Why is Mumbai called a fast city

Anyone looking for the former Bombay in today's Mumbai - as the city has been called since 1995 - will quickly find it. Because Mumbai shows deep traces of the long colonial past and is one of the great cultural centers of the subcontinent.

Anyone who begins their trip to India in Mumbai - that is the name of Bombay since 1995 - usually spends one night in a hotel near the airport after arrival and then travels the next day. The “Maximum City” with around 20 million inhabitants on seven islands does not attract tourists very much. Totally wrong. Because Mumbai shows deep traces of a long colonial past and is one of the great cultural centers of the subcontinent.

Past slums

The way from the airport to Colaba, the oldest district of Mumbai, is long. During rush hour it takes a taxi driver up to two and a half hours to cover the 35 kilometers. If you look out of the car window, your assumptions are confirmed: Mumbai is not only one of the largest metropolises in the world, but also one of the largest slums. All assumptions and assumptions apply to Mumbai. But the fact is that the city becomes more beautiful, interesting and fascinating with every kilometer in the direction of the colonial center.

One can regret that the old building structure on the island of Colaba has not yet been looked after as a monument - and it probably never will be. However, this flaw is more than compensated for by the pulsating life, the blaze of colors and the exotic smells. In addition, hundreds of small shops offer practically everything your heart desires in a fascinating jumble.

The beginnings of Bombay go back to the 17th century. When Charles II of England married the Portuguese Princess Catherine of Bragança in 1662, her dowry also included the islands of Mumbai, which subsequently fell to the British Crown. She leased it to the powerful East India Company for a symbolic ten pounds a year. The legendary trading company had long been looking for a safe and large port on the west coast of India. After the laborious cultivation of the swampy islands in the 17th and 18th centuries, the city quickly developed into an economic center. In 1858, however, the territory returned to the British Crown.

When the steam locomotive arrived in the middle of the 19th century, the rail connections to Central, East and West India were soon established; the city became the starting point of the Indian railroad. Mumbai's Victoria Terminus, now called Chatrapati Shivaii Terminus, testifies to this importance. The building, designed by Frederik W. Stevens, is one of the most imposing train stations in the world and has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2004. The main entrance is vaulted by a 100 meter high dome. The huge interior with open colonnades is richly decorated with stone sculptures and reliefs. Opposite the Central Station is another masterpiece by the same architect: the General Post Office, which bears unmistakable similarities to London office buildings from the 19th century.

Revenge is sweet

The Gateway of India, the symbol of the city, a 26 meter high triumphal arch with Indo-Islamic stone carvings, is also grandiose. It was built for the landing of the British royal couple George V and Mary in 1911. The couple never crossed the arc on the way to Delhi, but the last British troops marched back on their ships through this gateway on their retreat from India.

A few steps away is one of the most famous hotels in the world, the "Taj Mahal" with its unusual history: Because the Indian industrialist JN Tata was once turned away from the luxury hotel Watson because of his skin color, he took revenge with the construction of this magnificent five-star hotel, the has become a meeting place for celebrities from all over the world since it opened in 1903. The “Watson”, on the other hand, has not existed for decades.

Not far from the Gateway of India is the Fort Quarter, which owes its name to a citadel built by the East India Company. Today Mumbai's financial center is located in the Fort district. All the major banks, publishers and large companies have settled there. The heart of this quarter is the Horniman Circle with its well-tended park, the round shape of which is made up of elegant sandstone buildings.

On the east side is the old town hall, which today houses the remarkable Royal Asiatic Society Library with its more than 10,000 historical manuscripts. A visit to the library is not only worthwhile for the architecture, but is also a relaxing break from strolling through the city: there are countless magazines, periodicals and newspapers to read.

Forgotten opera

At lunchtime, many stalls around the Horniman Circle offer countless variations of the best Indian “fast food”, often from housewives who know exactly what the neat and mostly conservatively dressed employees from the surrounding offices like to eat. It is quite possible that the ingredients for these dishes come from Crawford Market, which is housed in the huge market hall designed by William Emerson and offers everything that is needed for life and survival.

Every building in old Mumbai tells a piece of history from a time when the city was still one of the central interfaces in the British Empire. Mumbai can even boast a European-style opera house. Even many locals no longer know of its existence: It has been too long since high culture was cultivated in the now half-ruined building. It is now being extensively restored by private individuals. What the old walls will be used for one day has not yet been determined. What is certain is that only the name and the architecture of the house will be reminiscent of classical European opera. In Colaba, however, the Art Nouveau cinemas are still in operation, transporting you back to a time in the midst of the hustle and bustle of this gigantic city when Mumbai had no slums.