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Mumbai Travel Guide for Tourists
"The fishermen sang while going for fishing into the sea. The sea loved their songs and her waves danced to the rhythm of the song. She fell madly in love with them that she couldn’t pass even a single day without hearing their traditional tone. But one day, the air was silent.............she could no longer wait for their song. The Mother Sea burst out violently and gave birth to a cluster of seven islands as home to the fishermen".
These islands together came to be known as 'Mumbai', who is the goddess of ‘Kolis’ or fishermen.
Mumbai is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra. It is the most populous metropolitan city in India and the fourth most populous city in the world with a total population of about 20.5 million. Mumbai lies on the west coast of India and has a deep natural harbor. In 2009, Mumbai was titled as Alpha world city. It is also the financial capital of India with the highest GDP of any city in West, South and Central Asia.
Today, the resplendent city Mumbai never sleeps during night. The city sparkles with all the lights from the skyline, bestowing everlasting memories to its sightseers. Mumbai never disappoints anyone who knocks its door in search of a job because of the massive industries and enormous employment opportunities it has.
The people of Mumbai – Many faiths, many cultures
The people of Mumbai have diverse cultures that is evident in their clothes, food, religion and lifestyle. ‘Marathis ‘or Maharashtrians of Indo-Aryan ethnic group are the major population here. Kolis or fisher folk, Parsis, the Zoroastrian inhabitants in Colaba, a very active Christian community in St. Thomas Cathedral, two Jewish communities Baghdadi Jews and Bene Israel and their old synagogues, Muslim population including Bohras, Khojas and Memons in Mohammed Ali Road, the large Hindu community and their temples and the Sikhs, Jains and Budhists constitute the rich mix of people in Mumbai.
Ganesh Chaturthi is a sublime festival of Hindus that is celebrated with much fanfare all over Mumbai. The celebrations start by bringing home an idol of Lord Ganesha with Poojas and devotional songs. Ladies of the household make Modak and offer to god as part of the ritual. On the final day, this celebrated idol is taken away with dance and songs and this ritual is termed Visarjan. Devotees sing everywhere
“Ganpati Bappa Morya…….Mangal Murti Morya…………..”
Christmas, Bakrid and other festivals are also celebrated with great zest here. Exploring each nook and corner of Mumbai gives the tourist a glimpse into the various diverse cultures of India.
Lalbaugh Ganesh Visarjan
Shopping in Mumbai
Mumbai is the best place for shopping any article as a major stock of different variety is available here. One can go to a mall to shop comfortably in the air condition or do it in a street market in the open air. Street markets open a way for bargain too. Antiques, curios, carpets, handicrafts, textiles, jewelry and others of versatile kinds can be shopped by bargaining in the streets of Mumbai.
It may take a longer time to traverse the entire Mumbai, so only a few places have been discussed here.
1. Mumbai Bazaars
Mumbai Bazaar or markets create a splendid panorama of natural as well as artificial products. They allure visitors with their fresh, quality goods that are compelling.
Crawford Market or Mahatma Jyotiba Phule Mandai, is one of South Mumbai's well-known markets situated opposite to Mumbai Police headquarters, just north of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station and west of the J.J. flyover. Fruits and vegetables are sold here in wholesale. Pet lovers can buy their favorite dogs, cats and birds from one end of the market. Imported foods, cosmetics, household and gift items also are housed here.
Mirchi galli (spices market)
This is also a part of Crawford market, but situated inside an alley that is unseen from outside because of the peddlers sitting there. Mirchi galli is an old market where you may come across all types of spices produced in India. This narrow lane consists of a plethora of small shops in which whole, ground spices and dry fruits are sold. Cumin seeds, mustard seeds, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and a variety of Kashmiri chilies can be found here. Some of them are a little expensive because of their vouched quality.
Phool galli and Zaveri bazaars are also there that are repositories of flowers and gold.
Bandra street bazaar
Linking road in Bandra is where you can see a long chain of stalls exhibiting traditional as well as modern accessories. This bazaar can be called as the shopping paradise of India as one may never leave it disappointed. Outfits, footwear, bags, belts and other accessories arranged in rows of stalls attract any pedestrian to enter and buy one. Bandra bazaar is the right place for those who can bargain.
A walk through this market acquaints you with the vegetables, fruits, flowers and foods of Matunga.This middle class market of the city is filled with shops of costumes for dance and dramas, textiles, herbs, spices, aromatics and other household items. Vegetarian foodies can taste the various rich traditional cuisines of Hindu Tamil Brahmins, Hindu Gujaratis and Jains as they are the major inhabitants here.
South Indian foods available here are very famous as they invite visitors always. A hygienic tasting counter for visitors is open always where one can taste the different types of delicacies. Idli Vada and Sambhar Dosa are the popular South Indian foods available here.
2. Cultural Heritage Structures
A glimpse inside the temples, markets and cultural heritage monuments of Mumbai can give the traveler an overall idea of the historic significance it has. Let’s discuss some of them.
