MUMBAI SIGHTS: TEMPLES, DABBAWALAS, MUSEUMS, BOLLYWOOD AND COLONIAL ARCHITECTURE

DABBAWALLAH, DHOBIS AND RIDES

Dabbawalas can be seen at railway stations around Mumbai, particularly at Churchgate terminus in south Mumbai between 11.30 a.m. and noon. The Dabbawallah system is a unique Bombay institution in which lunches made by wives and mothers in the suburbs are delivered to their husbands and sons in downtown Bombay through a color-coded, labor-intensive delivery system that is always on time. Dabbawallahs are the deliverymen who deliver the lunches. [Source: Los Angeles Times, July 13, 1998]

The Dabbawallah system exists because men prefer home-cooked meals, and these meals take so long to prepare women don't have time to fix them before their men leave for work. The system came into existence more than a century ago to fulfill the needs of British office workers who wanted meals delivered from their suburban homes. The system stayed in place as Indian office workers replaced their British counterparts.

The system delivers about 200,000 lunches a day with 5,000 deliverymen, who pick up and drop off the lunches, and 2,000 supervisors. Each deliveryman handles about 30 to 35 pick ups and deliverers. If they handle any more than that they would have trouble making all their deliveries on time. The supervisors pay a monthly fee rights to particular areas. Customers pay about $10 a month for the service. The deliverymen earn about $100 a month. A “Morning Life of Mumbai's Dabbawalas and Dhobis Tour” is available.

Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat (next to Mahalaxmi railway in central Mumbai) is a massive open air laundry that provides an unforgettable look at one of the more unique asoects of Indian urban life. Dirty laundry from all over Mumbai is brought here and painstakingly hand washed by the dhobis (washermen) in the seemingly endless rows of concrete troughs. The thousands of dhobis spend hours every day standing up to their knees in water filled with chemicals, manually scrubbing and beating the dirt out of each item of laundry. Mahalaxmi railway station is the 6th station on the Western Line from Churchgate. Walk out of the station and turn left on the bridge. The “Mumbai Local Train Ride with Dhobhi Ghat Tour” stops there.

Mumbai's Parks, Gardens and Amusement Parks are few in number, but they include Kamala Nehru Park, famous for its three-story Old Woman's Shoe, and the Hanging Gardens, with numerous hedges carved into the shapes of animals,.atop Malabar Hill. Esselworld at Gorai is India's largest amusement theme park. Among the rides there are the Shot-N-Drop drop ride; Enterprise fast sideways turning ferris wheel; Hoola-Hoop rollercoaster; Monster tilta-whirl; and Kid Happy Rides.

Gateway of India

Gateway of India (Apollo Bunder, Colabo Depot bus stop) remains the most enduring symbols of the city. Featured in the movie "Passage to India," this splendid arch was built by the edge of the sea to commemorate the visit of Britain's King George and Queen Mary in 1911.

A great historical monument, true to its name, the Gateway of India is often the starting point for tourists who visit Mumbai. An integral visual seen in most skyline photographs of Mumbai, this monument is visited by millions of people across the world. As the oft-repeated saying goes 'When in Mumbai, do what the films actors do' and in the same vein, many tourists can be seen clicking photos of each other while running in exaggerated styles through the mass of pigeons that are often pecking on seeds in the courtyard of this heritage structure.

This structure was built as a triumphal arch to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary to Mumbai and is today synonymous with the imagery associated with Mumbai. The archway is 26 meters high and joined with four turrets, with intricate lattice work carved on stones. The arch alone was built at the cost of INR 21 lakh. It is built in Indo-Saracenic style, though some influence of Gujarati style is also evident in its architecture. In the past, Gateway of India used to be the arrival point for visitors from the west. Ironically, when the British raj ended in 1947, this colonial symbol also became a sort of epitaph: the last of the British ships that set sail for England left from the Gateway. This majestic landmark of Mumbai faces the vast Arabian Sea and is a must-visit at night, all lit up in its pristine glory against the backdrop of the sea. For those who have a few hours to spare, there are private yachts that can be booked at the Gateway of India to sail away with the setting sun casting the perfect golden glow over the glittering Mumbai skyline.

Vasai Fort

Vasai Fort (northeast Mumbai, north of Vassai Creek, Chimaji Appa bus stop) is also known as Bassein Fort. Mumbai lies on the coastline of Maharashtra and to protect it, many forts were constructed in its long history. One of those is the Vasai Fort, significant militarily to oversee the surrounding areas of Mumbai, Thane and Saashti.

Located in the Vasai suburb of North Mumbai, the walls of the fort, though in ruins, still have enough in them to make you wonder at its architectural marvel. Due to its strategic location, the fort has witnessed many battles. It was under the control of the Portuguese army till the early 18th century. The Maratha kingdom, under the leadership of Bajirao Peshwa, waged a few battles to claim it for their own. After the initial unsuccessful attempt in 1737 to capture Vasai, the Maratha leader Chimajiappa, was handed over this task. A lot of research and reconnaissance went into planning the next attack and after a swift and well-planned guerilla campaign, the Maratha army finally captured the fort in 1739.

