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 producer 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. 

Pre-colonial Mumbai (3rd Century BCE - 17th Century CE)

Archaeologists have found evidence of habitation dating back to the Neolithic Period, but the islands' prehistoric significance to ancient Indian civilizations is limited. By the third century BCE, the islands were within the expansive realm of the Maurya Empire, ruled by the Buddhist emperor Asoka. The Maurya Empire's decline began soon after Asoka's death, and the Mumbai area appears infrequently in the recorded history of the region. Nonetheless, Ptolemy was aware of the area and referred to it as Heptanesia (seven islands) in his Geography, a second century CE treatise on the known world. 

In the first centuries of the Common Era, the Mumbai area shifted between local powers. Almost no built legacy remains from the medieval period, with one important exception. Between the fifth and tenth centuries CE, local priests and craftsmen transformed a small island of Gharapuri, situated between the Mumbai islands and the mainland, into a lasting monument to Hinduism and a cornerstone of the Indian sculptural tradition. This ornate temple to Shiva, with the god's many forms and faces carved in relief into the rock faces of a complex network of walkable caves, attests to the prominence of the Shaivite tradition - a non-dual dogma that asserts the theistic primacy of the god Shiva within the Hindu pantheon - within the religious practice of the northern Konkan coast. Scholars do not agree on the date of the island-temple; some ascribe it to the next major empire to rule Mumbai after the Mauryas, the Hindu Silhara dynasty, who controlled most of the Konkan coast between the ninth and twelfth centuries. When the Portuguese landed in Mumbai in 1538, they called the island-temple Elephanta, by which name it is still known; it was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987 and is one of western India's most frequented tourist sites. 

The Silhara holdings in the Konkan, including the islands of Mumbai, fell to the Muzaffarids, Muslim regents of Gujarat who ruled on behalf of the Delhi Sultanate, in 1343. But little recommended the archipelago for any substantial investment. The Portuguese also failed to realize Mumbai's promise, although one etymological theory ascribes the name Bombay to the Portuguese Bom Bahia, or good bay. After being held by the Portuguese from 1538 until 1661, the seven islands of Bombay were transferred to England as part of the dowry for Catherine de Braganza, who wed King Charles II in 1662. At this time, the islands' population numbered about twenty thousand.

Colonial Bombay 1661 - 1947

When Mumbai came under British control in the late seventeenth century, The East India Company (EIC) conducted most of its trading functions from its pre-existing base at Surat. At first, the Company considered the marshy archipelago of small and dispersed fishing villages to have limited economic potential. It soon realized, however, that certain natural assets made it strategic: its harbor was naturally defensible and exceptionally deep. The port that the EIC established in Mumbai has been responsible for the city's explosive growth. When the first Industrial Revolution began in England, Mumbai was the closest seaport to the cotton growing areas of what is now Gujarat. After the First War of Indian Independence in 1857, the British reorganized their land holdings in India into a governmental imperial order, as opposed to the earlier corporate imperial order of the East India Company. In this consolidation of legal authority, Mumbai became the capital of the Bombay Presidency, a political unit at the provincial scale whose boundaries stretched to include, at its height, much of the modern states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Sindh (now in Pakistan) and Aden (now in Yemen). 

The city's wealth generation capacity - which began to attract streams of migrants from rural India and around the rim of the Western Indian Ocean - proved as important to the Crown as it had been to the Company: when American cotton production fell to a standstill during the American Civil War (1861 - 1865), Mumbai became the world's leading cotton exporter and trading market. The cotton boom mobilized a new set of political actors within the new colonialism to respond to the urban and economic growth with a rush on civic building and infrastructure projects. Increasing the city's land mass and traversing between the islands became the major urban planning priority.

Inexpensive American cotton returned to the world market in 1865, and Mumbai fell into a depression that bankrupted many developers and civic institutions. But when the Suez Canal was completed in 1869, Mumbai's seaport became one of the largest on the Indian Ocean, and the urban development of the boom years - including halted land reclamation and institutional real estate development projects - resumed, albeit at a less frenetic pace. The most famous example of colonial building in Mumbai is Victoria Terminus or VT (1887) designed by Fredric William Stevens. The building's carved stone friezes, stained glass windows and flying buttresses epitomize the Victorian Gothic revival of British Raj architecture. Two of the suburban train lines, the Central Line and the Harbour Line, terminate at VT, as does the National Central Railway, delivering several million commuters and travelers to South Mumbai's central business district on a daily basis. The building was renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) in 1996 and was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2004. Most Mumbaikars continue to refer to it as VT.

The Central Business District that continues to surround the station reflects the colonial plan for Mumbai. It corresponds to the seventeenth century fortifications from which the British first surveyed the area, and the neighborhood's name remains "Fort." South of Fort are the former cantonment areas where Mumbai's elite - first British, then Parsi, and now wealthy Indians from all communities - have agglomerated for most of the past two centuries. North of Fort lay the "native towns", where the British relegated the service classes of Hindus and Muslims into segregated communal neighborhoods. The proximity of two of South Mumbai's most popular religious sites manifests the tense coexistence of India's two major religions. Both Mumba Devi temple and the Jama Masjid were erected near the north wall of the original Fort Saint George. While the fort no longer remains, both the temple and the mosque remain active centers of worship.

