Mumbai Tour

Mumbai is a cluster of seven islands and derives its name from 'Mumbadevi', the paron Goddess of the Koli fisher folk, its oldest inhabitants.  Mumbai pulsates with activity.  A city is disciplined by no period neither day nor night.  The harbor and wide bay between the city and its mainland has allowed Mumbai to be a natural shipping and trading centre.

Mumbai city lies on the western coast of India, on a thin peninsula that extends southward almost parallel to the mainland. At the southern end of this peninsula are Colaba and the adjoining Fort area, on the east of which lies Mumbai’s deep, natural harbor and India’s busiest port. West of Fort, hugging the Arabian Sea, is the popular promenade Marine Drive, which begins at the business district of Nariman Point and terminates at Chowpatty Beach and Malabar Hill. These are the focal nodes for tourists who, unlike the locals, often refer to the area as downtown. In fact, locals say they are going “into town,” by which they mean they are going toward South Mumbai, the area stretching south from Mahim Creek to Colaba. South Mumbai is where most tourists choose to base themselves. It is the historic heart of the city, with attractions like the Gateway of India and the Prince of Wales Museum, and the widest selection of restaurants and accommodations. The South Mumbai neighborhoods are described in detail below, but to see where most Mumbaikars (or Bombayites) live, including the jet-set stars, it may be worthwhile to take a trip into one of the suburbs. Of these, the most interesting (and a good alternative to South Mumbai if you’re staying just one night—it’s a great deal closer to the airport) is Juhu. Extending northward of Churchgate is the Western Railway local train line, and moving north of Victoria Terminus (or CST; see below) is the Central Railway network. Together, these two suburban train systems transport over 6 million commuters each day.

Mumbai will bowl you over. Teetering on the edge of the Arabian Sea, its heaving population barely contained by palmfringed beaches, India’s commercial capital, formerly known as Bombay, is a vibrant, confident metropolis that’s tangibly high in energy. Originally home to Koli fisherfolk, the seven swampy islands that today comprise Mumbai originally commanded little significance. The largest of the islands was part of a dowry given by Portugal to England, which promptly took control of the six remaining islands and then leased the lot to the East India Company for a paltry £10. Massive land-reclamation projects followed, and by the 19th century all seven islands had been fused to form one narrow promontory and India’s principal port. Today the city continues to draw fortune- seekers from all over India. More than a hundred newcomers squeeze their way in every day, adding to the coffers of greedy slum lords and placing the city, which already has a population density four times greater than New York City’s, on target for a population of 28 million by 2015.

VISITOR INFORMATION

Technically, there are tourist information desks at both airports, and these should be open for all flight arrivals. Don’t count on it, however, and don’t expect a lot of help, other than being handed a brochure or booklet and given some bland details of available hotels. That said, an excellent source of visitor information is the comprehensive City Info booklet, published fortnightly (every 2 weeks) and available at tourist information offices as well as upmarket hotels and even certain pubs and restaurants. For the best listings of the city’s current events and what’s hip and happening, look no further than the fortnightly magazine Time Out, available at all newsstands. The main Government of India Tourist Office (123 Maharishi Karve Rd., Churchgate; & 022/2207-4333 or -4334; Mon–Fri 8:30am–6pm, Sat 8:30am–2pm) is where to head for general tourist-related information, but if you’re staying at one of the city’s better hotels, your concierge will be a good source of information on sightseeing, performances, events, and activities.

ORGANIZED TOURS & TRIPS

You will be offered tours of various descriptions by at least half the people you meet on the streets of Mumbai; everyone from your taxi driver to the man who asks you for the time will have a contact in the tourism industry who’ll be more than happy to take you sightseeing. Use your discretion, watch your wallet, and remember that Mumbai’s traffic makes it impossible to see everything in one day. To arrange a legitimate tour of the city, set it up through your hotel, which should have access to the best guides (meaning those with the best English and best knowledge). Or contact Maharashtra Tourist Development Corporation (Madame Cama Rd., opposite L.I.C. Building; & 022/2202-6713 or -7762) or any Government of India Tourist Office (123 Maharishi Karve Rd., Churchgate; & 022/2203-3144; Mon–Sat 10am–5pm).