The remnants of chapels, watchtowers and staircases in the ruins of this fort under the cover of large palm trees tell many stories from that time period. Because of its history as a Portuguese settlement, there are a few graves with carvings in Latin and remains of an ancient church that can also be seen. The ramparts, arches and watchtowers are hauntingly beautiful and many visitors prefer to shoot their wedding photos here. The wild overgrown vegetation as well as coconut and palm tree cover adds to the beauty of the wilderness. There are a few trails that let you go up to the edge of the fort from where gorgeous views of the Ulhas river and the setting sun can be seen. The fort has also been used as a location for many Bollywood films like Josh, Khamoshi and Ram Gopal Verma Ki Aag.

British Colonial Buildings

The historic center of Mumbai is filled with Gothic, Victorian and Art Deco buildings. British Colonial Buildings include the Bombay High Court, the Old Secretariat, the University Buildings, Jehangir Hall, the Library Building, the Rajabhai Clock Tower, the Municipal Corporation and the Mint with its Greek Porticos.

Some of the best examples of elaborate, highly-detailed colonial architecture are 1) Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) railway station; 2) the Gothic-looking Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya Museum (formerly known as the Prince of Wales Museum); 3) the Kala Ghoda art precinct; 4) buildings around Horniman Circle in the Fort area, which has a nice, large gardens; and 5) the 18th and 19th century homes in Khotachiwadi village.

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.

Crawford Market (near Churchgate, officially Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai) is one of Mumbai's most fascinating places that can be enjoyed for its impressive colonial architecture and fresh food and spices. The sculpture of village life by the main entrance of the building was made by Rudyard Kipling's father. The three-story, fortresslike market features fruit and vegetable hawkers and bookkeepers in little rooms near the roof. the market is surrounded by a Muslim neighborhood. This market has all sorts of fruit, vegetables, meat and spices as well as kitchen appliances, saris, medicine and jewelry.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus)

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) is Mumbai's ornate and colorful train station. Completed in 1888 under the guidance of the British architect F.W. Stevens, it is the oldest station in India and regarded as the heart of the city. Touching the shores of the Arabian Sea, the building is spread across a 2.85 hectare area and took 10 years to build. The station was renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in 1996 after the famous Hindu hero who led the fight against the Mughal Empire.

Trains go and come for 20 hours a day at a rate of 1,250 trains a day or one train every minute. On busy days more than 3.3 million passengers pass through the station. Jan Morris called it "vast, fretted and ornate...it could make a persuasive claim to be the truly central building of the entire British empire. With its yellow Indo-Gothic facade, Venetian spires, rose windows and gargoyles it looks more like something you'd find in Italy or France than India.”

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. According to UNESCO: the train station “is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in India, blended with themes deriving from Indian traditional architecture. The building, designed by the British architect F. W. Stevens, became the symbol of Mumbai as the ‘Gothic City’ and the major international mercantile port of India. The terminal was built over 10 years, starting in 1878, according to a High Victorian Gothic design based on late medieval Italian models. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. It is an outstanding example of the meeting of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms thus forging a new style unique to Mumbai.[Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“This is one of the finest functional Railway Station buildings of the world and is used by more than three million commuters daily. This property is an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic Architectural Revival in India, blended with the themes derived from Indian Traditional Architecture. Its remarkable stone dome, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. It is an outstanding example of the fusion of two cultures, as British architects worked with Indian craftsmen to include Indian architectural tradition and idioms thus forging a new style unique to Mumbai. This was the first terminus station in the subcontinent. It became a commercial palace representing the economic wealth of the nation.”

History of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

The railway terminus was named Victoria Terminus in honour of the British Queen, Victoria, on Golden Jubilee Day (1887) to mark fifty years of her reign. It was subsequently renamed as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in 1996 to honour the founder of the Maratha empire and is currently known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (as of 2017). This was the very first terminus station in the subcontinent. British architects joined hands with Indian craftsmen to build this heritage building, an outstanding example of Victorian Gothic revival architecture blending with themes derived from traditional Indian architecture, thereby forging a style unique to then-Mumbai.

According to UNESCO: “The site on which this property is situated is associated with the origins of Mumbai as a city. Mumbai Island had formed a coastal outpost of the Hindu in western India, but was not used for commerce. It was first passed to the Portuguese and then, in 1661, to the British. In 1667, the island was transferred to the East India Company, who was principally responsible for its commercial development. Merchants settled here from elsewhere, and the shipbuilding industry and the cotton trade prospered. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“The town flourished, especially after the building of railway connections with the inland and the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. With the development of trade, the Governor of Mumbai planned a series of works aiming at the construction of a more representative city. This involved land reclamation and the construction of a magnificent ensemble of High Victorian public buildings along the seafront. The Victoria Terminus, the most impressive of these buildings, was named after Queen Victoria, Empress of India, on whose Golden Jubilee it was formally opened in 1887.

“The terminus, now called Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, was designed by the British architect Frederick William Stevens (1848-1900). Work began in 1878 and was completed 10 years later. Originally intended only to house the main station and the administrative offices of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, a number of ancillary buildings have been added subsequently, all designed to harmonize with the main structure. A new station to handle main-line traffic was erected in 1929. The original building is still in use for suburban traffic and is used by over 3 million commuters daily. It is also the administrative headquarters of the Central Railway.”

