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"The thing about Mumbai is you go five yards and all of human existence is revealed. It's an incredible cavalcade of life, and I love that."
[Julian Sands, actor]
Mumbai (formerly Bombay until 1995) is the capital city of the state of Maharashtra. It is India's wealthiest and most populous city, lying on a peninsula in the coastal region of Konkan in western India, at the mouth of the Ulhas river. Originally there were just a few fishing villages on seven small islands here, which for centuries were under the control of successive global empires, including the Portuguese. The area was later ceded to the British East India Company when King Charles II married the Portuguese Catherine of Braganza in 1661. Part of her dowry was the seven islands of Bombay. During the mid-18th century, Bombay was reshaped when land reclamation made the islands one and added major roads and railways, transforming Bombay into a major seaport on the Arabian Sea by 1845. The city flourished under British rule throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries and continues to flourish to this day.
It's big and brash, noisy and chaotic, home to Bollywood and grand colonial architecture. It's a city of great contrasts, too, home to more millionaires than anywhere else in India, and to India's largest slums. It makes a great introduction to this amazing country – so take time to discover fine dining and spectacular street food; quirky bazaars and high end shops; huge Catholic cathedrals and ornate Hindu temples, and lots of wide open spaces...
Our included arrangements in Mumbai
All our holidays in southern and central India are based on flights to Mumbai. For Kerala and Karnataka you have one night in Mumbai in our 3-star hotel as part of the itinerary; for The Forsyth Trail, you only have a few hours between your flight landing and catching the overnight train to Pipariya. The exact arrangements are detailed in each holiday’s itinerary.
You may well wish to spend more time here than our included arrangements allow, and we can arrange additional nights at our 3-star hotel. We are also able to organise a car and driver who will happily take you wherever you wish to explore. This is by far the best and easiest way to see the city and cars can be booked for either a full day (8 hours) or half a day (4 hours). Please discuss your plans with us so we can provide you with a quotation.
Sightseeing in the Capital
There is so much to see in Mumbai that it would be impossible to list all the sights here, though highlights include:
• The Gateway of India, a colossal basalt triumphal arch on Mumbai Harbour, incorporating Islamic styles of 16th-century Gujarat, built to commemorate the royal visit of King George V in 1911
• Elephanta Island, housing a series of impressive rock-cut temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating from 450-750 AD • The Haji Ali Dargah, a mosque and dargah (tomb), is located on an islet off the coast and is one of the most recognisable landmarks of Mumbai. It is an exquisite example of Indo-Islamic architecture, associated with legends about doomed lovers • Gandhi Mani Bhawan, the house (now a small museum) where Mahatma Gandhi stayed and formulated his philosophy of satyagraha ('non-violent protest') in 1932
• Dhobi Ghat, the largest open-air laundry in the world where the washers, or dhobis, work in the open to wash the clothes and linen from Mumbai's hotels and hospitals • The Taj Mahal Hotel, Mumbai’s most famous landmark, is a spectacular building blending Islamic and Renaissance styles, built in 1903 • Babulnath, an ancient Shiva temple, is an architectural delight, with its intricately carved interiors, featuring elements from Hindu mythology, made from limestone and marble • Jogeshwari Caves which contain the earliest Hindu and Buddhist cave temple sculptures in India
• Fort George and Bombay Castle, relics of British rule
• Jijamata Udyaan, formerly Victoria Gardens, which contains the oldest zoo in India
• Gilbert Hill, a 200ft column of black basalt on top of which are the Gaodevi and Durgamata Hindu temples, accessed by a steep staircase carved into the rock • Malabar Hill, upon which stands the Walkeshwar Hindu Temple, Kamala Nehru Park and the 'Hanging Gardens of Mumbai'
Our recommend driving route will also take you through the Navy Nagar area (Indian Naval bases); past the JJ School of Arts (birthplace of Rudyard Kipling) and the Prince of Wales Museum; to Church Gate Railway Station to see the amazing dabbawalas (the famous lunch-box carriers), and end by visiting the Marine Drive flyover for a panoramic view of the city.
Alternatively, head to one of the many markets and bazaars offering arts and handicrafts of India, to savour authentic ethnic cuisine and to be entertained by street performers. Some of the best include:
• Crawford Market (Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandi), full of enticing shops and stalls • Sassoon Fish Market on the harbour
• Flora Fountain where roadside booksellers congregate
• For a modern, city-shopping experience, go to High Street Phoenix, one of the largest shopping centres in India