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About Mumbai

By Chelna Mare

Crammed with about 20 million people, Mumbai is the most populated city in India. This is a massive city with a range of extremes, from glamorous Bollywood to the slums of Dharavi.  It is estimated that the seven islands forming Mumbai have been occupied since the Stone Age.  With such a long history of civilisation came many different rulers and so, Mumbai is a mish mash of many different cultures from all over India.

The city has a magnificent atmosphere, pulsing with life, sounds and smells from daybreak to daybreak, cows and monkeys everywhere, there is truly something for everyone!  To start with, you have to visit Chowpatty Beach.  Stroll through the myriad of stalls selling anything from head massages to kulfi (similar to ice cream, but denser and creamier), which you buy from the kulfiwallahs.

Mumbai has an excellent public transport system (although very congested!) and it is easy to get to where you need to be, just don’t expect to get there in a hurry.  For instance, you can hop on a ferry at the imposing Gateway to India and visit Elephanta Caves.  The Gateway of India was built in 1911 and become the landing place for British aristocracy and other important visitors.  Ironically, the last British ships left from this exact place in 1948, thereby ending British occupation for good.  The Elephanta Caves are a UNESCO World Heritage site with a very mysterious history.  No-one really knows how old they are, or how they came about.  The caves are hewn out of solid basalt rock with beautiful, larger than life statues of Hindu gods and massive panels chiselled into the stone, depicting important moments from their lives.  Locals believe that the caves couldn’t possibly be man-made!

Elephanta Caves

The most recognisable landmark in Mumbai is the Haji Ali Dargah.  Built in 1431 in memory of a rich merchant, this spectacular, Indo-Islamic place of devotion seems to float in the bay and is only accessible during low tide.  It is connected to the main land by a causeway which is nearly a kilometre long.

Haji Ali Dargah

While you're at it, check out the amazing Bandra–Worli Sea Link further north. The 5.6km long bridge links Bandra and the western suburbs of Mumbai with Worli and central Mumbai.

Bandra–Worli Sea Link

For a true, city within a city experience, go on a tour through Dharavi and visit Dhobi Ghat (washing place) to see laundry done in a way you’ve never seen before, row upon row of concrete baths, complete with flogging stones. The slums of Dharavi will give you a deeper insight into the many problems facing India.  Even though the economy is booming (the informal estimated turnover of Dharavi alone is between US$500 million and US$650 million!) too many people still struggle with basics such as sanitation and clean water.

Inside Dharavi

Bollywood (Hindi Cinema) is something you have to experience.  Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood isn’t located in one particular place; rather it describes the whole industry and the glamour that goes with it.  There are several cinema multiplexes with swish seats and state of the art equipment.  You can even arrange for a studio tour to see where the magic happens.

Bollywood dramatics

The “Incredible India” campaign is sure to lure many more tourists to see exactly why Mumbai and the rest of India have been fought over for thousands of years!

 

 

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