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Mumbai Cruises

Mumbai, India

About Mumbai, India

Spread over seven islands, Bombay of old is a major cultural capital of India and one of the world’s busiest and most colorful ports. Once an archipelago of fishing villages, this coastal region was transformed by the Portuguese in the mid-1500s. But they did not have as much success here as they did in other Indian coastal towns. So, they ceded the seven islands to Britain in 1661, part of the dowry of Catherine de Branganza upon her marriage to Charles II. He, too, didn’t give his newly acquired territory much attention; he leased it to the British East India Company for a mere ten pounds per year.

Docks, a trading post and a fortress soon followed, setting Bombay on a course for never-ending development. As factories dotted the horizon, migrant laborers arrived from all over India and infused the city with their rich cultures and traditions. Today, Mumbai, as it has been known since 1995, still enjoys its magnificent seaside setting and is home to some of India’s most beloved landmarks.

Mumbai Lifestyle and Culture

Mumbai is a striking blend of cultures and traditions and is celebrated as one of India’s most liberal cities. Millionaires and laborers rub shoulders on bustling streets. Fishermen cast their nets and artists wield their brushes and writing pens. Bollywood film directors churn out big-budget films among a culture of fashionistas, financiers, and, yes, the very poor. If any city encompasses every element of humanity, it is Mumbai.

The city’s streets reflect every subculture, religion and cuisine of India, as people migrated here from all over the country both during and after the British Raj. Indian cinema was born here, beginning in the silent film era, and a thriving theater scene endures. Modern and traditional art hangs in numerous museums and galleries, and the city’s festivals honor both Western and Indian traditions, from Good Friday to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, where local music, dance, theater and film go on display.

Mumbai Sights and Landmarks

Travelers arriving by sea have long been greeted by the Gateway to India, a magnificent arch built in the grand Indo-Saracenic style. It was completed in 1924 to honor the visit of King George V and Queen Mary fifteen years earlier. After, it served as a ceremonial entry into India for viceroys and governors of Bombay. The arch serves as a perfect architectural complement to the adjacent Taj Mahal Palace Hotel, with its soaring tower and dome. Overlooking the Arabian Sea, “the Taj” has hosted celebrities and presidents. Some 1,500 staff and 35 butlers keep the property running smoothly.

No less grand is the facade of the former Victoria Terminus, the historic railway station now known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria and took cues from a variety of architectural styles: Victorian, Italianate, Gothic Revival and Mughal. Such variety of building styles is typical in this remarkably diverse city. The University of Mumbai, too, boasts a highly European flair. Beyond this stylish grandiosity are hidden bazaars and temples that conjure the more sedate side of Mother India.

Mumbai Entertainment and Activities

A major center of culture and history, Mumbai offers endless opportunities to take in the best of India. At the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum, peruse more than 3,500 items torn from the city’s history books, from photographs and maps to weaponry and pottery. Its location in a stunning 1872 Renaissance Revival building elevates the collection all the more. For a less grand, but profound experience, visit Mani Bhavan, the residence of Mahatma Gandhi during his visits to Bombay between 1917 and 1934. The national hero developed his beliefs of satyagraha, or nonviolent protest, here.

Head to Elephanta Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to admire rock-cut temples hewn into the island’s caves between 450 and 750. Follow its passageways past pillars and courtyards to the 20-foot statue of the three-faced Sadhashiva. Witness an altogether different spiritual center at the Iskcon Temple, where the founder of the Hare Krishna movement spent many of his days; at prayer time, the devout break out into dance and song as hand symbols and drums keep the beat. Another kind of beat plays out at the riverside Dhobi Ghat, where hundreds of people launder their clothes in 1,026 open air troughs.

Mumbai Restaurants and Shopping

Like the variety of people who have settled here, Mumbai’s cuisine encompasses a wide and diverse array of styles and flavors. Some of the most mouthwatering creations are cooked up in food stalls on the streets. Yet there are always opportunities to close yourself off from the city’s fray and enjoy a quiet meal prepared by a world-renowned chef.

For shopping, handicrafts with a high-end twist steal the show at Contemporary Arts & Crafts. Browse the collection of graphic arts and illustrations created by Indian artists at the Kulture Shop, an emporium of prints, stationery, mugs and t-shirts. The Bombay Store features a tasteful selection of handmade rugs, clothing, brass pieces and Ganesh idols that are used in the Ganesh Chaturthi Festival.