Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is the capital city of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is one of the most populous urban regions in the world and is the wealthiest city in India.
Mumbai came into existence in 1661 when King Charles II married the Portuguese Catherine d Braganza and received the ports of Tangier and seven islands of Bombay as dowry. These seven islands, what was once an archipelago of seven islands: Bombay Island, Parel, Mazagaon, Mahim, Colaba, Worli and Old Woman’s Island, later constituted the city of Mumbai and were under the control of successive empires finally succeeding to the Portuguese and thereafter to the British East India Company.
These islands were part of the Mauryan Empire in the third century BC and were ruled by Buddhist Emperor, Ashoka of Magadha. The region of Borivali served as an important centre of Buddhism in western India during ancient times as can be understood from the excavation of the Kanheri Caves in the mid-third century BC. The city was then probably called Heptanesia (a cluster of seven islands).
Between the second and ninth century BC, the control of these islands passed through successive dynasties – the Satvahanas, Western Kshatrapas, Abhiras, Vakatakas, Kalachuris, Konkan Mauryas, Chalukyas and Rashtrakutas before being ruled by the Silhara Dynasty from 810 to 1260. The Jogeshwari Caves (between 520 to 525), Elephanta Caves (between 6th to 7th centuries), Walkeshwar Temple (10th century), and Banganga Tank (12th century) are the oldest edifices in the city.
These islands were annexed by Delhi Sultanate in 1347-48 and Muslim Governors were appointed to administer the islands that were later governed by the independent Gujarat Sultanate, which was established in 1407. The famous Haji Ali Dargah in Worli, built in honour of the Muslim Saint Haji Ali in 1431, was constructed under the patronage of Gujarat Sultanate.
In 1498, the Portuguese took over the islands from the Sultan of Gujarat and built settlements, forts (Bombay Castle, and Madh Fort) and churches (St. Michael’s Church at Mahim (1534), St. John Baptist Church at Andheri (1632) and Gloria Church at Byculla (1632)). Eventually, the islands were handed over to the British East India Company in 1661 as part of dowry of Catherine de Braganza when she married to King Charles II of England, who leased them to the British East India Company for £ 10 in accordance with the Royal Charter of 27 March 1668.
However, these islands were subsequently attacked and suffered incursions by Muslim rulers in 1672 and then again in between 1689-90. Thereafter, the Marathas under Peshwa Baji Rao I captured Salsette and Bassein in 1737 and 1739 respectively, which was later occupied by the British in 1774. But, with the Treaty of Surat (1775), the British formally gained control of Salsette and Bassein which resulted in the First Anglo-Maratha War. However, through the Treaty of Purandar (1776) and through the Treaty of Salbai (1782), the British secured Salsette from the Marathas without violence and settled the outcome of the First Anglo-Maratha War respectively.
Bombay began to grow into a major trading town by the middle of 18th century. The East India Company started the process of reclaiming the land. The name of the project, which united all seven islands of Bombay into Single Island, was Hornby Vellard. It was under this project that the area between the seven islands from the sea was recovered during the mid-18th century and reshaped into a single island called Bombay. The project was started by the then Governor William Hornby in 1782 and all islands were linked by 1838.
The renovation work completed in 1845 and joining of the islands, building of the docks, trading posts and the famous Suez Canal (1869) transformed Bombay into a major seaport on the Arabian Sea. The newly built roads, the railways (India’s first passenger railway line connecting Bombay to Thane) and world’s chief trading market, paved the way for the economic development and Bombay eventually became the city of highest number of billionaires and millionaires among all cities in India and later became the financial, commercial and entertainment capital of India.
Post Independence, the city got incorporated into Bombay State in 1947 and a new state of Maharashtra was created in 1960 following the Samyukta Maharashtra Movement. Thereafter, the city was renamed as Mumbai in 1996.
The journey of Mumbai from being an ancient fishing community to becoming a commercial capital of India is indeed magnificent and its glorified history has blessed the city with more than 500 heritage monuments, mostly built in British period and located in the south of Mumbai. Of which, the Elephanta Caves and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station are recognised as World Heritage Sites and there are few sites that have received the UNESCO Asia-Pacific Heritage Awards. All these sites are looked after by “The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee”.