Bombay or Mumbai? Since the 1990's, the right wing local Maharashtra State government has been slowly erasing English names from the city that was created and almost entirely built during the British Raj. Streets, public buildings, railway stations, and the city's name of course, have not been spared. Each English place name was replaced with a word or name in Marathi, the national language of the state, thus rendering it unrecognisable by locals and unpronounceable by foreigners. The government mandated that all businesses and publications use the Marathi name for the city, Mumbai. As the world respectfully embraced the renaming of Bombay to Mumbai, the stubborn Bombaykars - or should I say Mumbaikars? - have continued to call their city Bombay and to use traditional names for streets and buildings, partly in rejection of less tolerant right-wing government policies. How long will this last? Perhaps it will be a generation before the old names are all but forgotten? Only time will tell.
But where do the names Bombay and Mumbai come from?
It is commonly believed that when the Portuguese discovered the Bombay area and its seven islands in the 16th century, they recognised its potential as a natural harbour and called it Bom Bahia, meaning "Good Bay" in Portuguese. It is presumed that Bom Bahia later transformed into Bombaim before it was anglicised in the 17th century by the British to "Bombay." Others argue that the Portuguese would have named it Boa Bahia, to be grammatically correct, and that Bombaim actually came from Maiamba or Maha-Amba, a derivation of Mumba Devi, the Hindu goddess worshiped by native inhabitants of the area prior to the arrival of the Portuguese. Therefore, the official change of the name to Mumbai is an assertion of the latter theory and a hijacking of the history of the city away from the colonising Portuguese and British. Indeed, the British were brutal in their occupation of India, but would altering the names bring any new victories over the British Empire?
For now, I will go with the locals and simply call it Bombay. Perhaps one day I will have to update this page and eliminate all references to Bombay, Victoria Terminus, Flora Fountain, Marine Drive, Colaba Causeway and many, many more. I may even question if the British were ever here...
People you meet may ask you questions that seem extremely personal from a Western perspective. How old are you? How much money do you make? How much did that cost? These are questions Westerners are conditioned not to ask directly, though indirect queries often draw out the information. Here, people who want to know are more likely to ask directly, and mean no rudeness in doing so. Try not to get huffy. In fact, conversations like these are great to turn around and ask details of the other person that you may not normally ask. Find out the reality behind at least some of the many faces you'll encounter in your travels.
Bombay is pot-pourri of Indian cultures. There are people from the four corners of India, jostling to make their money in this city. Nearly everyone speaks Hindi and English. Here are a few tips for tourists.
firstly, language tips:
Hindi - English
Kya aap english samajte hain? - Do you understand Hindi?
kaunsi train/bus Bandra jaati hain? - Which Train or bus goes to Bandra (here bandra is the name of a station. substitute it for wherever you wanna go).
dhanyavaad - thank you
mujhe hindi nahin aata - i don't know hindi.
there are quite a few temples in the city and surrounding towns. please remove your shoes/slippers before entering any temple. also, ask the local priest or guide if one is allowed to take photographs before taking them. don't encourage the beggars around the city. if you pay one of them, a hundred will surround you.
there is no fixed rate for tips in india. if you are happy with the service then you can pay any amount from 2% - 10% of the bill.
Namaste (hindi), vanakkam (tamil), namashkaar(marathi) - hello
You will be amazed at the cultural diversity in Bombay. Although many languages are spoken throughout Bombay,most know/speak/understand English. Many religions are practiced. Churches, Mosques, Hindu Temples, Sikh Gurdwaras, Parsi Temples, Jewish Synagogues you name it and you will find it in Bombay. Watch out for cultural events that take place in specific halls/auditoriums throughout Bombay, by local newspaper,
radio, tv and internet. Adjoining pic: Esselworld near Malad
Within a hundred years of their arrival in India, the Parsees fulfilled their promise and consecrated a fire temple in Sanjan in honor of Behram Yazata. Contrary to popular belief, no consecrated fire has ever been brought from Iran, only the ash, alat and nirang were brought to maintain ritual continuity.
If you're travelling in India it's a good idea to wear khadi. This is the name for hand-spun and hand-woven cotton. It was a symbol of Gandhi's independence movement. But more importantly for the visitor it's the most comfortable thing you can wear in this country when the temperature rises.
Ready-made khadi shirts and trousers (kurta/pyjama) can be purchased at branches of KVIC/Khadi Bhavan (found in most cities).
Or better still, take the time to buy a length of cloth and get your clothes tailored. Anybody you ask will be able to recommend a good tailor.
It's a fun thing for the family to do and will keep everybody cool, comfortable and happy in the heat.
Wear tailored khadi in India and you'll all feel much more at home.