This temple was built on the Victoria Terminus in the central island by the Kolis to worship their patron Goddess Mumbadevi in 1737. Later this temple was demolished and a new one was erected at Bhuleshwar. The deity is being dressed in a robe decorated with nose stud, silver crown and a golden necklace.
Art Precinct Kala Ghoda
This is a walk through the Art Precinct of Mumbai’s British Heritage District to introduce the tourists to the magnificent world of contemporary Indian painting and other art works. This crescent shaped sub-precinct Kala Ghoda or Black Horse is the prominent cultural center in Mumbai. The emergence of museums, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants, educational institutions and heritage buildings together have transformed this art precinct into a busy, thronged area. Kala Ghoda has a fine collection of heritage structures in Indo Saracenic, Renaissance Revival, Victorian Neo-Gothic and Edwardian Neo Classical styles. The art festivals conducted in this precinct give the spectators a wonderful visual treat.
Haji Ali Dargah
The causeway to Haji Ali Darga, the finest architectural tomb of a holy Muslim merchant in Worli bay is about a 1km walk from Mahalakshmi surrounded by seawater. The cool water from the sea and the wind blowing from the air together make this walk an unforgettable one in a tourist’s life. Haji Ali Darga is one of the most popular religious monuments in Mumbai that is visited by people from all religions alike. It was constructed in the memory of a wealthy merchant Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari who deserted all his possessions on his way to Mecca.
This white washed architecture covers an area of 4500sq.m and the major highlight is the 85 feet tower. The rocks entrenched on the seashore anchor this brilliant Indo-Islamic structure and the central shrine is in the marble courtyard. The main hall has marble pillars polished with artful mirror work; blue, green, yellow chips of glass are arranged in kaleidoscopic as well as Arabic patterns which spell the ninetynine names of Allah. As per the Muslim traditions separate praying rooms for ladies and gents are provided here to pay their respects.
Pilgrims of different faith and religion flock here to get blessings from this Saint. Lakhs of devotees visit the Dargah on occasions of Ramadhan Eid and Bakri Eid to pay their homage to this revered shrine. On some Fridays, Sufi musicians perform ‘Kawwali’, a devotional music concert on Durgah. The place is accessible only during low tide. During high tide, the Dargah becomes quite uninhabited.
Elephanta Caves is a world heritage site of Lord Shiva’s rock cut temples. These temples are carved by skilled artisans to depict the various legends associated with Lord Shiva. Buddha’s sculptures also can be found here in shrines surrounded by porticoes. This stone and rock cut Indian architecture is sprawled over a big area which is about an hour's boat ride from the Gateway of India. The Elephanta dance festival is a big event where renowned artists of music and dance perform concerts. Special catering services are arranged for visitors.
The ancient Buddhist learning center, Canhary Caves located near Sanjay Gandhi National Park, Borivli was the abode of Buddhist monks once.These monuments are a part of archaeological survey of India, sculpted out of rocks on the top of a hill. They were the cells of Buddhist monks called Viharas who spread the teachings of Sri Buddha in India. The Canhary Caves were a well-organized Buddhist establishment meant for pilgrimage and study center. As it was situated in between the trade routes, it was an inn for traders and travelers in the ancient period.
Mumbai is a coastal city and has got so many beaches along the western side. Most of the beaches are polluted and are not suitable for swimming. You can’t find pure white sand or crystal clear water in these beaches. However, they get crowded during weekends just for a hangout. Here are the beaches listed from south to north.
- Chowpatti (Girgaum)
- Dadar Chowpatti
- Juhu beach
- Versova beach
- Madh island
- Aksa beach
- Manori beach
- Marve beach
- Gorai beach
An evening in the Chowpatti beach would cherish your memories into the Mumbai style beach life. You get a wonderful snapshot of sunset here and also get a glimpse into the local Mumbai foods. ‘Kulfi’ (Indian ice cream) and Bhelpuri hawkers won’t leave you without chomping them.
Pao bhaji in Juhu beach
4. Wildlife attractions
Sanjay Gandhi National Park
This Park, situated in Borivali is a part of Greater Mumbai, lying on the Northern fringe of its suburbs. Spread over an area of 104 sq km, Sanjay Gandhi National Park is a silent retreat to a rich flora and fauna from the busy city life. Tiger Safari, water cruise and bird watching are the main attractions of this Park.
Jijamata Udyan Zoo in Byculla was opened in the year 1861. The zoo housed amidst the famous lush green garden Rani bagh is home to rare and endangered species of animals and birds. Some animals can be watched roaming in their yard whereas some are locked inside the cage. A wide range of birds from small parrots to peacocks can be seen here.
Mumbai tours don’t stop with all these sites and there are much more to explore. In hospitality too, Mumbai has a big collection of hotels that cater to the needs of tourists. The sheer throbbing energy of the place that is never ending makes this colorful, diverse land a dream city.
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© 2012 Radhika Sreekanth