sir J J Hospital was also built by Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy.
The shipbuilding Wadia family of Surat was brought to Bombay by the British. Jamshedji Wadia founded the Bombay Port Trust and built the Princess Dock in 1885 and the Victoria Dock and the Mereweather Dry Docks in 1891. Alexandra Dock was built in 1914.
A Gujarati civil engineer supervised the building of the Gateway of India. The Tatas made Bombay their headquarters and gave it the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel and India’s first civilian airlines, Air India. The Godrejs gave India its first vegetarian soap.
Cowasji Nanabhai Daver established Bombay’s first cotton mill, ‘The Bombay Spinning Mills’ in 1854. By 1915, there were 83 textile mills in Bombay largely owned by Indians.This brought about a financial boom in Bombay.
Premchand Roychand, a prosperous Gujarati broker founded the Bombay Stock Exchange. Premchand Roychand donated Rs 2,00,000 to build the Rajabai Tower in 1878.
Hence we can say that influence from all over india and abroad contributed in Mumbai’s Evolution.
Old Mumbai’s Transport System:
The Bombay Tramway Company Limited was set up in 1873, the tramcars were of 2 kinds- those drawn by one Horse and those drawn by two. In 1905 , the Bombay Electric Supply & Tramways Company Limited started the 1stelectrically operated tram car appeared on Mumbai’s Roads in 1907. The passing years aggravated the problem of rush hour traffic and to ease the situation, double Decker trams were introduced in September 1920. Dadar TT is Dadar Tram Terminus.
BEST- Bus :
Mumbai saw it’s 1st Bus run on 15th July 1926 between Afgan Church and Crawford market. Double deck buses were introduced in 1937 in order to cope better with the growing traffic. Best is now The Brihanmumbai electric Supply & Transport Undertaking .
Mumbai Suburban Railway is the oldest in Asia established in 1847, then known as The Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company(G.I.P. for short) was established in 1849.It’s 1st train , the 1st in the country , ran from Mumbai to Thane on 16th April 1853.
In 1865, the railway went over the Borghat. By 1870 Calcutta and Madras had been linked with Mumbai by rail. The Bombay Baroda and Central India Railway (BBCI) was started in 1855.
The 1st Motor car Appeared on Mumbai roads in 1901.
Mumbai and Civil Aviation:
It all began on 15th October 1932. It was on this day that J.R.D. Tata, the father of Civil Aviation in India and founder of Air India, took off from Drigh Road Airport , Karachi in a tiny , light single-engined de Havilland Puss Moth on his flight to Bombay via Ahmadabad.
He landed with his precious load of mail on a grass strip at Juhu.
Mumbai Today :
Railway , BEST – Mumbai’s Life-line
Mumbai Suburban Railway’s operate on 2 Zones : CR and WR carry a total of 6.3 million passengers every day.
BEST runs a total of 3,408 buses , ferrying 4.5 million passengers daily over 340 routes.
Thus one can definitely say , like a mother whose heart always has space for any number of children, Mumbai has crossed all limits & adjusted herself to accommodate all those who beseeched her.
Mumbai is a confluence of many varied cultures of the country- A mini India in a true sense!
With a confluence of old and new, Mumbai has turned out to be one of the most progressive City in India , but for us it is still a small village ‘Amchi Mumbai’
—– By Prajakta Sarwate Sathe
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