GEOGRAPHY OF MUMBAI
Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay) is a port in the western Indian state of Maharashtra. On a map the main part of the city looks like a peninsula that is actually two islands. Its great natural, deep water harbor is 194 square kilometers (75 square miles) in size. Mumbai spreads out over seven islands on the Arabian Sea and is positioned on the western shore of the subcontinent, below the armpit of Gujarat.
The seven islands and the peninsula on which Mumbai is located were created by ancient volcanic eruptions. During the mid-18th century, the Hornby Vellard Project was launched where major roads and railways were constructed over the sea to connect these seven islands in one of the biggest land reclamation development drives in India. Today roughly half of Mumbai rests on land reclaimed from the sea and the seven islands are all connected together. In some places ghats, which are traditionally placed by the water for the cremation of the dead, are located hundred of meters inland.
Mumbai consists of two distinct regions: Mumbai City district and Mumbai Suburban district. The city district region is also commonly referred to as the Island City or South Mumbai. The total area of Mumbai is 603.4 square kilometers (233 square miles). Of this, the island city spans 67.79 square kilometers (26 square miles), while the suburban district spans 370 square kilometers (143 square miles).
Mumbai lies at the mouth of the Ulhas River on the western coast of India, in the coastal region known as the Konkan. It sits on Salsette Island (Sashti Island), which it partially shares with the Thane district. Mumbai is bounded by the Arabian Sea to the west. Many parts of the city lie just above sea level, with elevations ranging from 10 meters (33 feet) to 15 meters (49 feet). Northern Mumbai (Salsette) is hilly, and the highest point in the city is 450 meters (1,476 feet) at Salsette in the Powai–Kanheri ranges. The Sanjay Gandhi National Park (Borivali National Park) is located partly in the Mumbai suburban district, and partly in the Thane district, and it extends over an area of 103.09 square kilometers (39.80 square miles).
Mumbai City district occupies the southern tip of the island. Mumbai Suburban district occupies the island’s central region. Thane and Navi Mumbai are included in Mumbai Metropolitan Area. Navi Mumbai is on the mainland. Thane is split between the northern section of Salsette Island and the mainland. Mahim Causeway and Bandra-Worli Sea Link Bridge connects the city with its western suburbs.
The eastern side of Mumbai looks out over the great sheltered, natural harbor, unrivaled elsewhere on the subcontinent. At the southern end of the city lies the sweeping, five-kilometer curve of Back Bay, bordered by Marine Drive, a promenade road known as the Queen's Necklace because of how it looks when it is lit up at night. South Mumbai is an upmarket area. Colaba is a shopping district there.
The downtown business area is flanked to the north by an area of busy markets and bazaars Beyond the bazaars, Mumbai is a hodgepodge of densely crowded tenements, slum areas, factories, cotton mills, railway lines, and crowded streets. Getting around is made more confusing than it otherwise might be because many streets and landmarks were renamed like Mumbai itself when Hindu nationalists came to power in the 1990s. The new names are sometimes on maps. Sometimes they are not. Most inhabitants use the old names.
Neighborhoods and Areas of Mumbai
Among the places where Bollywood actors live and stay in Mumbai are Bandra, Bandstand, Pali Hill, Juhu, Andheri, Khar, Carter Road, Versova, Worli, Santacruz, Malabar Hill, Cuff Parade and South Bombay. The neighbourhoods with the highest concentrations of millionaires and billionaires are: 1) Colaba and Cuffe Parade, 2) Churchgate, 3) Malabar Hill, 4) Altamount Road, 5) Breach Candy, 6) Worli Sea Face, 7) Bandra West, 8) Juhu, and 9) Andheri West.
Fort is a business district in Mumbai. The area gets its name from the defensive fort, Fort George, built by the British East India Company around Bombay Castle. The area extends from the docks in the east, to Azad Maidan in the west; Victoria Terminus in the north to Kala Ghoda in the south. This area is the heart of the financial area of the city. Many British era structures are located here.