Components of Shivaji Terminus

Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is known for its magnificent stone dome, cantilevered staircase, ornamental turrets, elegant columns, pointed arches, high vaulted ceilings and a host of expansive decorative sculptures and carvings. The main gate of the building is flanked by two columns, with sculptures of a seated lion representing Britain atop one and a crouching tiger representing India on the other. The facade has snarling heads of gargoyles jutting out, leaping griffins, peacock with its feathers open like a fan and a cobra locked in a fight with a mongoose. Because of its elaborate, intricate and three-dimensional stone carved decor, the terminus took almost 10 years to build.

According to UNESCO: The terminus is one of the first and the best products of use of industrial revolution technology merged with the Gothic Revival style, which was based on late medieval Italian models. This style was acceptable to both European and Indian taste, as it is compatible in its use of color and ornamentation with the Mughal and Hindu architecture of the subcontinent. The skyline, turrets, pointed arches and eccentric ground plan are close to traditional Indian palace architecture. The centrally domed office structure has a deep platform connected to a train shed, and its outline provides the skeleton plan for building. The terminus dome of dovetailed ribs, built without centering (framing for an arch), was a novel achievement of the era. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“ The interior of the building was conceived as a series of large rooms with high ceilings. It is a utilitarian building and has had various changes required by the users, not always sympathetic. Its C-shaped plan is symmetrical on an east-west axis. All the sides of the building are given equal value in the design. It is crowned by a high central dome, which acts as the focal point. The dome is an octagonal ribbed structure with a colossal female figure symbolizing Progress, holding a torch pointing upwards in her right hand and a spoked wheel in her left. The side wings enclose the courtyard, which opens on to the street. The wings are anchored by monumental turrets at each of their four corners, which balance and frame the central dome. The facades present the appearance of well-proportioned rows of windows and arches.

“The ornamentation in the form of statuary, bas-reliefs and friezes is exuberant yet well controlled. The columns of the entrance gates are crowned by figures of a lion (representing Great Britain) and a tiger (representing India). The main structure is built from a judicious blend of India sandstone and limestone, while high-quality Italian marble was used for the key decorative elements. The main interiors are also lavishly decorated: the ground floor of the North Wing, known as the Star Chamber, which is still the booking office, is embellished with Italian marble and polished Indian blue stone. The stone arches are covered with carved foliage and grotesques.

“The authenticity of the structure expresses the rich Italian gothic style through the eye catching 3D-stone carvings of local species of animals, flora and fauna, symbols, arched tympana, portrait roundels of human faces, and stone mesh works on the decorated rose windows. The elaborate detailing of the heritage building is original. It has carvings made in local yellow malad stones blended with Italian marble and polished granite in a few places. The architectural detailing is achieved through white limestone. The doors and windows are made of Burma teak wood with some steel windows mounted in the drum of the octagonal ribbed masonry dome with the coats of arms and corresponding paintings in stained glass panels.

“There are large numbers of other embellishments in statuary, which the architect has introduced in decorating the grand frontage. These further include gargoyles, allegorical grotesques carrying standards and battle-axes, and figures of relief busts representing the different castes and communities of India. In prominent places on the façade the bas-reliefs of the ten directors of the old Great Indian Peninsula Railway Company (GIPR) are shown. The entrance gates to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (formerly Victoria Terminus) carry two columns, which are crowned, one with a lion (representing the United Kingdom) and the other with a tiger (representing India) and there are tympana portraying peacocks.”

Preservation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus

According to UNESCO: “The entire building retains entire structural integrity. Its façade, outer view and usage are original. The premise of the building is a strictly protected area maintained by Indian Railways. The property is protected by a 90.21 hectare buffer zone. The Terminus is one of the major railway stations in the Metropolis of Mumbai and more than 3 million rail commuters use it everyday. In addition to the initial 4 railway tracks, the terminus now facilitates 7 suburban and 11 separate out-station tracks. This has led to the restructuring of several areas in the surroundings, and the addition of new buildings. Indian Railways are working to decongest this terminus and to deviate some of the traffic to other stations. [Source: UNESCO World Heritage Site website]

“The property is located in the southern part of the city, and it is subject to huge development pressures and potential redevelopment. However, considering the business interests in such a central place, there is a continuous challenge regarding development control. Another risk comes from intensive traffic flow and the highly polluted air in the region around the railway station. Industrial pollution in the area has been reduced due to reduction in industrial and harbour activities. Another problem is the saline air from the sea.

“The Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) is working on the Mumbai Urban Transportation Plan, aiming at up-grading the transport network. On the local level, there will be changes in the management system, which will have consequences for the area of the eastern water front of the city. The Terminus, which is situated in this area is in a strategic position, and will therefore also be affected by these developments.”

Temples, Mosques and Churches in Mumbai

Religious buildings in Mumbai including include two synagogues, St. Thomas Cathedral and Afghan Church and the Jama Masijid and Mahim Shrine mosques. Minar Mosque is located the heart of Mumbai's most populous Muslim quarter.

