History of Mumbai



Mumbai is an eponym derived from the local Hindu goddess, Mumbadevi, whose worship extends back to the 1400’s. In the 16th c., the Portuguese named the area Bom Bahia which means Good Bay. The name was later corrupted to Bomaím. After gaining possession of the isles, the British anglicised the name to Bombay. The city was renamed to Mumbai in 1995.

The city originally consisted of seven little isles. It was part of the kingdom of Ashoka and then various Hindu rulers of the Silhara dynasty until 1343, when it was annexed by the kingdom of Gujerat.
1888 German map of Bombay, now Mumbai

In 1534 the Portuguese took the islands from Bahadur Shah of Gujarat. The islands remained in their hands until 1661, when it ceded as the dowry of Catherine de Braganza to Charles II of England. He, in turn leased it to the British East India Company in 1668 for £10 per annum. The company found the deep harbour at Bombay eminently apposite, and the population rose from 10,000 in 1661 to 60,000 by 1675. In 1687, the East India Company transferred their headquarters there from Surat.

Completed in 1784, the Hornby Vellard was the first of the engineering projects aimed at joining the seven islands. William Hornby, then Governor of Bombay, initiated the project in 1782 despite opposition from the directors of the East India Company. The cost of the vellard was estimated at Rs. 100,000.

From 1817 the city was reshaped with large civil engineering projects merging the seven islands into one single mass of around 435 km² by 1845. In 1853 the country’s first railway link completed, between Bombay and Thana. The city remained in Company hands until after the Revolt of 1857 when it was taken by the Crown.

The city’s economy got a major boost during the American Civil War, (1861-1865) with the city becoming the world’s chief cotton market. In 1869, the opening up of the Suez Canal, shortened the time between the city and Europe and developed into a major port.

Up to the end of the Second World War, Bombay covered only about 67 km² of land from Colaba in the south to Mahim and Sion in the north. The city witnessed large scale Hindu-Muslim riots just before India’s independence in 1947.

In 1950, the city expanded northward with the inclusion of portions of Salsette Island, and by 1957 a number of suburban towns - including Bandra, Andheri, Malad & Borivali - and some villages of Thane were incorporated into Greater Bombay, with an area of 169 square miles (434 km²).

In 1960, the city became the capital of the new state of Maharashtra. A series of land reclamations from the sea in the 1970s and the mushrooming of sky-scrapers reinforced the city’s status as the premier city of the country. In 1992 large scale Hindu-Muslim riots affected the entire city. In March 1993 simultaneous bombings of the city’s institutions killed 300. Since the early 2000s the city’s urbs primus status has been challenged by New Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad.


  • 600 BCE - First known permanent settlement.
  • 300 CE - Part of Ashokas Empire.
  • 900 CE to 1300 CE - part of Hindu Silhara dynasty.
  • 1343 - Part of the Gujarat sultanate.
  • 1508 - Francis Almeida sailed into the deep natural harbour.
  • 1534 - Mumbai ceded to the Portuguese.
  • 1661 - Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza brings Bom Bahia to King Charles II of England as part of her marriage dowry.
  • 1668/1669 - East India Company takes over Bombay
  • 1670 - First printing press imported to Bombay by Parsi businessman Bhimji Parikh
  • 1675 - Population estimated to have risen to 60,000 from 10,000 in 1661.
  • 1675 - The Mumba Devi temple built by an immigrant Hindu woman, Mumba, near the main landing site on the former Bori Bunder creek or inlet, against the north wall of the English Fort Saint George.
  • 1735 - Start of ship-building industry.
  • 1777 - First newspaper published in Bombay by Rustomji.
  • 1822 - First vernacular language newspaper in Bombay, Mumbai Samachar published by Fardoonjee. India’s oldest newspaper still being published.
  • 1838 - First edition of Bombay Times and Journal of Commerce launched
  • 1845 - Grant Medical College founded.
  • April 16, 1853 - First railway line in India between Bombay and Thane.
  • 1854 - First cotton mill started.
  • 1857 - University of Bombay established.
  • 1870 - Bombay Port Trust formed.
  • 1872 - Bombay Municipal Corporation founded.
  • 1885 - Indian National Congress formed at Gowalia tank Maidan .
  • 1887 - Victoria Jubilee Technological Institute (VJTI) established. First and only institute offering degree in engineering until 1960.
  • 1911 - King George V and Queen Mary visit Bombay. Gateway of India built to commemorate the visit.
  • January 12, 1915 - Gandhi returns to India from South Africa at Mumbai.
  • January 22, 1926 - King Edward Memorial Hospital inaugarated.
  • July 15, 1926 - First motorised bus ran between Afghan church and Crawford Market.
  • October 15, 1932 - J. R. D. Tata flew from Karachi to Bombay via Ahmedabad landing on a grass strip at Juhu paving the way for civil aviation in India.
  • August 8, 1942 - Quit India Movement declaration passed at Gowalia Tank Maidan.
  • April 14, 1944 - Massive explosion rocks Bombay Harbour.
  • 1958 - IIT Bombay established in Powai.
  • 31 March 1964 - Last tram made its journey from Bori Bundar to Dadar.
  • December 1992 - January 1993 &mash; Over 2000 people killed in Hindu-Muslim communal riots following Babri Masjid destruction.
  • 1993 - Serial bomb blasts across Mumbai, masterminded by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, kill 300 and injure hundreds more.
  • 1996 - Bombay renamed to Mumbai. Subsequently University of Bombay renamed to University of Mumbai.
  • 1998 - Victoria Jubilee Technological Institute renamed to Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute.
  • August 25, 2003 - Two bombings by Islamist terrorists, allegedly connected to the Pakistani Lashkar-e-Toiba, kill 48 and injure 150.
  • 2004 - The fourth World Social Forum held in Mumbai, from 16-21 January.