Monday, October 16, 2006

Pictures of Mumbai

This is the gateway to India. It stands at the port in Mumbai. To explain what Mumbai is all about:

It's the financial heart of the country, it's where Bollywood is located and is the industrial hub of about everything. You can notice that this city has money because every half hour you will see a Mercedes, BMW or other type of car pass through. Many cars are already manufactured here, which makes them a lot cheaper. Cars that are imported will typically have a 300% trade barrier. At least originally, I heard it was reduced to 100% due to international pressure. But still, that incredible Maserati I saw yesterday looks to belong to someone that doesn't need to care too much about money.

Historically, this city was inhabited by Koli fisherfolk, which goes back to 2nd century BC. Then it was ruled by various Hindu dynasties, invaded by Muslims in 14th century and then ceded to the Portuguese in 1534. The British were here from 1665 onwards, but leased to the East India Company. And so, Bombay evolved to become a trading port with merchants and pretty soon thereafter Bombay was the trading HQ of all east-coast of India. It had a cotton boom because the American Civil War dried up all supply of cotton from the US. Thereafter it played a big role in India's independence.

Two of the main landmarks are the Taj Mahal hotel (which I visited yesterday and shown on right) and the Gateway of India. These are all on the southern point of the island, called Colaba. Mumbai is actually an island that is connected to the mainland by bridges.

The gateway of India is basically a colonial landmark in Mumbai. It was officially opened in 1924, but only used until some years thereafter (1948), when the British left India to leave it independent. The last British regiment left through that archway. Closeby, the Taj Mahal hotel, was architected by a Frenchman and built by a Parsi industrialist. Account has it that this industrialist was refused access by other hotels on the basis that he was a "native", so he constructed his own hotel over there.

The Bombay university and High Court are of Victorian style though. Another landmark is Victoria Station, which looks more like a cathedral than a plain railway station. The high court building is also interesting... Many of the court buildings around the world use the image of "Justitia", a blind-folded woman that holds the scales of justice in her hands. However, local stone carvers here saw things a bit differently... the image here depicted is that of a one-eyed monkey with scales.

Well, as you can tell, so far I have not really shown you anything of the real India, only boring colonial style buildings ;) We'll be travelling to other parts around India where the influences are quite different and more native. We're travelling by car and driver around the Delhi triangle, going to Jodhpur, Agra, Jaipur and Udaipur. We're deciding right now what to visit.Last but not least, a horse riksha. Not sure what it is really called, because the driver only speaks Hindi.


Anonymous said...

Great blog. Nice to read the observations of an outsider.
One correction "because the driver only speaks Hindu." I feel it is a should be Hindi. Hindu or Hinduism is the main religion.
Keep posting more on India.

Gerard Toonstra said...

ok, corrected. I think it's interesting to also see responses. If there is anything that you feel is nonsense that I am writing, please respond and let me know.