Mahalaxmi Temple (on the Arabian Sea, Mahalaxmi bus stop) is an ancient shrine dedicated to Goddess Laxmi, Goddess Mahakali and Goddess Mahasaraswati, whose idols are adorned with resplendent jewellery, including nose rings, pearl necklaces and gold bangles. This beautiful temple overlooking the Arabian Sea at one end of Breach Candy, now known as Bhulabhai Desai Road, is in a trendy residential and shopping area. One of the oldest temples in the city, the Mahalaxmi Temple is renowned for its exquisite architecture and intricate designs. The main doorway leading to the temple complex is luxuriously ornamented attracting not only pilgrims but also avid photographers. The temple was built between the 16th and 17th centuries. Several stalls stationed outside the temple sell items used in the worship of the goddesses. Address: Bhulabhai Desai Marg, Mahalaxmi West, Cumballa Hill, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400026, India

Ganeshpuri Temple (northern Mumbai, Ganeshpuri bus depot) has a Shiva temple, a few natural hotwater springs and several other temples. Located in an area that was once a dense forests inhabited by a few tribal communities, Ganeshpuri was transformed into a spiritual centre by spiritual leader, Nityanand Swami. Of the many hot springs, a few are open to the public with bathhouses built around them. In its twin town, Vajreshwari, the Vajreshwari Temple is quite significant. It is dedicated to Goddess Vajreshwari, who is an incarnation of Goddess Parvati. The temple was built by the Peshwas after winning back the Vasai Fort from the Portuguese. It is situated at the foothills of the Mandakini Hills, which were formed out of a volcanic eruption. This also explains the numerous mineral-rich springs in the area. A flight of fifty odd steps leads to the temple perched on the top of a small hillock.

Basilica Of Our Lady Of The Mount Church (in Bandra on the Arabian Sea) is 100-year-old Roman Catholic basilica located on a hillock overlooking the Arabian Sea. It attracts devotees from all faiths who come to pray and seek blessings from Mother Mary. The church has been built in the Neo-Gothic style of architecture. There are seven steps in white marble that lead the eye of the visitor to the statue of Mother Mary holding her son Jesus Christ in her right hand. The wooden statue is crowned with a white and gold veil that flows down to the topmost marble step. The murals depict scenes from the life of Mary. Although the current church edifice is relatively modern, the history behind the statue of Our Lady goes back to the 16th century when Jesuit priests from Portugal brought the statue to the current location and constructed a chapel. A week-long festival takes place here in September to celebrate Mother Mary’s birthday. Known as the Bandra Fair, thousands of devotees come here during that time to partake in the festive activities that take place in and around the beautifully decorated church. Many stalls selling religious artefacts, curios, candles and baked goodness are also set up.

Siddhivinayak Temple

Siddhivinayak Temple (near Dadar Beach. Siddhivinayak Mandir bus stop) is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Officially known as the Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Temple at Prabhadevi, it is a much revered place of worship in Mumbai as elephant-headed Ganesh holds a special in the hearts of Mumbai residents. Built in the year 1801, this temple is visited by people belonging to almost all sects of the society. The temple has a small mandapam (hall), where the main idol is enshrined. Boasting an exquisite architecture, the sanctum sanctorum has been fitted with wooden doors that have been meticulously carved with the images of the Ashtavinayaka or the eight manifestations of Lord Ganesha.

In what is considered an unusual imagery, the temple’s idol was carved out of a single black stone with the trunk positioned towards the right, as opposed to the more commonly seen left-side curl. The idol has four hands known as Chaturbhuj. The upper right holds a lotus while the upper left hand holds a small axe. A bowl full of modaks (an Indian sweet), along with holy beads can also be seen. The upper floors of the temple host the residential quarters of its priests. Though the temple remains crowded throughout the week, it receives the maximum number of devotees on Tuesdays. On each side of the Ganesha idol are placed one idol each of Goddesses Riddhi and Siddhi, who symbolise sanctity, success, wealth and prosperity.

The name 'Siddhivinayak' literally translates to Ganesha who grants your wish. In the periphery, there is a Hanuman temple as well. One of the narrow lanes that lead up to the temple is called the phool gali and has a large number of vendors selling flower garlands, tulsi (basil) leaves, coconuts and sweets, which can be offered to the god.

Haji Ali Mosque

Haji Ali Mosque (Central Mumbai, just off the coast of Worli, not far from Mahalaxmi railway station) is a glistening, imposing white structure situated on a picturesque cove lined with palm trees and amputees with begging bowls. Both a mosque and tomb, it was built in 1431 by Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, a wealthy Muslim merchant who devoted his life to spirituality and became a Sufi saint after going to Mecca on the Hajj.

Situated in the middle of the Arabian Sea on an island, Haji Ali is only accessible during low tide via a narrow, 500-meter-long walkway. According to legend, the saint was travelling to the holy city of Mecca, in present day Saudi Arabia, on a pilgrimage, when he passed away. His casket floated across the Arabian Sea and landed up along the coast of Mumbai, where a mosque was built around it.

The structure has white domes and minarets reminiscent of Mughal architecture and is a renowned pilgrimage and tourist site popular with both Muslims and non-Muslims. Adjacent to the mosque is an 85-foot-tall marble minaret. Both the mosque and the minaret are made out of pure white solid marble with carvings and engravings, adorned with beautiful mirror work. An oft-repeated belief here is that whoever prays to saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari won't ever be disappointed. The monument is an oasis of peace and serenity, floating in the gentle blue waters of the sea, away from the chaos of the mainland.