For most of Mumbai's history, the areas of Bombay Island north of the native towns remained rural. But by the end of the nineteenth century, population pressure pushed development northwards. Mumbai's insular and longitudinal physical geography is the primary determinant of its spatial development. The city's infrastructure corresponds to this north-south axis, and this infrastructure has provided an armature for settlement, both formal and informal, over the past two hundred years. After a series of ambitious land reclamation projects, the seven original islands are now two: Bombay Island and Salsette Island. The former is now considered the core of Mumbai City or the Island City. Most of the latter constitutes Mumbai Suburbs. The rail lines that connected the port to the agricultural hinterlands ran northwards through Salsette Island, and the residential nodes concentrated around railway stops slowly densified into genuine urban centers. The end of World War II marks the final moment that most of Greater Mumbai's population, approximately two million people, resided in the Island City.

Postcolonial Mumbai

In 1947, India's independence meant its Partition and the birth of Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of refugees from what became Pakistan arrived in Mumbai, and the city's multi-ethnic population grew and diversified further. While Gujarati and Parsi elites continued to congregate in the southern tips of the city (replacing the departed British), the growing middle-class began to follow the development pattern and move to northern suburbs. The south of the city continued to support institutional architecture befitting the city's motto: Urbs Primus Indis. In particular, the Jehangir Art Gallery (1952) forms the contemporary art venue adjoining the Prince of Wales Museum Complex (1914), a prime exemplar of Indo-Saracenic architecture. 

Throughout the postcolonial period, Mumbai maintained most of the governmental structure of the colonial bureaucracy, which meant that any attempt to address Mumbai's urban growth was limited to proscriptive land use controls rather than proactive infrastructural planning or increased service delivery. At no point in Mumbai's history has a sufficient amount of housing been available. Congestion has remained consistently the primary policy priority among the urban problems that have beset Mumbai. The initial post-Independence Master Plan for the city in 1947 was the first of many policy papers to propose mainland development to redress the limitations of Mumbai's physical geography and the challenges of its overpopulation.

Several masterplans later, plans for a new town on the mainland began in earnest in 1965. Three of India's leading architects - Charles Correa, Pravina Mehta and Shirish Patel - proposed the basic guidelines for the new town in an issue of the influential Indian design journal MARG (Modern Architects' Research Group). Drawing on elements from Ebenezer Howard's "Garden City" model, the architects suggested a politically autonomous, multi-nucleated series of mixed-use and mixed-income neighborhoods that would neither be bedroom communities for commuters to Mumbai nor dormitory suburbs for the industrial sector of the mainland. Instead it was to be a "growth pole" or "counter-magnet" to the original city. In 1970, work on the new city began and continues to this day. At 344 square kilometers, Navi Mumbai bills itself as the largest planned development in the world. Critics agree that Navi Mumbai has not fulfilled its promise to stem urban growth in Mumbai proper nor to stimulate the tertiary sector on the mainland and has only succeeded, in practice, in providing middle-class housing. Whether the development ever achieves its stated goals or reworks the complex urban-regional dynamics of metro-Mumbai, its innovative architecture, wide roads and clear and enforced land use designations attest to an urbanism altogether distinct and yet inextricable from that of old Mumbai. 

Mumbai has long been India's migrant city - a microcosm of India's internal linguistic, religious and ethnic diversity - and it has also witnessed extremist nativist sentiment arising from within the mainstream cosmopolitan attitude. Elements within the Hindu Marathi-speaking population local to the area around Mumbai, spearheaded by the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement, successfully lobbied for a state arranged along linguistic lines: Gujarat and Maharashtra, with Mumbai as its multi-lingual capital, were established as distinct states in 1960. Furthermore, resistance to accelerating migration led to the creation of the Shiv Sena ("sons of the soil") party in 1965. The party has been influential in Mumbai politics ever since, and its legacy can be felt in the renaming of most British institutions (such as Victoria Terminus or Bombay) with Sanskrit-inspired versions. In 1992, Mumbai's history of mutually tolerant, if tense, religious co-existence between Hindus and Muslims was challenged again by communal rioting and violence in response to the razing of Ayodha's Babri Mosque by Hindu fundamentalists. 

1992 also marked the year that India began a series of sweeping reforms to deregulate the national economy. Mumbai's economy, as the trade and financial center of the country, grew exponentially. Built testaments to the new global economy are everywhere. While much of the city's financial activity remains in the south of the city, commercial complexes are increasingly found in the city's northern suburbs. The Bandra-Kurla complex is an important cluster of office towers that hosts some of the most influential Indian and multi-national firms. Western-style shopping malls and other forms of privatized space appear increasingly, especially in the northern suburbs. But large scale development continues to retrofit South Mumbai as well. One architecturally notable example is Charles Correa's Kanchanjunga Apartments, which applies the indigenous protective verandah typology to the modern high-rise.

Mumbai is projected to overtake Tokyo as the most populous city in the world by 2025. It is home to the most prolific movie industry in the world; Hindi Cinema, or Bollywood, produces nearly 1,000 feature films each year. Mumbai remains India's aspirational city, both for the central government's stated policy objective of creating a global city of advanced financial and technological services to compete with Shanghai and the for the dreams of countless migrants who continue to flock to the city.


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