Mumbai Sightseeing


 Mumbai (Bombay previously) is a capital of the Indian state Maharashtra. It is really hard to imagine, but nearly 13 million people live there - so, it is the most populated city in the world. Some of the Most interesting places in Mumbai which attracts tourists are :

Gateway of India

Mumbai's most famous monument, this is the starting point for most tourists who want to explore the city. It was built as a triumphal arch to commemorate the visit of King George V and Queen Mary, complete with four turrets and intricate latticework carved into the yellow basalt stone. Ironically, when the Raj ended in 1947, this colonial symbol also became a sort of epitaph: the last of the British ships that set sail for England left from the Gateway. Today this symbol of colonialism has got Indianised, drawing droves of local tourists and citizens. Behind the arch, there are steps leading down to the water. Here, you can get onto one of the bobbing little motor launches, for a short cruise through Mumbai's splendid natural harbour.

 Banganga

A sacred tank surrounded by four hundred-year-old temples and modern skyscrapers. Nowhere are Mumbai's paradoxes more evident than at Banganga. Part of an ancient temple complex, the water in this tank is believed to come from the Holy Ganges. It sprung forth when Rama, the exiled hero of the epic Ramayana stopped at the spot five thousand years ago, in search of his kidnapped wife Sita. Overcome with fatigue and thirst, he asked his brother Laxman to bring him some water. Laxman instantly shot an arrow into the ground, and water gushed forth from the Ganga, over a thousand miles away. Although the story is the stuff of legend, the tank has always been sacred. On pious occasions, thousands turn up to take a ritual dip in its mossy waters, and offer flowers at the ancient Banganga Temples.

Bhuleshwar



In the crowded little shops of Bhuleshwar, you'll find a bewildering array of colourful glass bangles, embroidered saris, vivid pink-and-green sweetmeats. The famous Mumbadevi Temple, from which the city of Mumbai derives its name is situated here. The lanes are narrow and extremely crowded during the day, but you'll find a variety of interesting people doing odd professions. Bhuleshwar also houses the famous Zaveri Bazaar (Jeweller's Market) where gold and silver jewellery is sold.

Bombay Natural History Museum

The Bombay Natural History Society was founded in 1883 for the purpose of exchanging notes and observations on natural history and exhibiting interesting specimens. Today it is the largest non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the subcontinent engaged in the conservation of nature and natural resources, education and research in natural history, with members in over 30 countries. The Society's guiding principle has always been that conservation must be based on scientific research-a tradition exemplified by its late president, Dr. Salim Ali.

 

Bombay University

Next to the High Court on Bhaurao Patil Road, the Venetian Gothic Bombay University has a Gothic clock tower 260 feet high, that is curiously adorned with oriental figures. In the old days it used to play Rule Britannia, God Save the king, Auld Lang Syne and a Handel symphony among 16 tunes that changed four times a day; now the repertoire is restricted to wafting chimes of the big Ben on the quarter hour.

 

Chowpatty Beach

Apart from Juhu in the suburbs, Chowpatty is Mumbai's most famous beach. During the day, it is the hangout of the happily unemployed who snooze under the shade of its stunted trees. But in the evening the atmosphere is more like a carnival: kids screaming on Ferris wheels or taking pony rides, wayside astrologers making a quick buck, monkey shows, and even the odd self -styled gymnast who will demonstrate amazing yogic postures for a small fee. At one end is a row of bhelpuri shops hawking Mumbai's most popular snack: crisp puffed rice and semolina doused in pungent chutneys, all scooped up with a flat, fried puri. You might even catch a film shoot or a street play. In short, for most tourists Chowpatty is where the action is.

Dhobi Ghat

A unique feature of Mumbai, the dhobi is a traditional laundryman, who will collect your dirty linen, wash it, and return it neatly pressed to your doorstep. All for a pittance. The "laundries" are called "ghats": row upon row of concrete wash pens, each fitted with its own flogging stone. The clothes are soaked in sudsy water, thrashed on the flogging stones, then tossed into huge vats of boiling starch and hung out to dry. Next they are ironed and piled into neat bundles. The most famous of these Dhobi Ghats is at Saat Rasta near Mahalaxmi Station where almost two hundred dhobis and their families work together in what has always been a hereditary occupation.

