Mumbai: the city of dreams. The city of hopes. Every year, thousands of people from across the country migrate to this city in hopes of doing something great in their life. With the hopes to fulfil their dreams and achieve great success, the city is crowded daily; yet it welcomes all visitors with open arms and greets them with the warmest nature.  

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Mumbai Cityscape_©Source Lonely planet

The city that originated as the congregation of seven islands, today stands as a symbol of unification. Flooded with an array of people carrying legacies of different beliefs, cultures, religions, languages, and heritage, Mumbai showcases a perfect blend of the citizens. Though divided by casts and religions, the citizens, commonly known as Mumbaikars never fail to come together during each festival and celebrate them together with equal excitement.  

Mumbai is the capital city of the state of Maharashtra and the financial center of India. As of 2018, as per the United Nations, it was the second most populous city in India after Delhi and the 8th most populous city in the world (with a population of roughly 20 million).   

An architectural review of location: Mumbai - Sheet2
Mumbai cultural gatherings_©Source Travel Triangle

Geographically, the city is located on the Konkan coast on the west coast of India. It has a deep natural harbor. Mumbai was named ‘Alpha world City’ in 2008, for housing the highest number of millionaires and billionaires among all cities in India.  

The congregation of the seven islands is said to be the earlier residence for the communities of Koli people, speaking the Marathi language. The city has been under the control of the indigenous rulers for centuries after the Kolis. In 1667, the islands were handed out to the East India Company for 10 pounds per year, who then became responsible for the development of the city.  

During the mid-18th century, the islands were reshaped by ‘The Hornby Vellard’ Project. Under this project, the reclamation of the area between the seven islands from the sea began. The construction of major roads and railways took place during this time, turning the city into a metropolis. It was completed in 1845.  

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The Hornby Vellard Project_©Source the Guardian

In the 19th century, the islands were characterized by educational and economic developments. And during the 20th century, the city became a strong base for the Indian Independence Movement. Today, Mumbai is the commercial, financial and entertainment capital of India. The business opportunities that the city offers attracts many migrants to itself from across India.  

The architecture of the city is an amalgamation of designs. It is a visual representation of the history the city has experienced over centuries. The city’s architecture is influenced by Neo-classical, Victorian-Gothic, Art Deco, Indo-Saracenic, and Contemporary architectural styles. Most of them were introduced by the British Raj. Whereas, the European colonists brought a huge collection of European architecture to the city. Including Romanesque, Neo-classical Gothic, and renaissance.  

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Circa (Mumbai’s famous fort), 1850 after connecting the seven islands_©Source the Guardian

The southern part of Mumbai mostly has colonial-era buildings and Soviet-style offices. The Eastern part showcases factories and slums, the western part has skyscrapers that were built after the destruction of the old textile mills.   

The highlight of Mumbai’s architecture is that the city not only includes monuments and buildings of cultural importance; but also contains residential buildings, offices, schools, municipal buildings, administrative buildings, and cinema halls. In general, the cityscape includes places that are open and publicly used daily, hence, are relatable.  

The name Mumbai is said to have derived from “Mumba” which is the name of the Goddess Mumbadevi of the native Koli community. Apart from that, the Portuguese writer Hasper Correia uses the name “Bombaim” in his book “Legends of India” to address Mumbai. The word is derived from the Galivan Portuguese phrase comprising two words: Bom and Baim, meaning “Good little Bay”.  

The city is said to be built on the archipelago of the seven islands, that is, the isle of Bombay, Parel, Mazagaon, Mahim, Colaba, Worli, and Old woman Island (commonly known as Little Colaba). The exact details about the inhabitation of the city are unclear. But the sediments found along the coastal areas in Northern Mumbai indicate the islands inhabited since the South Asian Stone Age.  

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Mumbai as seven islands_©Source the review stories

During the 3rd century BCE, the city became a part of the Maurya empire and was ruled by Ashoka of Magadha. One of the important architectural marvels during this time is the Kanheri caves, in Borivali. These caves were excavated from basalt rock in the first century CE. They served as an important center of Buddhism in Western India during ancient times.  

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Kanheri caves, Borivali_©Source Travelogue

Between the second and ninth century BCE, the islands were under the control of successive Indigenous dynasties. After which they were ruled by Shilaharas (from 810 to 1260). During this period, they built the oldest edifices of the city such as Jogeshwari caves (built during 520-525), Elephanta caves (built during the sixth century and seventh century), Walkeshwar Temple (built during the 10th century), and Banganga Tank (built during the 12th century).  

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Elephanta Caves_©Source Mumbai alive

By the late 13th century, King Bhimdev had his kingdom in the region. Which was then ruled by the Gujarat Sultanat in 1407. Who became the patrons for the construction of mosques across the city. Haji Ali Dargah is one of the greatest examples of one such mosque. It is located in Worli and was built in honor of the Muslim saint Haji Ali in 1431.  

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Haji Ali Dargah_©Source A Savin

British architecture dominates the present-day architecture of the city (who ruled it between the 18th and early 19th century). The architecture was initially influenced by the Neoclassical style but was later dominated by the Victorian Gothic style.  

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The great City Hall (Example of Neoclassical architectural style)_©Source A Savin

While the neoclassical architectural style has an orderly monochromatic presence, the gothic style offered live colors. the gothic architecture provided the structures to be more expressive, and disjointed. they were designed with beautiful carvings and narrative elements. The main element of the structures with gothic designs were the flying buttresses and stained glass. 

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Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, CST (Example of Victorian Gothic architectural style)_©Source iStock

In the beginning, the gothic buildings only served as churches, and religious buildings because of the immense freed space they obtained. But sooner, with the increased need for more public spaces like public halls, parliament houses, and mansions, gothic designs became more common. 

The architectural styles later merged in accordance with the city’s climate, the needs of the society, and its sensibilities. This amalgamation of gothic and contemporary architecture is called “Mumbai Gothic”. 

Mumbai, the architectural contrast_©Source iStock

Though the British influence is evident in architecture across the whole city, it also displays an array of other architectural features such as German Gables, Dutch roofs, Swiss timbering, Romance arches, and Tudor casements. And they’re visible in forms of inter-fusions with the traditional Indian features. 

Although architecture is just a concept of building the city and its structure, it is a huge part of the city’s built history. The architecture through the period of tie carries forward the cultural legacies of the city and in the case of Mumbai, it is still evident. The city that has its differences in terms of its people, culture, religion, and language also carries years old built legacies and it will continue to do so.  

References:

Patil, S., Swain, P. and Pattnaik, D. (2022) Mumbai Architecture: A natural mix of architectural styles, The Design Gesture. Available at: https://thedesigngesture.com/mumbai-architecture/#:~:text=Mumbai%20Architecture%20includes%20architectural%20gems%20influenced%20by%20Neo-Classical%2C,for%20those%20who%20are%20careful%20to%20observe%20it. (Accessed: December 18, 2022).

Architecture of Mumbai (2022) Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Architecture_of_Mumbai (Accessed: December 18, 2022).

Patil, S., Swain, P. and Pattnaik, D. (2022) Mumbai Architecture: A natural mix of architectural styles, The Design Gesture. Available at: https://thedesigngesture.com/mumbai-architecture/#:~:text=Mumbai%20Architecture%20includes%20architectural%20gems%20influenced%20by%20Neo-Classical%2C,for%20those%20who%20are%20careful%20to%20observe%20it. (Accessed: December 18, 2022).

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