Are Bombay and Mumbai the Same?

Bombay was renamed Mumbai - View of Bombay


Are Mumbai and Bombay the Same?


The old name for Mumbai (India) was Bombay. Bombay, India, was renamed Mumbai in 1995.



Mumbai and Bombay

Bombay or Mumbai used to be an archipelago of seven islands. Mumbai has been inhabited from the Stone Age. The Koli Community (fishing community) is thought to be amongst the earliest inhabitants of Mumbai. Over the years different rulers and their dynasties have ruled over Mumbai and left their mark in the form of important monuments. Some of these ancient monuments are the Kanheri Caves (third century BCE) which contain Buddhist art, Jogeshwari Caves (520) which also contain Buddhist art, Elephanta Caves (sixth century), Banganga tank and temples (10th to 12th century) which are Hindu holy places, Haji Ali Dargah (1431) which is the tomb of the Muslim saint Haji Ali, St. Michael’s Church in Mahin (1534), St. John the Baptist Church at Andheri (1579), St. Andrew’s Church at Bandra (1580), Gloria Church at Byculla (1632).


As per the Treaty of Bassein, the seven islands of Mumbai and surrounding areas were handed to the Portuguese in 1534. The attraction of Mumbai/Bombay was its deep water port and its emergence as a trading post. On 11 May 1661, the English king Charles II signed a marriage treaty with the Portuguese king John IV; whose daughter, Catherine of Braganza, he was to marry in 1662. Bombay and Tangier were handed over to the British as part of Catherine’s dowry. In 1668, the British leased Bombay to the British East India Company. Soon Bombay saw a spurt in population and economic activity.


Given its strategic importance, the British East India Company moved its headquarters from Surat to Bombay in 1687. As trade and population grew, the British felt the need to reshape Bombay. Towards the end of 18th century, the British undertook large-scale civil engineering projects to join together the seven islands of Bombay into one large island.



How did Bombay and Mumbai get their names?

The phrase “Bom Baim” meant “Good little bay” in old Portuguese. It is quite an apt description of Bombay. It is thought that when the Portuguese handed over Bombay to the British, the “Bom Baim” name was anglicized to “Bombay” and it became the official name of the seven islands.


The Kolis (fishing community) are thought to be the earliest inhabitants of Bombay/Mumbai. The patron goddess of the Kolis is Goddess Mumbadevi. The word Mumbai is an amalgamation of “Mumba” (from Goddess Mumbadevi) and “Ai” (which is “Mother” in Marathi). Hence the name “Mumbai”.


When and Why did the name change from Bombay to Mumbai?

The name change from Bombay to Mumbai happened in November 1995.

The name change from Bombay to Mumbai was done on the insistence of the Shiv Sena, which is a regional political party which champions the cause of the local Marathi population. When the Shiv Sena won the Maharashtra state elections in 1995, among the first steps it took was to rename Bombay to Mumbai.


Importance of Mumbai / Bombay

Mumbai is the capital of the Indian state of Maharashtra.

Mumbai is the most populous city of India.

Mumbai is also the financial capital of India with the Reserve Bank of India headquartered in Mumbai. Many important banks, financial institutions and companies are also headquartered in Mumbai. It is estimated that Mumbai contributes 5% of India’s GDP.

Mumbai port and the surrounding port of JNPT are the busiest ports in India.

The oldest stock exchange (Bombay Stock Exchange – BSE) in Asia is headquartered in Mumbai. Also India’s largest stock exchange, National Stock Exchange (NSE) is also headquartered in Mumbai.

Mumbai is an important entertainment center with the large Hindi film industry and the niche Marathi film industry.

Image by Nikkul. File from Wikemedia Commons. Image used under Creative Commons license CC-BY-SA-2.0

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