Zaveri (Bhuleshwar in South Mumbai, just north of Crawford Market) is a bustling street with stalls offering silver, gold and diamonds as well as jewelry hoops, chokers and pendants made from precious metals and stones. Zaveri is a maze of narrow lanes, dotted with hundreds of jewelry shops including Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri (TBZ), Dwarkadas Chandumal, Dhirajlal Bhimji Zaveri and UTZ. About 65 percent of all gold trading and dealing in India is estimated to originate from the market. It is named after early 19th century jeweller, Ambalal Zaveri, who was very famous for the huge amount of gold he possessed and the fighting that broke out between his sons after his death. Silver bullion brokers used to line up outside the windows of dealers and use hand signal to seal deals just like old time traders on the floor of the New York stock exchange.
Malabat Hill (northern end of Back Bay) is an affluent neighborhood with many Jain and Parsi residents. Here you can find a brightly-colored Jain temple and a Parsi Tower of Silence, where Parsi corpses are consumed by vultures. The Tower of Silence is closed to non-Parsis. Visitors who are disappointed by this visit the outdoor Hindu crematorium to watch corpses being burned. Banganga Tank (on Malabar Hill) is the oldest continually inhabited place in Mumbai. Here, a sacred water tank is sided by a narrow street lined with temples, homes and dharamsalas (religious rest houses). Hindus believe that walking around the tank will spiritually cleanse them.
Kala Ghoda Art Precinct (between the Fort and Colaba, in south Mumbai) is Mumbai's cultural center. Kala Ghoda means "Black Horse", a reference to a statue that was once located here. This crescent-shaped area is home to Mumbai's best art galleries and museums. It also features lively cultural spaces and street galleries. It is is pleasant place to stroll around. Make sure to visit the acclaimed Jehangir Art Gallery.
Falkland Road and Kamathipura Red Light District
Falkland Road lies at the center of Mumbai’s Kamathipura red light district. In an area called "the Cages" women are displayed in windows and in 4-by-6-foot pinjara (Hindi for “cage”). The youngest and prettiest girls are displayed in places where they are most visible. Customers are welcomed day and night. The rooms in Mumbai's brothels are often filled with posters of movies idols and religious icons.
In the 1990s, n estimated 50,000 women work as prostitutes in Mumbai. About half were Nepalese. Many were brought to the city by human traffickers who, in some cases, bought the girls and women from their parents or husbands. Because of violence, disease, malnutrition and lack of medical care their life expectancy was less than 40 years. Many patrons at these places and the red light district were men from the Gulf States apparently in search of alcohol and easy sex. The transvestites that worked reportedly catered mostly to Sikhs.
Due to a tough police crackdown in the late 1990s, prompted by a rise of AIDS and a government policy to redevelopment the area and help sex workers to move out of the profession, the the number of sex workers in the area has fell from 45,000 in 1992 to to 1,600 in 2009 and 500 in 2018. Many sex workers have migrated to other areas in Maharashtra with real estate developers taking over the high-priced real estate.
Kamathipura has traditionally been divided into roughly 14 lanes and divided according to regional and linguistic backgrounds of the sex workers. Most of the sex workers now are from other Indian states. The sex workers mostly hang around in the streets, solicit customers, and then rent an available bed in the largely dilapidated buildings in the area.
Bandra: the Home of Bollywood’s Elite
Bandra (north of the Mithi River from Mumbai City) is a coastal suburb of Mumbai and the third-largest commercial hub in Maharashtra, after Mumbai and Pune. Also called Vandre, it is the home of many Bollywood personalities and well as famous cricketeers and politicians. Among the places of interest are Jogger's Park, with a small seaside jogging track, the nearby Otter's Club, was where Mumbai's first laughing club was launched, Bandra Reclamation, Mount Mary's Basilica, Bandra-Kurla complex,, Bandstand Promenade and Carter Road Promenade,. Hill Road is a popular street shopping area with various restaurants and name-brand stores. Linking Road is also popular for shopping. Bandra Fort, also known as Castella de Aguada, is a Portuguese fort. Colonial-era bungalows and Bandra's unique architectural heritage is being threatened by ongoing development.
Bandra is split by the local railway-line into West Bandra and East Bandra. The part of Bandra located on the western side of the railway line developed into a fashionable suburb by the middle of the 20th century. Film director Mehboob Khan established the Mehboob Studios here in 1954. Soon the area became a center for the Indian movie industry, Bollywood. A recording studio was set up in the 1970s. In the mid-to-late 1990s, the eastern part emerged as a commercial and administrative hub. Most roads and places in Bandra were given English names during British rule. They have been renamed over time but many are still popularly known by their old names.