Live qawwali and sufi music performances take place on the premise on most afternoons. Thursdays and Fridays are special days at the dargah and there is a greater surge of devotees on these days. Those visiting here often offer prayers and ask for the fulfilment of their wishes and seek blessings from the saint in whose honour this site was constructed. On special religious occasions like Urs (death anniversary of the saint) and Eid (Islamic religious festival), this heritage monument is beautifully decorated and Islamic rituals are observed.

Yoga In Mumbai

Yoga Institute (Santacruz East, Panbai International School Santacruz Bus stop) is a non-profit organisation run by the government and one of the oldest organised yoga centres in the world. It was founded in 1918 by Shri Yogendraji, who wanted to bring the ancient practice of Yoga to households to help people cope with physical ailments and live balanced lives, and that is believed to be the aim with which he set up the institute. He is often referred to as the Father of the Modern Yoga Renaissance. The institute holds an eminent position in training thousands of people everyday by informing them about the health benefits of yoga. It also offers training courses on teaching yoga. There have been many books published by the institute to help further its aim, relating to yoga therapy, couples' counselling, asanas, pranayam, ethics, traditional scriptures etc.

Global Vipasana Pagoda (near near Esselworld Amusement Park and Manori Creek, Gorai, Borivali West, Mumbai) is a Buddhist meditation centre, an architectural wonder that rises majestically against the Arabian Sea, seeks to promote peace and harmony. Built with the purpose of bringing each visitor closer to the philosophies and teachings of Lord Buddha, this monument houses genuine bone relics of Buddha. The monument is a three-storeyed huge hollow stone structure painted in a shining Thai golden paint. It is said to be the world’s largest pillar-less dome, especially designed for meditation. The relics are enshrined in the centre of the middle dome and a revolving stage is created in the centre of the main dome at ground level so that meditation can be done around it while listening to the sermons. It has the capacity of accommodating over 8,000 meditating people at a time. The complex also has an audio-visual centre and a gallery of wall mounts and photographs adjacent to a book and souvenir shop.

On yoga in Mumbai, Alisha Patel of CNN wrote in 2011: “Yoga has slotted itself neatly Mumbai's daily life. Private instructors have been coming into homes for sessions for Rs 500-800. Lower Parel Iyengar classes have three-month waiting lists. Fitness centers are incorporating Ashtanga in their membership packages and schools are making space for it in their curriculums. One Mumbai yoga Bandra class even alternates Hatha yoga with a South Indian martial art called Kalaripayattu. Bollywood actress Kareena Kapoor achieves her so-called zero-digit figure with a rigorous yoga routine, while copies of Shilpa Shetty's yoga DVD sell like ... a Shilpa Shetty yoga video. But if you're new to Mumbai yoga, where do you begin? A yoga studio is a good introductory step. They're cheaper than private sessions and a few have some hard-to-ignore fringe benefits. [Source: Alisha Patel, CNN December 5, 2011]

The Yoga House's small yoga room accommodates six people and hosts daily morning and evening yoga classes from the Iyengar, Ashtanga and Haatha schools. Ajit Tapaswi and Maud Chuffart's The Yoga House is set in an an antique bungalow in Bandra West's cozy Chimbai Village, around the corner from St. Andrew's Church. In this seaside enclave the couple has created a destination for the health-conscious -- a studio, boutique and health food café offering more than 35 yoga classes every week. The staff includes 10 instructors. Students are a mix of Mumbai hipsters. "We developed the concept of The Yoga House to share our passion and commitment to natural and healthy living," the couple says. "Our aim is to create a stylish and elegant destination space in Mumbai, for those who share this ideal." 53 Chimbai Road, Bandra (W); +91 (0)22 6554 5001

“The Quantum Yoga series conducted by Lara Baumann at YogaSutra is popular here. While there are numerous reasons to join the YogaSutra studio, the primary one is that Shaleen Parekh has made good yoga an anytime, any day offering. Deviating from the usual scheduled format, YogaSutra allows guests to purchase either a single class or multiple classes (for example, a 16-pack) which they can attend at their convenience. Small groups of 10-12 focus on everything from Hatha yoga to Ashtanga in a lovely little Breach Candy studio with hardwood floors. The studio also has “Yoga Kids” for under-fours and an in-house physiotherapist who combines principles of alignment, anatomy and yoga therapy. Look out for the Quantum Yoga series conducted by Lara Baumann in January. These are a Vinyasa-based series that use Ayurvedic concepts and asana practices to identify and balance your body type. C-4, Chinoy Mansion, B. Desai Road; +91 (0) 22 3210 7067; www.yogasutra.co.in

Museums in Mumbai

Jehangir Art Gallery and Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sanghralaya Museum (the Prince of Wales Museum) ar the main museums in Mumbai. Art and archeology exhibits are found here. The Jehangir Art Gallery always has some interesting exhibitions. The Museum Society sponsors slide lectures by international and Indian scholars.

Jehangir Art Gallery (161B, Mahatma Gandhi Road in Kala Ghoda in south Mumbai) is a prime exhibition space that houses many art masterpieces. Established in 1952, this modern art gallery is an important centre for contemporary artists, taking pride in discovering new talent in India. It is located in the Kala Ghoda neighbourhood, which is the throbbing nerve centre of the art scene in the city. Over the years, the Jehangir Art Gallery has been closely associated with the development of contemporary Indian art. A prestigious venue for aspiring Indian artists in the city, the gallery conducts regular lectures, workshops and discussions on the various forms of art. All this makes it an excellent platform for aspiring artists, art critics as well as art patrons to come together and engage with each other. Over the years, the Jehangir Art Gallery has exhibited works of eminent artists like MF Hussain, SH Raza, Akbar Padamsee, Ram Kumar, Anjolie Ela Menon and KK Hebbar. The displays in this art gallery change regularly and almost 300 art shows are held here annually.