Mr Bimal Irani is a member of the Parsi community and has a house along with many other Parsis in their community enclave off Colaba Causeway. He saw us walking and staring inside the enclave and extended his hand offered us hearty welcome. He explained to us about his community. Surprising to note that many of the Parsis do speak Farsi the language of Iran and have relatives in Iran. They are a successful community and are well known for their generosity
He then offered to drive us around and showed us first the community and then took us to our destination. A gentleman and a friend he has become. I will keep in touch with hi, He had a very large ice factory during its heydey and now is retired and has left the daily handlings of the businesses to his children. His son who studied in the USA came back, proudly announcing that for a parsi the best place to stay is Bombay
If you evert stumble upon them, you should try reading one of the local newspapers - they seem to dwell into people's private lives and name and shame naughty people - a very Asian thing! Like that isn't enough, even the latters address is printed out in the article. LOL!
Diwali Festival is known as the "festival of lights", as the people traditionally light small oil lamps (called diyas) and place them around the home and its also marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year. Its normally celebrated in October-November, which is also the best time to visit India.
More on Diwali
Started by Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler, to promote culture and nationalism, the festival was revived by Freedom fighter Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak , as he started the custom of 'Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav' (public festival) in Maharashtra, during the Indian Independence fight. The aim behind this was to bring the people close to each other.
Images of Little Ganeshas are placed in street corners and in homes, and poojas are performed daily and elaborate arrangements are made for lighting and decoration.The Ganesh idols are kept for seven or ten days and then the 'Ganesh Visarjan' is performed on this day , whereby the idols are
immersed in sea waters.
I believe that Lord Ganesha is Mumbaikars most popular and favorite diety. The Siddhivinayak temple of Lord Ganesha at Prabhadevi is very famous. It is said that if you pray with your true heart your wish will surely be granted at this temple, people visit the temple in thousands every Tuesdays as it is the holy day of the Lord.
Navratri, the festival of nine nights is celebrated to pay reverence to the benign Goddess Durga. The festival is the celebration of the eternal truth that truth prevails, whatever the circumstances.
Though it is celebrated in almost all parts of India during October to November, the celebrations in Gujarat, Mumbai and Mysore holds more prominence.
The main difference between the 'Garba' and 'Dandiya' dance performances is that Garba is performed before
'Aarti' (worshipping ritual) as devotional performances in the honor of the Goddess while Dandiya is performed after it, as a part of merriment. While Garba is performed exclusively by women, men and women join in for Dandiya.
Also known as 'stick dance' as performers use a pair of colorfully decorated sticks as props, the circular movements of Dandiya Raas are slightly more complex than that of Garba. The dancers strike the sticks with their partners to the rhythm of the music.
The origin of these dance performances or 'Raas' can be traced back to the life of Lord Krishna. Today, 'Rasa' is not only an important part of Navaratra in Gujarat but extends itself to other festivals related to harvest and crops as well.
The festival of Holi is celebrated on the day after the full moon in early March every year.
Originally a festival to celebrate good harvests and fertility of the land, Holi is now a symbolic commemmoration of a legend from Hindu Mythology. The story centres around an arrogant king who resents his son Prahlada worshipping Lord Vishnu. He attempts to kill his son but fails each time. Finally, the king's sister Holika who is said to be immune to burning, sits with the boy in a huge fire. However, the prince Prahlada emerges unscathed, while his aunt burns to death. Holi commemorates this event from mythology, and huge bonfires are burnt on the eve of Holi as its symbolic representation.
This exuberant festival is also associated with the immortal love of Krishna and Radha, and hence, Holi is spread over 16 days in Vrindavan as well as Mathura - the two cities with which Lord Krishna shared a deep affiliation.
Apart from the usual fun with coloured powder and water, Holi is marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and a general sense of abandoned vitality.
The Feast of Mount Mary and the Bandra Fair (from September 14) in Mumbai commemorates the birth of Jesus' mother on September 8.
During this week, thousands -- Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs -- flock to the Mount Mary Basilica to venerate Mother Mary.
The Portuguese built the Nossa Senhora de Monte chapel at the site in 1640.
The chapel crowned the hill till 1738 when it was razed in a raid by Maratha warriors. According to legend, six months later a fisherman recovered the life-sized statue of the Virgin from the sea. The statue was installed in the Mount Mary Church, built in 1761 with funds from parishioners.
The foundation for a new chapel designed by architect Shapoorjee Chandabhoy was laid on May 11, 1902. Built in Khandki and Porbunder stone, the church is 110 feet long, 38 feet wide, and features an inner gallery running on three sides and new towers, each 80 feet long. On December 5, 1954, the Vatican granted the church the status of basilica.