A Short History of Mumbai (Bombay): Background information when reading Sacred Games

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Sacred Games

A Novel

by Vikram Chandra

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra X
Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2007, 928 pages
    Jan 2008, 928 pages


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A Short History of Mumbai (Bombay)

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Print Review

The port city of Mumbai, on the West coast of India, originally consisted of a series of islands which are now joined together through reclamation. Although the area had been inhabited for many thousands of years and had been an important trading port and a center for Hindu and Buddhist culture, the city as we know it today was founded by the Portuguese around 1535 (who named it Bom Bahia, "Good Bay"). The land fell into Portuguese hands when the Sultan of Gujarat was forced to conclude a deal with them to help him defend his territory against the expanding Mughal Empire.

Bombay was ceded to Charles II of Britain in the late 17th century as part of the dowry of the Portuguese Princess Catherine de Braganza, and was promptly leased to the British East India Company* for 10 pounds in gold each year. The British East India Company undertook substantial reclamation projects to develop the modern city of Bombay and, during the 19th century, Bombay became, and continues to be, an important center of international commerce, industry and culture, despite its chronic overcrowding (a population exceeding 15 million), high crime rates and pollution.

In 1995 its name was officially changed to Mumbai (the name that had always been used by Marathi and Gujarati speakers, whereas Hindu-speakers refer to it as Bambai). Other Indian cities that have been renamed since India gained independence from Britain in the 1940s include Chennai (formerly Madras), Kolkata (formerly Culcutta) and Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore).

*The British East India Company came into being in 1599 when Elizabeth I granted the company a 21-year monopoly on trade in the East Indies, an area encompassing India and most of South-East Asia, which the Company quickly consolidated into a commercial trading venture that virtually ruled India until 1858 when it was dissolved.

Filed under Places, Cultures & Identities

This "beyond the book article" relates to Sacred Games. It originally ran in January 2007 and has been updated for the January 2008 paperback edition. Go to magazine.

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