Bombay Transformation

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INTRO Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is India's economic and cultural capital. It is the most populous city in India. Located on the northern portion of India's western coastline, the Konkan coast, Mumbai is the major port, financial center and cultural produ cer among Indian cities. As such, it is responsible for the plurality of India's trade functions and tax revenue. Dreams of Mumbai's economic opportunity continue to draw countless migrants to the city: it is known for some of the largest informal housing settlements in Asia and some of the starkest income disparities in the world. It draws its population from every corner of India and, increasingly, the world. However, unlike most major Indian cities, Mumbai's urbanism - its exponential urban growth and population density - is a relatively recent phenomenon. The city of Bombay originally consisted of seven islands, namely Colaba, Mazagaon, Old Woman's Island, Wadala, Mahim, Parel, and Matunga-Sion. This group of islands, which have since been joined together by a series of reclamations, formed part of the kingdom of Ashoka, the famous Emperor of India.

PRE COLONIAL MUBAIIn the 13th century Raja Bhimdev set up his capital in Mahikawati-- present-day Mahim. A palace, court of justice and a temple were set up in Prabhadevi. Land was brought under cultivation, and fruit growing trees were planted on several islands. The Pathare Prabhus, Bhois, Agris, Vadvals and Brahmins came to Bombay at this time. In 1343 the island of Salsette was invaded by the Muslim kings of Gujarat. In the ensuing wars, Mahim fell to the Gujarati kings. Kings of that province of India ruled for the next two centuries. The Konkani people seem to have appeared around this time. The mosque in Mahim dates from this period.

mahim durga




PRE INDEPENDENCEThe rule of the Sultans of Gujarat over the archipelago of Bombay came to an end with the arrival of the Portuguese. In 1508 the first Portuguese ship, captained by Francis Almeida sailed into Bombay harbour. The Portuguese were already at war all along the coast of India. In 1534, with just 21 ships, they managed to defeat the kingdom of Gujarat, and extracted, among many concessions, rights to the islandsof Bombay. This led to the establishment of numerous churches which were constructed in areas where the majority of people were Roman Catholics. There used to be two areas in Bombay called "Portuguese Church". However, only one church with Portuguese-style facade still remains; it is the

St. Andrew's church at Bandra. The Portuguese also fortified their possession by building forts at Sion, Mahim, Bandra, and Bassien which, although in disrepair, can still be seen.

Vasai fort

Bandra fort

Sion fort

The northern parts of the Portuguese holdings in India, mainly on the coast of Gujarat, were defended out of their fort in Bassein, present day Vasai, on the mainland north of the islands, and stronghouses were built in Bandra, Mahim, and the harbour of Versova. through vazadors who rented the islands. Control over Bombay was exerted indirectly,




Versova fort

Mahim fort

They named their new possession as "Bom Baia" which in Portuguese means "Good Bay". A hundred and twenty-eight years later the islands were given to the English King Charles II in dowry on his marriage to Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza in 1662. In the year 1668 the islands were acquired by the English East India Company on lease from the crown for an annual sum of 10 pounds in gold; so little did the British value these islands at that time. The Company, which was operating from Surat, was in search for another deeper water port so that larger vessels could dock, and found the islands of Bombay suitable for development. The shifting of the East India Company's headquarters to Bombay in 1687 led to the eclipse of Surat as a principal trading center. The British corrupted the Portuguese name "Bom Baia" to "Bombay". The Kolis used to call the islands "Mumba" after Mumbadevi, the Hindu deity to whom a temple is dedicated at Babulnath near Chowpatty's sandy beaches. The first Parsi to arrive in Bombay was Dorabji Nanabhoy Patel in 1640. The Parsis, originally from Iran, migrated to India about 900 years ago. This they did to save their religion, Zoroastrianism, from invading Arabs who proselytized Islam. However, in 1689-90, when a severe plague had struck down most of the Europeans, the Siddi Chief of Janjira made several attempts to re-possess the islands by force, but the son of the former, a trader named Rustomji Dorabji Patel (1667-1763), successfully warded off the attacks on behalf of the British with the help of the 'Kolis', the original fisher-folk inhabitants of these islands. The remnants of the Koli settlements can still be seen at Backbay reclamation, Mahim, Bandra, Khar, Bassien and Madh island.