Elephanta Caves

Hewn out of solid rock, the Elephanta Caves date back to 600 AD, and attract more visitors each year than the entire city of Mumbai. No wonder: this place resonates with the spiritual energy of India. The cave complex is a collection of shrines, courtyards, inner cells, grand halls and porticos arranged in the splendid symmetry of Indian rock-cut architecture, and filled with exquisite stone sculptures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. It is situated on Gharapuri Island in Mumbai's harbour, about an hour's boatride from the Gateway Of India. At the entrance to the caves is the famous Trimurti, the celebrated trinity of Elephanta : there's Lord Brahma the Creator, Lord Vishnu, the preserver and Lord Shiva the Destroyer Unfortunately, many of the sculptures inside have been damaged by iconoclastic Portuguese rulers who took potshots at Hindu Gods with their rifles. And yet somehow, nothing has disturbed the sublime beauty of this place for centuries.

Kamala Nehru Park

At the top of Mumbai's Malabar Hill where the elite have built their plush modern palaces is Kamala Nehru Park, the hangout of the bourgeois middle class. It has little to offer by way of entertainment, apart from a "Old Woman's Shoe" relegated to a distant corner, but the view of the city is spectacular and unmissable. For most Mumbaiites, Kamala Nehru Park is to Mumbai what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris -- a vantage point that casts a proud eye on the entire city

 

Juhu Beach

Like Chowpatty, its downtown counterpart, uptown Juhu Beach is also a bourgeois paradise, filled to the gills with screaming children, courting couples and rowdy adolescents. If you want a more fancy excursion, however, retreat behind Juhu's many five star hotels, for a steaming cup of coffee and a splendid view of the coast. The most popular of these beachfront hotels are the Sun and Sand and Holiday Inn. The government run Juhu Centaur also has a 24 hour coffee shop with a view of the sea.

Mahalakshmi Race Course

It's not exactly Ascot, but Mumbai's Mahalaxmi Racecourse is probably as close as you can get to rubbing shoulders with high society fillies and cocktail party stallions. During the racing season between November and February, few events are as well attended as the Mumbai Derby, an annual affair with all the traditional English trimmings: hats, gloves, cucumber sandwiches, scones. And of course magnificent thoroughbreds, belonging mostly to Indian booze barons and local industrialists. But save for hardcore punters, these are merely the sideshow.

Marine Drive

If you're feeling energetic, a stroll down Marine Drive is possibly the best way to discover Mumbai. This is a windswept promenade, flanked by the sea and a row of art deco buildings. Looped between the concrete jungle of Nariman Point, Mumbai's Manhattan, and the leafy green slopes of Malabar hill, Marine Drive was once called the queen's Necklace, strung with glittering street lights like an enormous strand of imperious jewels. It is also one of Mumbai's busiest roads, an important artery for the heavy suburban traffic heading downtown. Cars whiz continually past the two mile stretch, past huddled lovers, children and babies in perambulators. Like other seafronts, this is where most of south Mumbai comes to breathe in some fresh air.

Nehru Centre

It was in 1972 that the Nehru Centre was conceived by the late Shri Rajni Patel and others as a living memorial to the maker of modern India, who symbolized the ideals of enlightened curiosity, scientific temper, secular values, a world view and above all, a faith in the people of India. The foundation stone of this magnificient dream was laid by the late Smt. Indira Gandhi on November 2, 1972 on a six-acre plot leased by the Government of Maharashtra.

 

Nehru Planetarium

Right next to Mahalaxmi Race Course, the Nehru Planetarium is a large domed building, popular with the city's amateur astronomers. Inside, various cubicles estimate your weight on each of the nine planets of the Solar System while in the domed interior, daily shows uncover the timeless mysteries of the cosmos. The place is usually packed with school children so make sure you buy your ticket in advance. Adjacent to the planetarium is the Nehru Centre, venue of numerous international trade fairs and local exhibitions. In the basement, the Nehru Auditorium usually boasts classical music and dance recitals, concerts and plays.

Prince of Wales Museum

Barely a stone's throw from the Gateway of India is the Prince of Wales Museum, a magnificent, but somewhat strange structure, built in a confluence of Gothic and Moorish styles, and crowned by a sparkling white dome. It boasts a good collection of ancient Indus Valley artifacts dating back to 2000 BC, plus some priceless Tibetan and Nepali Art. There is an entire gallery devoted to Buddhist tankha scrolls and another to Tibetan bronzes, but the chief attraction here is the collection of over 2000 miniature paintings from the various art schools of India. Next to the Museum is the Bombay Natural History Society, which has an extensive collection of local flora and fauna.