Mumbai Tour Information

Gateway of India

It is at the end of the Shivaji Marg.  This majestic arch on the shore of Mumbai Harbor commemorates the visit of King George V in 1911.  It was designed by George Witter to symbolize the enduring nature of British Rule.  It is made of Indi Islamic style with honey colored basalt.  Behind the gateway there is a beautiful statue of the Maratha leader Shivaji, astride his horse, erected in 1960.

Elephanta Island Caves

Elephanta Island Caves For a taste of Mumbai’s early history and an opportunity to view the city’s skyline from the water (not to mention escape from the tumult of the streets), grab a ferry and head out to Elephanta Island, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The hour-long trip also provides a good introduction to Hinduism; the guides on board describe the religious significance of what you’re about to see, though the origins of the Shiva temple caves—thought to date from the revivalist Hindu movement between A.D. 450 and 750—remain obscure. Entry is via the main northern entrance to a massive hall supported by large pillars, where the enormous Trimurti statue is housed. At 6.3m (18 ft.), the remarkable sculpture depicts Shiva in his three-headed aspect: as Creator (Vamadeva, facing right), Protector (Maheshmurti, the crowned face at the center), and Destroyer (Bhairadeva, facing left, with serpents for hair). Left of the Trimurti is Shiva as both male and female: Ardhanarishvara, an aspect suggesting the unity of all opposites. Other sculptures refer to specific actions of the god and events in Hindu mythology, but many were damaged or destroyed by the Portuguese, who apparently used the Hindu gods for target practice. It’s practical to bring along a local guide (free) even though they rarely speak very good English. Watch listings for music and dance performances. Tip: Plan your trip so that you can witness sunset over the Mumbai skyline on your return journey, then pop into the Taj Mahal Hotel for a post-culture cocktail. Note that music and dance festival performances are held here every year in February.

Alibag (112km)

This fine beach resort was the home of Shivaji’s admiral, Angre. There are two sea forts known as Khanderi and Undheri. Nearby, Chaul is an old fortress town.  It is also a convenient base for visiting Kihim and Nagaon beaches.  The resort is well connected by road with Mumbai via Panvel and Pen.

Ambarnath (70km)

The Hindus pilgrim centre is famous for the 11th century Somnath temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also a popular picnic spot connected by local trains from Mumbai.

Bassein Fort

The 15th century Portuguese Fort is 76.8km by sub-urban electric train to Bassein Road and thence 4.8km by road.

Karnala Bird Sanctuary & Fort (61km)

The sanctuary lies on the Mumbai – Goa road.  An old fort nearby is quite interesting.

Matheran (105km)

This clean and quite hill resort in the Western Ghats is a favourite weekend destination for Mumbaites.  Some of the important sites are Charlotte lake, the Panorama and the Sunset Points and various other view points.  Matheran is also known for cane and leather articles and chikki, a special sweetmeat.  The ‘Toy Train’ plying between Neral and Matheran was started in March 1907, covering a distance of 21km on 610mm gauge.  The beautiful section is very popular among visitors.

Murud - Janjira (165km)

The beautiful coastal town is famous for Janjira, an impregnable island-fortress, 5km south of Murud.  It was built in 1140, by Siddi Johar and became the capital of Siddis during 16th century.  The fort remained virtually invincible in its lifespan.  The palace of the Nawab and the Janjira Cave are worth visiting.  Murud lies 45km south of Alibag and the nearest railhead is at Roha (50km) on the Konkan Railway.

Tansa Lake & Sanctuary

Tansa lake is 103km by sub-urban electric train to Atgaon and thence 14.4km by road.  The lush forests around the lake are haven for many species of birds and animals.