Dwelling at mazgaon

Sir George Oxenden became the first British Governor of the islands, and was succeeded later by Mr. Gerald Aungier who made Bombay more populous by attracting Gujerati traders, Parsi ship -builders, and Muslim and Hindu manufacturers from the mainland. He fortified defenses by constructing the Bombay Castle (the Fort, since then vanished except for a small portion of the wall) and provided stability by constituting courts of law.

By 26 December 1715, Boone assumed the Governorship of Bombay. He implemented Aungier's plans for the fortification of the island, and had walls built from Dongri in the north to Mendham's point in the south. He established the Marine force, and constructed the St. Thomas Cathedral in 1718, which was the first Anglican Church in Bombay. In 1728, a Mayor's court was established in Bombay and the first reclamation was started which was a temporary work inMahalaxmi, on the creek separating Bombay from Worli. The shipbuilding industry started in Bombay in 1735 and soon the Naval Dockyard was established in the same year. In 1737, Salsette was captured from the Portuguese by Maratha Baji Rao I and the province of Bassein was ceded in 1739. The Maratha victory forced the British to push settlements within the fort walls of the city.




Through the 18th ce tury British power and influence grew slowly but at the e pense of the local kingdoms. The migration of skilled workers and traders to the safe-haven of Bombay continued. The shipbuilding industry moved to Bombay from Surat with the coming of the Wadias. Artisans from Gujarat, such as goldsmiths, ironsmiths and weavers moved to the islands and coe isted with the slave trade from Madagascar. During this period the first land-use laws were set up in Bombay, segregating the British part of the islands from the black town. Under new building rules set up in 1748, many houses were demolished and the population was redistributed, partially on newly reclaimed land. With British control of Bombay confirmed, city planning began. In the mid 80 s roads began to be built at right angles to each other; restrictions were placed on the heights of buildings; segregation was enforced. In the Indian parts of the town, rule by panchayats was set up. Indians became more active in local politics.

With increasing prosperity and growing political power following the 1817 victory over the Marathas, the British embarked uponreclamations and large scale engineering works in Bombay. The sixty years between the completion of the vellard at Breach Candy 1784 and the construction of the Mahim Causeway (1845 are the heroic period in which the seven islands were merged into one landmass. These immense works, in turn, attracted construction workers, like the Kamathis from Andhra, who began to come to Bombay from 1757 on. A regular civil administration was put in place during this period. Apparently, this was thought to be necessary,

since, in a count made in 1794 it

s found th t th

1000 hous s insid th fo t




lls nd 6500


In 1803 Bombay was connected with Salsette by a causeway at Sion. The island of Colaba was joined to Bombay in 1838 by a causeway now called Colaba Causeway and the Causeway connecting Mahim and Bandra was completed in 1845

Colaba Causeway construction using timber (c. 1826)

Victoria terminus( 1870)

In 1853 a 35-km long railway line between Thana and Bombay (Victoria terminus) was inaugurated-- the first in India. Four years later, in 1854, the first cotton mill was founded in Bombay. With the cotton mills came large scale migrations of Marathi workers mostly from the Ghats. Most often, the mill workers were men whose families stayed back in their villages. To begin with, employers accommodated these workers in specially constructed chawls near the mills. Modelled after army barracks, each building had three floors. Every floor contained rooms, each given over to one person, and a common toilet. Sometimes, several such chawls wo uld border a common enclosed space. Such a group of chawls was called awadi. With the rapid increase in the number of mills, the rooms were often occupied by several people. Eventually, families of workers began to migrate to Bombay, and each room in a chawl would have to accommodate the whole family. Later, even this became impossible, and slums developed around the mills and the harbour.

Cotton Green Mills, Mumbai

Slums in Mumbai