Mani Bhavan (near Chowpatty Beach, Grant Road train station) is a historic building, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi and a museum that chronicles the story of India’s independence from British rule. It contains a research centre, library, a picture gallery and memorabilia related to the freedom movement. Between 1917 and 1934, it was the focal point of Gandhi’s political activities. In 1921, he conducted a historic four-day fast to restore peace in Mumbai. Mani Bhavan is also where Gandhiji started his association with the charkha or the spinning wheel, and noted agitations like the Civil Disobedience, Satyagraha, Swadeshi, Khadi and Khilafat movements took place.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sanghralaya Museum

Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sanghralaya Museum (near Colaba Causeway) is located in a building with a huge blue dome. It has a collection of art and sculpture that looks has been untouched since the British left in 1947. Worth checking out are the Tibetan and Nepali art works, the glass and jade collection, the artifacts from 5000-year-old Mohenjodaro and the awful portrait of Abraham Lincoln. The museum used to be known as the Prince of Wales Museum.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya is one of the most prominent art and history museums in India. Back in the 1900s, artists and general public started discussing the need to build a good cultural institution in Bombay (then Mumbai). The demands kept growing till finally a museum was established with public contribution aided by the then Government of the Mumbai Presidency. An open competition was held in 1909 to choose the architect who would eventually design and build the museum. British architect George Wittet, responsible for designing many Mumbai landmarks, including the Gateway of India and Ballard Estate, won this competition. He was responsible for popularising the Indo-Saracenic style of architecture, which was a combination of Mughal and British architectural design sensibilities. This building is situated on the southern tip of Mumbai on the Crescent Site.

The layout of this heritage structure also includes a well laid out garden that retains its original plan. The slender pillars inside the hall, the arched pavilion and the dome rising above the huge intersecting arches all come together to form a beautiful geometrical pattern. Small jaalis for light and ventilation add to the grandeur of the building. George Wittet skilfully incorporated the original wooden arched pavilion purchased from a royal house in Nashik, as a circular railing on the first floor of the building. The dome of this building is modelled on the the Gol Gumbaz of Bijapur and the finial is inspired by the Taj Mahal at Agra.

The museum has a collection of over 50,000 artefacts comprising various forms of art from the Indian subcontinent and also from China, Japan and European countries. Additionally, it houses a study collection of natural history specimens. Amongst its more popular exhibits is a huge collection of Indian miniatures and other important antiquities, more particularly, the Maratha textiles and arms and armour from the collection of Seth Purshottam Mavji, a noted art collector. This collection was once a part of the treasures of Nana Phadnavis, the most influential minister during the reign of the Peshwas. A special highlight of the museum is its art and conservation centre, which specialises in heritage conservation and research.

National Gallery Of Modern Art

National Gallery of Modern Art (near Jehangir Art Gallery, Mahatma Gandhi Road in Kala Ghoda in south Mumbai) is housed in a building that used to be a popular public and was the site of many historice events. It was donated to Mumbai (then Bombay) by Sir Cowasji Jehangir, a leading Parsi philanthropist and industrialist. Named as Sir CJ Hall in honour of its founding patron, this building acted as an impressive auditorium back in its heyday, with horseshoe balconies overlooking the main stage. Right from concerts by musical stalwarts like Yehudi Menuhin and Paul Robeson to freedom rallies organised by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohammed Ali Jinnah to meetings for the Parsi Panchayat, this building has been witness to many significant moments in Indian history.

The building was designed by Scottish architect George Wittet (1878-1926). At that time the only other public hall in Mumbai (then Mumbai) was the Town Hall and this new public hall soon became the hub of culture, frequented by the elite of the city. Over the years, the auditorium fell into disuse, especially after newer venues with air conditioning, better acoustics, lighting and other amenities cropped up in the vicinity. Soon the hall was only being booked for boxing matches, wedding receptions and leather goods sales. The artist community protested heavily against the deterioration of this building from a venue of high culture to one with a more bazaar-like vibe.

After a concentrated effort from the art community, a 12 year renovation was undertaken that transformed the building into what we today call the National Gallery of Modern Art. It quickly went on to become an important centre in the contemporary art movement in India. Architect Romy Khosla was tasked with the restoration. Today, NGMA has five exhibition galleries, a lecture auditorium, a library, cafeteria, office and a vast storage space. This exhibition space regularly features many painting and sculpture displays along with works from artists from the international arena, both established and upcoming.

