HISTORY OF MUMBAI CITY
Mumbai is often referred to as the city of dreams. This rightly said, as millions have made their way to this city to make their dreams come true.
Originally, made up of seven islands, Mumbai’s rise into a megacity is a story that traces back to medieval times. From its medieval origins to the colonial era and finally the Samyukta Maharashtra movement, Mumbai’s past is dotted with many critical events that shaped the journey of this city and the country.
While there have been quite a few books, movies and series that have depicted the history of this metropolis (ZEE5’s Hutatma is the latest in the list of adaptations), many are still unaware of how seven islands off the coast of Maharashtra became Mumbai city. Hence, in this article, we shall trace back the historic events that shaped up the city.
The Early Days and Arrival of Mauryas
Now, if we really were to trace the origins of Mumbai, human presence has been there on the islands since the Stone Age. Due to its strategic position as coastal region with natural harbours, Mumbai developed strong trade ties with merchants from Egypt and Persia, in particular. But then, the islands came under the Mauryan Empire and further came into prominence. On conquering the region, the Mauryas made the islands a centre for Buddhist culture with many temples created in the 3rd century B.C.
Changing Dynasties and The Treaty Of Bassein
By mid 14th century, Muslim rulers from Gujarat took over the islands, with Mahim acting as their base. However, this position of power did not last for more than a century as the Portuguese landed on the islands. Numerous conflicts took place between the two powers.
After years of fighting, the conflict was finally resolved with the Treaty of Bassein.
Growing vary of the dwindling power of the Mughal Sultanate, the local rulers offered Mumbai and Bassein (present day Vasai) to the Portuguese as per the treaty. This measure led to the end of Islamic rule in Mumbai.
The dowry for Catherine of Portugal
The Portuguese built a strong relationship with local residents of the islands by the way of intermarriages and religious. By building such strong ties, Bombay’s trade in coconut and coir became well-known.
But by the 17th century, the Dutch started gaining a stronghold in the western coast of India.
While there were conflicts between the British and the Portuguese over Bombay, the Dutch factor proved to be the final nail. Hence, under the guidance of the Surat Council of the British Empire, the British took Bombay as dowry in the marriage between Catherine of Portugal and Charles II of England.
Rise as a metropolis, first local train and Azad Maidan
Under the British rule, the islands were unified and finally became what was the city of Bombay.
This humongous tasks was done by building causeways to connect the islands among many other measures.
Also, the first railway line in India was started between Mumbai and Thane, a move that would lead to the largest railway network in the world. Trade too saw a huge boost and Bombay became a popular port as well as the commercial capital of India.
But also, on the other hand, Bombay also became one of the major cities to witness the revolt against the British.
This led to the proclamation of the Quit India movement in 1942 and eventually the Great Indian Navy Mutiny in 1946.
Finally, when India got independence, the last troops of the British passed through the arcade of the Gateway of India in Bombay in early 1948.
Post Independence – The Samyukta Maharashtra movement and the name of Mumbai
Upon independence, Bombay saw a lot of changes. Thousands of Sindhi refugees came to the city from Pakistan.
Migration from other regions of India too increased. Townships were created.
But the most important event that changed the face of Mumbai was the Samyukta Maharashtra movement.
As the states were being created across India, the State reorganisation committee proposed to create a bilingual state comprising of current Maharashtra and Gujarat regions. Bombay would serve as a capital for this region.
However, native Marathi population rejected this idea and demanded the formation of Maharashtra with Bombay as capital. The protests that followed took lives 116 people, including the incident at Flora Foundation (which go renamed as Hutatma Chowk). Finally, the commission gave into the demands and Maharashtra was created in May 1960.
In the years that followed, Bombay grew further. Bollywood became the biggest film industry in India and businesses in the city brought in revenue like no other.
But something felt missing in this rise. The missing aspect finally felt completed when Bombay was renamed as Mumbai (after Mumbadevi Temple) in 1995.
Since then, a lot has happened. Mumbai continues to grow. But in the rush to grow, whenever you need a reality check for all your small or big troubles, flip the pages of history to witness the epic journey of Mumbai city and the sacrifices it took.