Vaitarna Lake & Dam

The scenic lake and dam lies on the Kalyan – Nashik railway route.  It is 122km by suburban electric train to Khardi and thence 12.8km by road.

Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir

The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir is located in Prabhadevi, Mumbai, in Maharahtra, originally built by Mr. Laxman Vithu and Mrs.  Deubai Patil on November 19, 1801.  The temple has a small mandapam (hall) with the shrine of Siddhi Vinayak (Spiritual Ganesha).  The inner roof of the sanctum is plated with gold, and the central statue is of Ganesha portrayed with four arms, bearing respectively, a lotus, an axe, modaksa (sweet deep-fried dumplings) and a garland of beads.  Two of his three consorts, Siddhi and Riddhi, flanks Ganesha.

Juhu Beach

It's a pleasant beach with attraction of carnival atmosphere that develops on weekend afternoons and evenings.

Chowpatty Beach

This white sandy beach is very attractive.  It has witnessed some signigicant events in India's contemporary history.  A number of important 'Quit India' ralliles were conducted here during the Independence movement.  This beach is a favorite evening gathering place for Mumbaites. The erected statue of Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak at this beach mark the spot where this great nationalist leader was cremated in 1920.

Marine Drive

This is one of Mumbai's most popular promenades and sunset watching spots.  Build on land reclaimed from Back Bay in the 1920s, the marine drive starts from below the haning gardens on the Malabar Hill, and runs along the Arabian sea ending at the Nariman point.  In the night, the colorful line of lights gives a picturesque view.

Prince of Wales Museum

Prince of Wales Museum Renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, but thankfully also known by its colonial name, this is Mumbai’s top museum and arguably the best in India, providing an extensive and accessible introduction to Indian history and culture. The Indo-Saracenic building itself is rather lovely, but it is the collection that is outstanding, not least because it is well laid out (unlike the collections of most museums throughout the subcontinent) and aided by a useful audioguide highlighting “Curator’s Choice” exhibits. The central hall features a “précis” of the collection, but don’t stop there—from sculptures of Hindu deities to beautiful temple art, Buddhist thangkas from Nepal and Tibet to gruesome Maratha weaponry, there is much to see. Highlights are found on the first floor: Among them are the spectacular collection of more than 2,000 miniature paintings representing India’s various schools of art (look for the portrait of Shah Jahan, creator of the Taj Mahal), and the exhibit relating to the Indus Valley Civilization (which is remarkably civilized considering that it dates from 3500 B.C.). Least impressive is the natural history section with its collection of stuffed animals.

Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus)

Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus) Also rechristened in Mumbai’s nationalist-inspired anti-Raj drive, but more often than not referred to as “VT,” this baroque, cathedral-like building must rank as Mumbai’s most marvelous Raj-era monument. India’s very first steam engine left this station when it was completed in 1887; today at least a thousand trains leave every day, carrying some 2.5 million commuters in and out of the city. With its vaulted roofs, arches, Gothic spires, flying buttresses, gables crowned by neoclassical sculptures, stone carvings, and exquisite friezes, the terminus is an architectural gem, worth entering to see the massive ribbed Central Dome (topped by a statue of the torch-wielding “Progress”) that caps an octagonal tower featuring beautiful stained-glass windows with colorful images of trains and floral patterns. But come, too, for the spectacle of the disparate people, from sari-clad beauties to half-naked fakirs, that makes up Mumbai. Get here just before lunch to watch the famous dabba-wallas stream out into the city: A vast network of dabba-wallas transfer some 200,000 cooked lunches, prepared by housewives for their office-bound husbands, and kept warm in identical dabbas (metal tiffin containers), through a unique sorting and multiple-relay distribution system; later in the afternoon these empty dabbas are returned to their home of origin. The success of this system (no one gets the wrong lunch) is proof of how well India works, despite its reputation for obstructive bureaucracy. In fact, following a study of this network, U.S. business magazine Forbes gave it a Six Sigma (99.99% accuracy) performance rating, which means that just one error occurs in six million transactions.

Gate way of India, Mumbai