Priyadarshini Park

A rocky wasteland near the sea has been reclaimed and transformed into a large park, which can only be described as a feast for the eyes, amidst the concrete jungle of Malabar Hill. It lies to the west of Napean Sea Road. Besides acting as a lung for the city, it has a large track for joggers, several tennis courts and a fully equipped gym and a health club.

Rajabai Tower

Next to the High Court, the Venetian -Gothic University has a Gothic clock tower 260 feet high that is curiously adorned with oriental figures. In the old days it used to play Rule Britannia, God Save the King and a Handel Symphony among sixteen tunes that changed four times a day; now the repertoire is limited to the wafting chimes of the Big Ben on the quarter hour.
The Rajabai Clock Tower is named after the mother of a 19th century stockbroker, who contributed towards its construction; it has a spiral staircase , which is unfortunately closed to the visitors after several unhappy citizens hurled themselves from the top. Under the clock tower is the magnificent University Library, with what are undoubtedly some of the most exquisite stained glass windows in Asia. These have recently been treated by British conservationists and restored to their pristine glory. Well worth a look.

Sasoon Dock

Another fishy area in downtown Colaba, Sassoon Dock is the Mecca of local gourmets and restaurateurs who forage for quality seafood at dawn, when the trawlers unload their booty. Baskets of shrimp, lobster, thin, bony mackerel and fleshy pomfret are sold here at wholesale rates by loud fishwives who sit on the wharf right next to the colourful boats. There are also cold storage places where you can buy the cleaned and filleted variety that is earmarked for export. Despite the pervasive smell and the chaos, however, Sassoon dock is an experience worth undertaking.

Tajmahal Hotel

Rarely does a hotel become a part of a city's legend, but in Mumbai, the Taj Mahal, like its inspiration in Agra, is a local landmark. This elaborate structure with its charming cupolas and oriental decor was actually commissioned by Jamshedji Tata, a leading Indian industrialist. The architect was a Briton by the name of Chambers, who inexplicably designed the hotel with its back the sea, a mistake that has never been rectified. Even today, the grand old lobby faces the road behind. It hardly matters, though, because the Taj is really a work of art. And from the picture windows of its quiet and elegant rooms, you still get a magnificent view of the Gateway against the backdrop of the harbour.

Taraporewala Aquarium

Taraporewala Aquarium on Marine Drive has a good collection of sea and fresh water fish and other marine life. There is a proposal to convert this into an underwater oceanarium, where people can undertake an undersea walk, surrounded by marine life.

Town Hall - Asiatic Library

With its old parquet floors, spiral staircases, wrought iron loggias, and exquisite marble statues of forgotten city fathers, the colonnaded Town Hall is perhaps the most regal and elegant of Mumbai's heritage buildings. It houses the Asiatic Society, a library with a collection of 800,000 antique volumes. One of them is a priceless first edition copy of Dante's "Inferno." There is also an impressive numismatic collection of over 1,000 ancient coins and a rare gold mohur belonging to the Mughal Emperor Akbar. You need permission to look at these treasures, but the public library is open to all and usually draws a large number of senior citizens who pore over the local newspapers in the fading grandeur of its reading room.

Veermata Jeejabai Udyan

Popularly called Ranee Baug after its namesake, the Victoria Gardens are now rechristened Jijamata Udyan. They are botanical gardens, sprawled over 48 acres and contain some of the oldest trees in the city, some dating back two hundred years! At the entrance is a charming Renaissance clock tower to match the Italian Renaissance-style Victoria and Albert Museum (now the Bhau Dali Ladd Museum) that houses an interesting collection of local archaeological finds. Just behind it is the Mumbai Zoo, a depressing place with animals in bare cast iron-and-stone cages. Avoidable. You can however, opt for an elephant ride on weekends, but the best bet is a stroll through the gorgeous botanical gardens or picnic on the well-kept lawns.