Bandra has a large collection of street art or graffiti. The paintings on walls are principally located in the vicinity of Chapel Road and Veronica Street, but prominent works are also visible near Bandstand and Mount Mary Church. They consist of various types of graffiti, including pieces, stencils and tags. Globally renowned artists such as Gomez have created works on these walls. St+art Mumbai, Bollywood Art Project and Dharavi Art Room are some of the organizations that conduct various programs to encourage the artists. Bandra is also home to the 120X150 foot portrait of Dadasaheb Phalke on the MTNL building at Bandra Reclamation. It was created by Ranjit Dahiya (from the Bollywood Art Project) and other artists including Yantr, Munir Bukhari and Nilesh Kharade as part of the St+art Mumbai festival in 2014. The mural was unveiled officially by Amitabh Bachan and Piyush Pandey. It is reportedly Asia's largest mural.
Notable residents include 1) Former Member of Parliament Priya Dutt; 2 and 3) the famous Bollywood bad boy actors Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan, 4) the English Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif; 5) Heart surgeon Sharad Panday; 6) BJP Mumbai President Ashish Shelar; 7) Sachin Tendulkar, India’s most famous cricket player; 8) Aamir Khan, a well-known actor and director; 9) Madhubala, a famous Bollywood actress of the 1940s and 50s; 9) Ashutosh Gowariker, a Bollywood director and screenwriter; 10) Hindu nationalist and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray; 11) Shiv Sena MLA late Bala Sawant; and 12) Mohammed Rafi, Bollywood playback singer.
1) Salman Khan lives at 3, Galaxy Apartments, Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Road, Bandstand, Bandra (West), Bombay 400050; 2) Shahrukh Khan lives at “Mannat”, Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Road, Bandstand, Bandra (West), Mumbai 400050; 3) Aditya Pancholi lives at 401, Sea King Apartments, Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Road, Band Stand, Bandra (West), Mumbai 400050; 4) Pooja Bhatt lives at 601, Kyle More Apartments, Behind Mehboob Studios, Bandra (W) Mumbai 400050; 5) Subhash Ghai lives at 12 Cliff Tower, Mount Mary Church Road, Bandra (W), Mumbai 400050; 6) Chunky Pandey lives at 1 A/B Monisha Apartments, St Andrews Road, Bandra (West), Mumbai 400 050; 7) Dino Morea has a bungalow called “Casamorea” at St Leo’s Road, Near D’Monte Park, Bandra (West), Mumbai 400050; 8) Deepika Padukone lives at B wing, Cozihom, Pali Hill, Bandra West, Mumbai 400050; 9) Sanjay Dutt lives at 58 Smt Nargis Dutt Road, Pali Hill, Bandra, Mumbai 400050; 10) Aamir Khan lives at 11, Bela Vista Apartments, Pali Hill, Bandra (W), Bombay 400050.
Colaba (Churchgate railway station) occupies the southernmost part of of Mumbai. The name Colaba comes from Kolabhat, a word in the language of Kolis, the indigenous inhabitants of the islands, before the arrival of the Portuguese. During Portuguese rule in the 16th century, the island was known as Candil. After the British took over the island in the late 17th century, it was known as Colio. The area now occupied by Colaba originally was two islands: Colaba and Little Colaba (or Old Woman's Island). The island of Colaba was one of the Seven islands of Bombay ruled by the Portuguese.
Among the main tourist attractions in the area are Colaba Causeway, Colaba Observatory, Cowasji Jehangir Hall, Ballard Estate, Cathedral of the Holy Name, Prong's Lighthouse, Gateway of India, Sassoon Docks and David Sassoon Library. The nearest railway stations are Churchgate and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus ("CST", Victoria Terminus). Two of the world’s richest men — Ratan Tata and Anil Ambani — live here as well as the famous Indian cricket coach Ravi Shastri.
The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, the art deco style Regal Theatre, Mumbai’s most famous cafes (Café Mondegar, Cafe Royal and Leopold Cafe), the Royal Bombay Yacht Club, Bademiya Restaurant and Bagdadi restaurant, as well as a number of modern pubs, restaurants and clubs are all found in Colaba. Colaba is renowned for high-end boutiques and imitation consumer goods, and is popular with tourists. Colaba Causeway, or just "Causeway" as it is known in Mumbai, offers things like bracelets, perfumes, clothes, watches, DVDs and CDs. Colaba is also the art center of Mumbai, with major galleries and museums located here. The district manages to retains its old world English charm while being modern and trendy. Most of its colonial-era buildings have been preserved.
