Noisy yet spiritual, flashy yet humble, Mumbai manages to cram so many extremes into one city it’s no wonder that it leaves most visitors exhilarated and entranced.
Tower blocks spring up and the newest mall beckons a new crowd. Yet in this fast-growing city, some things never change, such as the gothic spires and gargoyles covering the immense UNESCO-protected Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, and Sunday evenings on Chow patty Beach where families flock to snack on panipuri on the sands.
Here are 10 amazing facts that you didn’t know about Aamchi Mumbai, the City of Dreams!
‘Mumbai’ is actually a set of 7 Islands
The erstwhile ‘Bombay’, which is actually a set of seven islands, was not part of the British Empire but was given as dowry by the Portuguese when Princess Braganza married Charles II of England.
It took 60 years to merge the seven islands of Bombay into one landmass between 1784 and 1845.
The resulting island of Bombay was later merged with the nearby islands of Trombay and Salsette that lay to its North-east and North respectively to form Greater Bombay.
Mumbai is the seasonal home to a flamboyance of Flamingos
I’m not sure what is more fun: the existence of flamingos in Mumbai, or the fact that, just as a group of fish is called a school, a group of these pink birds is called a flamboyance.
Either way, the seasonal Mumbai flamingos have been one of the city’s secret gems since they magically began appearing in the 1990s on the Sewri-Mahul mudflats on the island city’s eastern waterfront.
Urban birders better be quick, though: waterfront development is coming soon and a new train line is set to barrel right through the habitat. Flamingo season runs through Mumbai’s winter—roughly, October to March.
‘0’ KM Milestone
When you travel towards Mumbai, you can see milestone stating Mumbai 35 Kms, but where is the ‘0’ KM milestone? It is at Flora Fountain.
Flora Fountain, built in 1864, is a fusion of water, architecture and sculpture, and depicts the Roman goddess Flora. It was built at a total cost of Rs. 47,000, a princely sum in those days.
The name Mumbai was derived from Mumba Devi and Bombay from…
From Bom Bahia, literally meaning ‘The Good Bay’. Bombay was actually named by Portuguese explorer Francis Almeida.
The present day name ‘Mumbai’ is named after goddess Mumba devi of the Koli community. After the British gained possession of the city in the 17th century, the Portuguese name was officially anglicised as Bombay.
Gilbert Hill – The 66 Million year old hill in Andheri
Gilbert Hill is a 200 ft monolith column of black basalt rock at Andheri. The rock has a sheer vertical face and was formed when molten lava was squeezed out of the Earth’s clefts about 66 million years ago.
Disregarded by numerous, this hill is actually one of the main two slopes found in the whole world, of the same kind. The other is the Devil’s Tower in northeastern Wyoming in the US.
The Temple of Kwan Tai Shek
Did you know that there is a Chinese Temple in Aamchi Mumbai? It was during the times of the East India Company’s rule that the Chinese residing in Mumbai created this temple.
Drenched in red (the Chinese auspicious colour), this temple is indeed a gem hidden in the bylanes of Mazgaon. Although it is a very small temple, it still holds the mystical Yin-Yang and the Fortune Bamboos that provide us valuable insights into the Chinese culture.
The temple is active throughout the year, but is a visual treat during the Chinese New Year and Moon Festival.
Japanese Temples and Graveyards
Over the centuries, Mumbai has been inhabited by various communities; be it the Israelis, Armenians, English or the Chinese. Amongst all these communities, one such community is the Japanese community.
Surprising, isn’t it? Although their presence is inconspicuous today, they still form a significant part of Mumbai’s historic past.
The Japanese graveyards and temples located in and around E. Moses Road, Worli are a must-visit if you really want to explore the interiors of Mumbai.
The Nipponzan Mydhoji Temple was built somewhere in 50’s on the land donated by the Birlas and looked after by the followers of Nichiren sect of Japanese Buddhism.
This small but spacious temple’s walls are lined with paintings of life of Buddha. The cemetery is called ‘Nipponjin Bochi’.
The cemetery is known to house the ashes of Japanese Geishas and prostitutes, brought to India by the British, and is one of the most beautiful graveyards in town.
First Bus Service in India
The first bus service in India was started by Brihanmumbai Electricity Supply and Transport (BEST) on 15 July 1926 between Afghan Church and Crawford Market.
The people of Bombay received the bus with enthusiasm, but it took quite some time before this means of conveyance really established itself.
For several years, it was looked upon as transport for the upper middle class. Those were the days when the tram was the poor man’s transport.
In response to the pleas made by the Government and the Bombay Municipal Corporation, the company extended its services to the northern part of the city in 1934.
Double decker buses were introduced in 1937 in order to cope better with the growing traffic. The first limited bus service in Bombay, and probably the first in the country as well, started running in 1940 between Colaba and Mahim.
Reservoirs under Hanging Gardens
The Hanging Gardens at Malabar Hill was built over three reservoirs which can store up to 300 lakh gallons of water. Since the gardens were set up on the slope of a hill, they were named as the Hanging Gardens.
Situated over the city’s main reservoir, they were built in the early 1880’s. People say that the Hanging Garden was set up with the aim of covering and protecting the water of the reservoir from the polluting activities of the Towers of Silence, situated nearby.
Mumbai University was founded in 1857 at the Town Hall, and was shifted to the new complex near Oval Maidan in 1874.
Until 1904 the university was purely an exam conducting and affiliating body which developed and dictated curricula to the colleges.
Teaching departments, research disciplines and post-graduate courses were added later.