Bollywood

Bollywood is the colloquial name for Hindi cinema, formerly as Bombay cinema: the Indian Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). The term is a combination of of "Bombay" and "Hollywood". It is the largest sector of the Indian film industry, recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s biggest film industry based on number of films. Bollywood studios make an average of 150 to 250 films a year, about one fifth of India's 1,000 or so films. As many as 500,000 people are employed in the Mumbai film industry, whose films now generate around US$1 billion worldwide. [Sources: Skuketa Mehta, National Geographic, February 2005; Lewis M. Simon, Smithsonian magazine]

Bollywood describes a genre of films as well as a place as is often used in the West to describe any film made in India. Bollywood has become a world-recognized name as well known as the Taj Mahal and pajamas. The Golden Age of Bollywood was in the 1960s and 70s. The industry went through a rough period in the 1980s and was reborn in the 1990s. Bollywood inaugurated its own awards in the late 1990s, held at the Nassau Collesium in Long Island, New York. Among the categories are Best Villian and Most Sensational Female.

Most Bollywood films features actors thrusting their pelvises in suggestive dance scenes, actresses running around in wet saris, sneering villains, heavily orchestrated songs, lots of action, and happy endings. Sometimes monsters wander around in miniature sets like Japanese Godzilla films. Most films are shot in Hindi. They are popular throughout South Asia, and in Southeast Asia and the Middle East and have a camp following in the West

Alex Kuczynski wrote in the New York Times: “Every year, many new faces arrive in this city eager to make a name for themselves in the glitzy movie world. Mumbai is an oasis of truly vibrant working class cosmopolitanism including - entrepreneurs, traders, artists, industrialists, software engineers and labourers. Bollywood produces movies in which co-stars playfully peck each other on the cheek rather than kiss on the mouth, and when an actress gets married in real life, she is often banished from the screen. [Source: Alex Kuczynski, New York Times, September, 23, 2007]

Bollywood Tours

Mumbai you can immerse in the Bollywood film experience by visiting the film studios where Bollywood films are made or by checking the apartment buildings and mansions were movie icons and big film stars live and the locations where most shoots take place, Mumbai’s cab and auto-rickshaw drivers are full of stories and anecdotes. For those who want a more hands-on cinema experience but are unsure about how to get inside a film studio, a Bollywood Tour is the best option. It provides the perfect opportunity to see what happens behind the scenes on sets of big and small productions. Lucky visitors might just see some of the country’s biggest actors in action as well as get an insight into all the creative pain and effort that goes into the making of entertainment. The tours are generally at the films studios and movie sets in the suburbs at places like Film City (See Below).

On his Bollywood tour, Susumu Arai wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “My visit to the area was arranged by Vikram Productions Pvt. Ltd., a film production company and Bollywood tour organizer. Participants in the six-to-seven-hour tour visit, among other places, locations for 2009's "Slumdog Millionaire," which took home the Academy Award for Best Picture and seven other Oscars. [Source: Susumu Arai, Yomiuri Shimbun, April 2010]

“The tour also visits a recording studio and the residences of popular movie stars. Shah Rukh Khan, 44, one of Bollywood's most popular actors, lives in a luxurious residential area near the coast. His house, designated a historical building, is not visible from outside as it is enclosed within a nearly four-meter-high fence. Behind the area is a modern low-rise office and studio building. According to a security guard, the actor was not home that day. Apparently, when he is in Mumbai, dozens of his fans wait at the entrance of his abode in the hope of getting a glimpse of him.

“Participants in Bollywood tours are mainly from the West and include many non-Indians. When the production company began hosting tours 2-1/2 years ago, it attracted only about 10 people a month. The number has since increased to about 40. Following on that success, another company began providing a similar tour.”

Many Bollywood stars and industry people live in the Bandra area of Mumbai. 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.

Film City Bollywood Tours

Film City (in Goregaon, in the western suburbs of Mumbai) is a massive complex outside of Mumbai where many big budget Bollywood films are made. It has fake villages, mansions, police stations and school houses and empty studios where directors can cook up their wildest dreams. The Dadasaheb Phalke Chitranagri, in Goregaon’s Film City, offers many studio and film city tours organised by the Government of Maharashtra. Here cinema aficionados can watch television shoots, film shoots or even become an extra (background actor in a scene) for a day and understand the nuances of filmmaking.

On a tour of Film City, Susumu Arai wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “ The studio complex stands on a two-square-kilometer lot located in a national park and is covered in hills and foliage. Driving over a hill on the lot, I came in view of filming locations and sets: a castle, a luxurious mansion, a Hindi temple...Further down the hill, I could see a row of studios that resembled huge warehouses as massive heavy machinery was building more studios nearby. [Source: Susumu Arai, Yomiuri Shimbun, April 2010]

“Film City Mumbai was set up in 1977 by the government of Maharashtra State, where the studio complex is located. It has been used for its location sites and state-of-the-art studios, all for reasonable prices, further serving to increase Mumbai's renown as a center of the film industry. Film studios, offices and residences belonging to popular actors can be found south of the facility. At the foot of a bridge, I saw a crew of about 50 shooting a scene in which the lead character narrowly escapes being pummeled by his enemy. "My film is a traditional one, filled with singing, dancing and action," said director Amit Chauhan, 30. "Movie theaters are packed, so we've got to get the movie out as soon as possible."”