The southern tip is occupied by a military cantonment, including the large Navy Nagar layout built on reclaimed land known as Holiday Camp. The older parts of the cantonment retains its large, wooded spaces and is the only bit of green left in this otherwise congested area. In the midst of Navy Nagar lies the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), one of India's leading scientific institutions.
Marine Drive (South Mumbai, west side of Colaba) is a promenade road that curves for 3.6 kilometers around Back Bay. It is a wondeful place to take a walk. The road was given its nickname the Queen's necklace because when viewed at night from an elevated place the street lights along road create the illusion of an illuminated string of pearls. The presence of the Arabian Sea and the cool, fresh breeze that blows in off it make area one of the most exclusive and expensive real estate hubs in Mumbai. In and around Marine Drive you can find an array of restaurants offering a diverse range of cuisine, glittering skyscrapers and paved walkways. A fun thing to do is ride around in a colorfully-decorated horse chariot.
The official name of Marine Drive, though rarely used, is Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road. Constructed by late philanthropist Bhagojisheth Keer and Pallonji Mistry, the promenade is lined with palm trees and the road is a 'C'-shaped, six-lane, concrete boulevard along the coast of a natural bay. At the northern end are Malabar Hill and Chowpatty Beach, a popular beach famed for its Bhel puri (local fast food). Many restaurants also line this stretch of the road. Further down this road lies Walkeshwar, a wealthy neighborhood and home to the Governor of Maharashtra. At the southern end is Nariman Point. Much of Marine Drive is situated on reclaimed land facing west-south-west. Marine Drive is the preferred connecting road between the central business district located at Nariman Point and the rest of the city.
Most of the buildings erected by wealthy Parsis were constructed in an art deco style, which was popular in the 1920s and 1930s. Among the earliest art deco buildings on Marine Drive were the Kapur Mahal, Zaver Mahal and Keval Mahal, built between 1937 and 1939. Real estate prices along the Esplanade are high.Many hotels dot the drive, most prominent among them being the 5-star Oberoi (formerly the Oberoi Hilton Tower however reverted to the original name as of early 2008), The Intercontinental, Hotel Marine Plaza, Sea Green Hotel and a few other smaller hotels.
Former singing superstar of the 1950s Suraiya lived in a building on the stretch known as 'Krishna Mahal' in the ground-floor apartment (as a tenant of Shah family) from 1940s until her death on 31 January 2004. The house was first taken on rent by her mother, Mumtaz Begum. Many other film stars, such as Nargis and Raj Kapoor, lived nearby in the 1940s and 50s. Many Sports Clubs are also situated along the stretch of Marine Drive, including members-only clubs like the Cricket Club of India, adjoining the Brabourne Stadium, and Garware Club House, adjacent to the famous Wankhede Stadium, as well as others like the Mumbai Police Gymkhana, P. J. Hindu Gymkhana and Islam Gymkhana. In 2012, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai announced that the entire road would be resurfaced, 72 years after it was originally laid.
Apollo Bunder (at the Gateway of India) is now officially called Wellington Pier. It was an important pier in the late 19th century and early 20th century, where hundreds of thousands of arriving Britons got their first good look of India. The only passengers using it now are those on the ferry to Elephanta Island. The original name for the pier (Bunder means port or more correctly, haven) was derived from the Palla fish that were sold at this spot in old times. This was corrupted to the Portuguese Pollem and finally to the English Apollo. This old name was popular among Indians and is still used today instead of Wellington Pier.
The pier was once a maze of wharves and docks where brisk trading took place. During the months of April and May the pier was particularly busy, with thousands of baskets of cotton being stacked ready for loading onto ships. There was frantic activity on the Cotton Green, at the Customs' House and at the hydraulic presses where the raw staple was baled for export. Since incoming passengers had to disembark together with their luggage at the Customs' House which was further north near the Mazgaon dock, passenger ships would make only a short stop at these piers in order to land the mail.
