Mumbai, referred to as Bombay up until 1995, is the starlit economical backbone of India where the stocks of the country rise and fall just like Bollywood movie stars. It’s the land of dreamers, artists, millionaires and India’s biggest slum – Dharavi. If you are travelling to the country for the first time and Mumbai is your entry gate to this overwhelming, mind-twisting country – fasten your seatbelts for it’s a ride of a lifetime!
The largest city in India and the capital of Maharashtra, Mumbai was originally a collection of seven different islands which came together to form this massive island city. It is also one of the most populated cities in the world. Essentially, the city is sub-divided into seven districts – South, South Central, North, North Central, East, West, and the harbour suburbs.
Amidst all the chaos and bustle, the city of Mumbai has manged to preserve its culture through the various advancements and developments. Below are some of the important heritages that the city is famous for (and each of them are worth paying a visit):
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station (CSTM)
If you are entering the city via train (or if you aren’t), CSTM is a structure you just can’t miss. For amateurs, it may be just another busy train station in India, but this histories gateway to Mumbai is not only the headquarters for Central railways in the country but also a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site. The 129-year-old railway station was designed by Frederick William Stevens to memorialize Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It is one of busiest railway stations in India and is built keeping in mind the Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival style.
Dabbawalas of Mumbai
Quite literally, it is a tiffin service that caters to almost 200,000 of Mumbai residents. So, what’s the hype about a tiffin service, you ask? The Dabbawala of Mumbai have been in service since 1890 and is an army of over 5,000 workers, who, unfailingly, show up in their white uniforms, Gandhi caps, bicycles/scooters, to transport food to thousands of empty stomachs in the city. The concept was started by Mahadeo Havaji Bachche, a simple Mumbaikar, who, in an attempt to serve tiffin to an insignificant banker, stumbled upon the idea to bring homemade food to the residents and workers of Mumbai. They operate from various station in Mumbai but Churchgate terminus is the most prominent one. We bet you would have never seen anything like this.
Built in 1431 to commemorate Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a Muslim merchant who gave up all his materialistic worldly possessions before a visit to Mecca, is one of the most iconic landmarks of Mumbai, accessible by a causeway only during low tide. Located on a tiny islet a few hundred meters off the Worli Coast, Haji Ali is both a tomb and a mosque. At approximately 600 years, the structure is a fine example of Indo-Islamic architecture. If not for religion or the architecture, go for the mesmeric walk on the causeway from the coast to the shrine with seas on both sides.
Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat
Another peculiar yet well-preserved cultural heritage of the financial capital of India is the Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat – an open-air laundromat. This place is a must-visit for photographers and travellers who love culture and people. Coined as the world’s largest outdoor laundromat, Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat has been in business for almost 140 years and has 1026 open-air troughs.
‘Kala Ghoda’ is a Hindi term which plainly means ‘Black Horse’. Named after a statue that once adorned the area, Kala Ghoda, in the anarchic city of Mumbai is a relief to every art lover. Dotted with Mumbai’s best art galleries and museums, the area is also home to Esplanade mansion – oldest surviving cast iron building in India. Some of the other popular sites in the region are Jehangir Art Gallery, Lions Gate, Bombay Natural History Society, and David Sassoon Gallery. Plan your trip to the city in February so you can visit the 9-day long Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.
At first glance, the city of Mumbai may seem totally crazy and it is so in a lot of ways, but it is also where life meets spirit, dreams meet its makers, and professionals going to work in Mercedes and Audi order food from a 129-year-old tiffin service. You just can’t miss this one.