Victoria Terminus – CST

Modeled on the lines of the St Pancras Station in London, Victoria Terminus, now rechristened as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is undoubtedly the Raj's piece de resistance, Complete with carved stone friezes, stained glass windows and flying buttresses. It is Gothic architecture at its best, an awesome edifice that most citizens view with deep pride. At the top of the central dome stands the triumphant figure of Progress. The station was christened to commemorate Victoria Jubilee Day in 1887 when India's first steam engine puffed out to neighboring Thane, about 45 kms away. Today it has been rechristened Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus after the Maratha warrior. And the old steam engines have been replaced by electric ones. But to the 2.5 million commuters who push past its massive portals everyday, this is still VT, the pulse of a throbbing city.

Esselworld


This is Mumbai's only international-style theme park and amusement centre situated close to Gorai Beach. Special ferries get you across to the park and the entrance fee normally takes care of a fixed number of rides. These include the standard roller coaster and adventure themes, plus a water world section where kids can literally run amok. Summer is usually crowded, but the place also offers low budget monsoon packages and special deals on weekends. Check these out before you go.

Film City

Mockingly called Bollywood by locals and cynics, Film City clings to the outskirts of the National Park, and is practically overrun by assorted stars and starlets -- the demi gods and goddesses of Modern India. Don't snigger. Bollywood churns out over 900 films every year, all packed with those mandatory elements of song, dance, melodrama, violence and erotica that Indian audiences love. Which is probably why Film City sets are heavily booked around the year. They are closed to visitors, but special permissions can always be "obtained" to check out the action.

Kanheri Caves

These are Buddhist caves or monasteries where monks practiced their austerities around the first century AD. And unlike the artistic extravagance of Elephanta, they are spartan and bare. Situated in the heart of Mumbai's National Park, the complex contains more than a hundred tiny cells cut into the flank of a hill, each fitted with a stone plinth that evidently served as a bed. There is also a congregation hall supported by huge stone pillars that contains the dagoba, a kind of Buddhist shrine. And if you pick your way up the hill you will find channels and cisterns that are remnants of an ancient water system that channeled rainwater into huge urns. In fact, Kanheri is probably the only clue to the rise and fall of Buddhism in Western India.

Manori & Gorai Beaches


Both these are excellent, safe suburban beaches, linked by a rocky headland and accessed across a small creek from mainland Mumbai. The Gorai creek barge looks like a jalopy but is sturdy and serviceable. On the other side, Manori beach is a ten minute rickshaw ride away, fringed with swaying palm trees and a row of beachside cottage hotels. The most famous of these is Manori Bel, a cluster of white washed spanish-style villas with clean bright rooms and charming wicker furniture. Some of the houses in Manori village also double as hotels where you can dump your belongings and order lunch before heading for the beach. Nearby Gorai is more downmarket but less expensive. The shacks for rent here are usually occupied by illicit couples or rowdy picnic groups and the beach is full of dodging balls and flying frisbees. Still, the sand is relatively clean and the water inviting.

Marve & Erangal

Across the creek from Manori, on the mainland itself, Marve is the retreat of Mumbai's beau monde. This is where most of India's big industrial houses have their weekend bungalows -- beautiful, sprawling mansions tucked along the winding coastal road. Hotels on this stretch mainly cater to corporate types who want to get away from the rat race and offer the standard five star amenities. Futher down at Erangal, the road peters out into a large fishing village inhabited by koli fisherfolk. At its southern tip there's a derelict seventeenth century Portuguese fortress that affords an unbroken view of Mumbai's famous skyline.

Powai Lake

Within easy reach of Bombay by car are several picturesque lakes. Powai Lake, 25 miles from Bombay, is a quiet stretch of water by the side of a motor road. It can be approached via King's Circle, Sion, and Kurla. or through Santa Cruz and Andheri. Lake Powai is smaller lake of the two, and is situated a little west of the campus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), one of the premier institutions of science and technology in India.

Sanjay Gandhi National Park

Originally planned as a wildlife retreat outside Mumbai, the Sanjay Gandhi National Park is now virtually engulfed by the growing city. Most of it is wild and unsafe, but breathtakingly beautiful, filled with dense forests and dotted with sylvan lakes. There are wild animals here, of course, but the only way you can see them is to take the Lion Safari at the entrance. Don't expect displays of predatory power though: most of the animals here are so used to tourists that they merely yawn at the passing buses.

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