The English name, Bombay, was formed from the 16th-century Portuguese name, Bom Bahia ("Good Bay"). In 1996 a nationalistic state government officially changed the city's name to Mumbai, as it had long been known in the Marathi language. That name is derived from Mumbadevi, a local goddess whose temple was once located in a southern portion of the present city.
The climate is subtropical, with mild winters and warm summers. During the southwest monsoon of May to October, it is hot and humid, and the city receives much of its annual rainfall of 70 inches (1,780 mm). The heavy rainfall and other favorable conditions make rice the chief crop of the district.
The People. The population of Greater Bombay in 2001 approached 12 million, making the city the largest in India. Most of Bombay's people are Indian Hindus, the greater number of whom speak the Marathi language. There are sizable groups that speak Gujarati, Hindi, or English. Members of ethnic groups from every major section of India have converged on Bombay, each with its own regional dress, food, and language. Muslims, Christians, Jains, Sikhs, Jews, and Parsis form the prominent minority religious communities. The Gujaratis are especially important in commerce and industry, and the Parsis, though a small group numerically, have contributed enormously to the development of the city's trade and industry.
The Modern City. The southern section of Bombay Island, part of which is known as the Fort, is the area of original European settlement, and it still reflects this history in its wide boulevards, spacious parks, and massive stone buildings. There is the major concentration of commercial firms and cultural institutions in western India. Along the coast of the Arabian Sea, art-deco apartment buildings line Marine Drive (Netaji Subhash Road), which leads northwest to the palatial houses of Malabar Hill.
The central part of Bombay Island contains a densely populated conglomeration of narrow streets, pavement shops, bazaar areas, small houses, and tenements; its thousands of small factories and workshops produce a wide variety of goods. This is a most cosmopolitan quarter, and it boasts, in addition to its commercial establishments, religious buildings of the Hindu, Muslim, Jain, and other faiths. In the upper-central and northern parts of the island and on adjoining Trombay Island are the major industrial establishments, surrounded by slums.
Outstanding attractions in Bombay, apart from the main religious temples and shrines, are a number of gardens, especially the Hanging Gardens (Pherozsha Mehta Gardens) on Malabar Hill and the Victoria Gardens (Rani Jijamata Udyan); the Gateway to India, a massive British-built triumphal arch overlooking the main harbor; the Prince of Wales Museum, which contains many treasures of Indian art and archaeology; the Victoria and Albert Museum (Bhau Daji Lad Museum); the National Gallery of Modern Art; the Jahangir Art Gallery; the University of Bombay; and Crawford Market (Jyotiba Phule Market), with its small shops noted for their exotic foods. Elephanta Island, in Bombay's harbor, contains seven magnificent 8th-century Hindu cave temples with huge carved deities and relief panels. On Salsette Island is Juhu, a beach resort. Also on Salsette are Jogeswari and Mandapeshwar caves, 8th-century Hindu cave temples, and Sanjay Gandhi (or Borivali) National Park, which contains 109 temple caves hewn from rock between the 2d and 9th centuries and decorated with Buddhist carvings.
East of Bombay, on the mainland, are the hill resorts of Matheran, Khandala, and Lonavla. Near Lonavla, in the Western Ghats, is Buddhist Karle Cave, built in about the 1st century B.C., one of the finest of India's many temple caves.
Economy. Bombay's economy is based on manufacturing, commerce and banking, government, transportation, business services, and on the city's role as the major port for western, central, and much of northern India. Starting in the 1860s, cotton milling, using raw cotton from the Deccan, became Bombay's principal industry, and it remains important to the city's economy. Industry became more diversified during the 20th century, however, with an emphasis on light and medium engineering industries. Other major industries include oil refining and petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and food processing. Bombay is India's principal financial center as well as the center of its expansive film and entertainment industry. In the late 20th century it became a focal point for high technology, such as computer software development, and offshore service industries, including telephone call centers for international corporations. There is a nuclear research laboratory on Trombay. Because of growing problems of congestion and pollution, efforts have been made to redirect manufacturing industries from Bombay to New Bombay, on the mainland.
Bombay is the main terminus and administrative headquarters of two of India's government-run rail systems, the Central and Western railways. Rail routes into the city are among the most intensively used in India for both freight and passengers. Commuter trains are also heavily used. Sahar international airport is the main gateway for flights to and from India. Santa Cruz airport serves domestic flights. Both airports are on Salsette Island.
Bombay's harbor and port facilities are easily the finest in India. A complex of docks, warehouses, oil storage tanks, and railroad yards stretches along the sheltered eastern side of Bombay Island for about 6 miles (10 km), faced by some 75 square miles (195 sq km) of protected deep water. This fine natural harbor and its convenience to shipping lanes from Europe and North America have made Bombay the leading port of India since the early 18th century. Only in the 20th century did Calcutta challenge its supremacy.
History. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Bombay area has been occupied since prehistoric times, and long before the Europeans arrived, the region was an important trade and cultural center. Buddhist settlements existed in this area in ancient times, as evidenced by the carvings in some of the cave temples. The Portuguese acquired the harbor and islands from the Sultan of Gujarat in 1534; their main settlement and fort was in Bassein on the mainland, opposite Salsette Island. The English gained control in 1661–1665 and added Bombay to their presidency lands administered from Surat. The presidency capital was transferred to Bombay in 1687, although it was not until 1708 that Bombay really replaced Surat as the main English center on the west coast.
Bombay has served ever since as the capital city of a large though often changing territory. The Bombay presidency (colonial district) eventually included Aden (1839–1932), on the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula, and Sind (1843–1936), later a part of Pakistan. In 1937 the presidency became the province of Bombay. At the time of the partition of India (1947), the province of Bombay covered 76,443 square miles (197,987 sq km), but incorporation of former princely states after the partition increased its area to 115,570 square miles (299,330 sq km). The reorganization of Indian states in 1956 added all Marathi- and Gujarati-speaking areas of Madhya Pradesh and former Hyderabad as well as all of Saurashtra and Kutch, making Bombay the largest state in India (190,668 sq mi, or 493,830 sq km). In 1960, Bombay state was divided on a linguistic basis into the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, the central and southern (mainly Marathi-speaking) areas forming Maharashtra state with Bombay city as its capital.
While Bombay prospered as the main British base in western India, it did not experience phenomenal growth until the mid-19th century. At this time the decline of Maratha power in India's interior allowed the building of roads and, later, railroads through the Western Ghats into the Deccan. To this development, which made possible the transport of raw cotton to Bombay, was added a sudden demand for Bombay's cotton exports caused by the curtailment of American cotton exports during the Civil War, and it was in this period that the foundation of Bombay's cotton and textile factory system was laid. The opening of the Suez Canal (1869) led to a concerted expansion of the port, including land reclamation projects and the construction of new docks and other facilities. The steady growth resulting from this combination of factors caused the population of Bombay to rise by 1910 to almost 1 million. The Indian National Congress was founded in Bombay in 1885, and the city remained a center of anti-British activity. Population: city, 11,914,398; metropolitan area, 16,368,084 (2001 census).
Robert C. Kingsbury