Beaches in Mumbai

Located on the coastline of Maharashtra, overlooking the vast expanse of the Arabian Sea, Mumbai has many beaches — some nice, some dirty. Juhu, Marine Drive and Chowpatty beaches are the more popular ones. Juhu is around 30 kilometers north of the city center, while Marine Drive and Chowpatty are in south Mumbai, a short distance from the Gateway of India. Many locals come here to enjoy vendor snacks and coconut water while watching the sun set. Favorites include roasted corn on the cob, bhel puri, pani puri and pav bhaji. Across from Apollo Bunder is the relatively uncrowded beach of Alibaug. Further from the city are Gorai, Marve, Manori and Madh beaches. Aksa Beach is about an hour’s drive from Mumbai. Known for its clean sand and sea shells, it is a quieter than Juhu or Chowpatty.

Chowpatty Beach (northern end of Back Bay and Marine Drive) is Mumbai's main beaches and one of its primary gathering place. Mumbai has few parks and open areas and crowds swarm to the beach theoretically to find some space. On a weekday morning it is usually quiet, but on weekend evening its is packed with families out for an evening stroll. Amusements on the beach include pony rides, hand-cranked merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheels, prancing monkeys, dancing camels and ear cleaners.

The Chowpatty Beach is more crowded because it is more accessible and has a row of shops selling delectable street snacks like chaat (savoury snack), bhelpuri (a snack made of puffed rice, tangy tamarind sauce and vegetables), pav bhaji (soft bread roll served with a thick vegetable curry), kulfis (frozen dessert) and ice creams.

Juhu

Juhu (30 kilometers north of the Mumbai city center, in the suburbs) is the home of a popular beach area and residential area for Bollywood personalities and Mumbai elite. It has a fairground and a local entertainment area. Located in the western suburbs of Mumbai, Juhu metamorphosed from a narrow strip of sand off the coast of Salcette Island in the 19th century to one of the most elite suburbs of the city. Visitors to Juhu come not only for the beach, but also to see the imposing bungalows of the many film stars who live here.

Among the Bollywood celebrities that live in Juju Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Anu Malik, Mahesh Bhatt, Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Dharmendra, Bobby Deol, Sunny Deol, Rakesh Roshan, Hritik Roshan, Anupam Kher, Ameesha Patel, Akshay Kumar, Dimple Kapadia, Fardeen Khan, Govinda, Hema Malini, Mithun Chakraborty, Paresh Rawal, Raveena Tandon, Shakti Kapoor, Varun Dhawan, Vidya Balan, Vivek Oberoi, Aditya Chopra, Rani Mukherjee and Zayed Khan. Juhu is referred to as the "Beverly Hills of Bollywood".

Homes of celebrities in Juhu: Amitabh Bachchan lives at Jalsa in Juhu Ville Parle Development Scheme (JVPD). Amitabh Bachchan also has a bungalow nearby, at 10th Rd, JVPD Scheme, called Pratiksha; 2) Actor and director Amol Palekar lives at Chire Bandee, 10th NS Road, JVPD Scheme, Mumbai – 400049; 3) Director and producer Yash Chopra lives lives with his wife, Pamela Chopra, a Bollywood playback singer, at 11th Road, JVPD Scheme, Juhu, Mumbai 400049; 4) Actor and comedian Paresh Rawal lives at 11 Sea Breeze Apartments, 12th Road, JVPD Scheme Mumbai 400049; 5) Actor and skilled dancer Hrithik Roshan lives at ‘Paras‘ 11th Juhu Road, Mumbai – 400049;

6) Javed Akhtar, a political activist, poet, lyricist and screenwriter, lives at 702 Sagar Samrat, Green Field Road, Near AB Nair Road, Near Juhu Post Office, Juhu – Mumbai 400049; 7) influential actor, director and producer Ajay Devgan lives at 5/6, Sheetal Apartments, Opp Chandan Cinema Road, Juhu, Mumbai – 400049; 8) the famous actor Anil Kapoor lives at 31, Shrinagar Residency Society, North-South Road No) 7, Juhu, Mumbai 400049; 9) the beautiful actress Raveena Tandon lives at Nippon Society, Tandon House, Juhu Church, Mumbai 400049; and 10) Dimple Kapadia, a famous actress from the 1960s and 70s, lives at Samudra Mahal, Birla Lane, Juhu, Mumbai 400049

Juhu is surrounded by the Arabian Sea to the west, Versova to the north, Santacruz and Vile Parle to the east, and Khar to the south. It is fairly close to Mumbai’s international airport. The nearest railway stations are Santacruz, Andheri and Vile Parle on the Western Line and Harbour Line of the Mumbai Suburban Railway. The nearest metro station is Versova. There are two minor B.E.S.T bus depots in Juhu.

Juhu Beach stretches for six kilometres up to Versova. The beach is kind of rocky but attracts beach goers and tourists throughout the year anyway and is also a popular place for shooting films. The beach generally gets more crowded on weekends and public holidays. The food court at its main entrance is famous for its 'Mumbai style' street food, notably bhelpuri, pani puri and sevpuri. Horse-pulled carriages offer joyrides to tourists for a small fee while acrobats, dancing monkeys, cricket matches, toy sellers vie for tourist's attention. The beach is among the most popular sites in the city for the annual Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations where thousands of devotees arrive in grand processions, carrying idols of the Lord Ganesh of various sizes, to be immersed in the water at the beach. Juhu Beach is also a popular spot for planespotting as a portion of it lies underneath the departure path from Runway 27 and occasionally, the arrival path from Runway 09 of Mumbai Airport.

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

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