Beginning in 1900, the British administration started to reclaim the area in order build the Gateway of India, designed to welcome King George V. The entire area now serves as a magnet for tourists visiting the gateway and nearby Taj building, going to the Elephanta Caves or coming in remembrance of the 26/11 attacks. Rudyard Kipling wrote in his short story, Baa Baa Black Sheep, published in 1888: "Next day, they all went down to the sea, and there was a scene at the Apollo Bunder when Punch discovered that Meeta could not come too, and Judy learned that the ayah must be left behind. But Punch found a thousand fascinating things in the rope, block, and steam-pipe line on the big P. and O. Steamer, long before Meeta and the ayah had dried their tears."
Cuffe Parade (far southern Mumbai) is the historical and most significant business district in Western India. Located at the southern end of Mumbai, it is home to a collection of commercial and office high-rises. It is bordered to the north by Nariman Point, which along with Cuffe Parade, form the greater CBD region of Mumbai.
Cuffe Parade was named after T. W. Cuffe of the Bombay City Improvement Trust, which reclaimed around 75,000 square meters on the western shore of Colaba. Much of Cuffe Parade was developed on reclaimed land in the 1960s, with many of the buildings over thirty storeys high.
Prior to the mid 2000s, some of the tallest buildings in Asia were located in Cuffe Parade. Unlike Nariman Point to the North, Cuffe Parade's lack of proximity to major historical sites has allowed construction of towers above 150 metres of height. However, in recent years, residential towers in Parel, along with commercial towers in Mumbai Central have overtaken Cuffe Parade's skyline.
Prominent businessmen living here include Subhash Chandra of Essel Group, the Goenka family, the Patni family, Nimesh Kampani of JM Financial. The skyline consists of prominent buildings like Maker Tower and Jolly Maker-1, considered to be the richest housing society in Mumbai. MVRDC World Trade Centre I is located at Cuffe Parade in Mumbai, it is 156 metres high and has 35 floors. It is a commercial and shopping complex. It is suspected that some of the original attackers in the 2008 Mumbai attacks disembarked from a boat in the area, according to local eyewitnesses.
Dharavi is regarded as one of Asia's two or three largest slum. An estimated 700,000 people to 1 million are crammed into an area of about 2.1 square kilometers (0.82 square miles) of narrow alley, hovels, hut, squatter camps and deteriorating buildings. A hundred people might share a single toilet. Many don’t use a toilet all. V.S. Naipaul wrote: the "general impression" was "of blackness and greyness and mud...then black mud with men and women and children defecating on the edge of a black lake, swamp and sewage, with a hellish oily iridescence. the stench was barely supportable."
Tours of Dharavi Slum are available. According to tripsavvy.com: “It's possible to go on a tour of it. However, many people are reluctant to do so for moral reasons, as they feel it's voyeuristic poverty tourism. The actual reality is very different though. The tours are really insightful and dispel the negative preconceived stereotypes that people have. Dharavi is a bustling place full of small-scale industry, and you can even buy from the manufacturers there (leather items and fabrics are just two popular things to shop for).”
Hundreds of thousands live in Dharavi on platforms with five feet of headroom and no furniture because it would interfere with space for sleeping. Alex Kuczynski wrote in the New York Times: “Toward the end of my visit, exhausted, I decided to spend the afternoon in Dharavi. The car I was driven in could barely move as we passed miles and miles of people living in cardboard huts held together with metal tape, thatched in plastic, bamboo, mesh, scraps of corrugated metal. Their clothes lay on top of the roofs, the only place to store them. “I transferred to an auto-rickshaw in order to go deeper in. In most of Dharavi, open sewers run between the shanties; these are the playgrounds for children and where mothers wash their cooking utensils. (Typhoid and malaria are common.) There were beggars, leather makers, ironworkers. The place was both a hive of activity and the picture of lassitude. [Source: Alex Kuczynski, New York Times, September, 23, 2007]
“We stopped for coconut juice, and I took pictures of a boy with a wandering eye...I saw a tableau that remains impressed in my memory....a girl of maybe 4 years old, her lithe, nude body splashing around in a brown stream. She kicked up one leg and executed a perfect fouetté, turning and spinning on one leg, propelling her body into the dark hole that was her home, her body divided momentarily by sunlight and shadow....The name Dharavi translates into “loose mud” in Tamil. Weeks after my visit, an intense monsoon submerged the slum entirely. I wonder what happened to the girl. Was her tarpaulin home washed away?”
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: India tourism website ( incredibleindia.org), India’s Ministry of Tourism and other government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020