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Known as Bombay until 1996, Mumbai is the commercial capital of India. Its original name "Bombay" emerged from the Portugal term "Bom Bahai" meaning good bay or harbor. The city was formed by the reclamation of 7 islands on the central-western coast along the Arabian Sea. Mumbai lies 1400 km west of the Indian capital, New Delhi. It is also known as Manchester of India. Mumbai boomed into a textile city in the 19th Century. With the opening up of the Suez Canal in 1869 the citys future as Indias primary port, was assured. Now it is the second biggest city in the world. The Glamour of a prolific film industry, cricket on the open areas on weekends, bhel puri (Indian snack) on the Chowpatty beach and red double-decker buses enhance the charm of the city.
Built in 1911 to commemorate the visit of George V to India, this is a principal landmark of Mumbai, situated at Colaba. This was officially inaugurated in 1924 to welcome the visitors who came to by ship. This distinctive monument was India's principal port. The monument's architecture reflects similarity with the conventional arch of Triumph. Colaba Causeway extending to one end of Colaba promontory, southern end of Mumbai Island is situated near Gateway of India. One more interesting place here is the Sassoon dock, especially when the fishing boats come in and unload their catch. The gorgeous Hotel Taj Mahal also lies in Colaba.
The Flora Fountain erected in 1869 in honour of Sir Bartle Frere (Governor of Mumbai in 1862-67), now bustles with busy life and is the many business centre housing many major banks and offices. Gerald Aungier began the Cathedral of St. Thomas in 1672, which was formally opened in 1718 to the fountain. Running along the shoreline of Backbay, extending from Nariman Point around by Chowpatty beach upto Malabar Hills, is the most popular strolling pavement of Mumbai, built on land reclaimed during 1920. One of the most popular spots for evening outs is Chowpatty beach which also is famous for its junk food. The lively atmosphere during Ganesh Chaturthi Festival is worth a visit. One of the most fascinating landmark of Mumbai is the VT or Victoria Terminus designed by F.W. Stevens in Italian Gothic. In 1853 the first train ran from here to Thane.
On Marine Drive also lies the Taraporewala Aquarium which houses fresh water as well as saltwater fishes. A fantastic view of Mumbai can be seen from the Hanging Gardens and Kamala Nehru Park, set on the top of Malabar. The famous Mahalaxmi Temple, is the oldest temple in Mumbai, dedicated to the Goddess of Wealth which lies some distance away from Malabar Hills. A little further away is a long causeway which leads to Haji Ali tomb and mosque, accessible during low tide. In Prabhadevi comes the exquisite temple of Siddhivinayak dedicated to Lord Ganesha always bustling with devotees. Juhu Beach, Nehru Planetarium and Nehru Science Centre are other tourist attractions.
Mumbai's famous beach is no place for a sun bathe or a dip. In fact, there's not much going on at Chowpatty at all during the day, but in the evening it develops a magical fairground atmosphere as locals come to stroll among the contortionists, masseurs, transvestites, balloon sellers, gamblers, fortune tellers, magicians, drug dealers, nut vendors, ferris wheels and shooting galleries. In the middle of all this mayhem is a small Koli fishing community, where the original inhabitants of the island mend their nets and dry their fish oblivious to the shenanigans going on around them. Eating at the collection of stalls on the edge of the beach is an essential part of the Mumbai experience. Chowpatty is a great place to witness the annual Ganesh Chaturthi Festival in August / September when large images of the elephant-headed god are immersed in the murky sea.
Mumbai's major tourist attractions are the rock-cut temples on peaceful Elephanta Island, 10km ( 6miles ) north-east of the Gateway of India. Thought to have been carved between 450 and 750 AD, the temples survived Portuguese vandalism (one cave was reputedly used by a Portuguese battalion as a shooting gallery) and remain equal in size, beauty and power to the caves at Ajanta and Ellora. The main cave contains large sculpted panels relating to Siva, including the astonishing 6mt ( 20 feet ) high triple-headed Trimurti - in which Siva embodies the roles of creator, preserver and destroyer. Boats run daily from Mumbai's Apollo Bunder every hour until early afternoon, although it's best to make the trip during the week.
Situated at the end of a long causeway poking into the Arabian Sea, is a whitewashed fairytale mosque containing the tomb of the Muslim Saint Haji Ali. The saint is believed to have been a wealthy local businessman who renounced the material world and meditated on a nearby headland following a pilgrimage to Mecca. The mosque and tomb were built by devotees in the early 19th century. Alternative versions say Haji Ali died while on a pilgrimage to Mecca and his casket amazingly floated back to Bombay and landed at this spot. The mosque can only be reached at low tide, when the causeway is lined with beggars suffering every imaginable affliction and deformity . There's nothing somber about the building's cool courtyard, which is generally full of chattering families and refreshment stalls. The rocks exposed at low tide behind the mosque are a favorite spot to catch sea breezes.
Mumbai is well connected to the main Indian cities. It has regular flights to all the major Indian cities. The international Netaji Subhash Airport (Chatrapati Shivaji Airport) is 27 kms from the city. Most of the domestic airlines have direct services to and from Mumbai to other important cities of India such as Delhi, Kolkatta, Bangalore, Chennai, Patna, Varanasi, Lucknow, Goa, Cochin.
Regular train services connect Kolkatta to all the major cities in India such as to Kolkatta in Eastern India, New Delhi in North India, Cochin in South India, and Chennai in South East India etc.
Mumbas National Highway connects it to the major cities of India. The National Highway connecting Kolkatta is superbly made with long driving and motels in between kept while upgrading the highway for the welfare of the drivers in mind.
Mumbai has three main seasons - summer, Monsoon and winter (milder summer). November-February, winter time, is the best time to visit. March-May is the summer with another hot spell late September. June to September is the monsoon season when the city is lashed by heavy rain. The city gets flooded 2 or 3 times and normal life gets disrupted during this season. Climate is humid pretty much throughout the year because it is on the coast.
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