Mumbai is definitely maximum city. Everything here is exaggerated, feels larger than life and seems like it is the grandest stage there possibly could be. From cricket to Bollywood, and from politics to the share bazar, everything in Mumbai is huge. From the scams to the urban development projects, from the slums to the world’s tallest residential tower, this city of dreams has it all. The construction business has had a major role to play in this evolution of the city and has in a huge way contributed to the very size of this metropolis. Want to know how? Read on…
Bombay to Mumbai: The journey from 7 islands to India’s largest city!
Mumbai wasn’t always the grandiose metropolis it is today, once upon a time it was nothing more than seven dreamy islands populated by fisherfolk. The influx of the Western trading powers, Portugal to start with and then the British, gave Mumbai, then Bombay, a semblance of the super city it is today.
Until the advent of the Portuguese, Mumbai was a vassal state of sorts of the Sultanate of Gujarat. Vary of the growing power of the Mughals in the North and the emergence of the Western trading powers, the Sultanate of Gujarat, in 1534 signed a treaty of peace with the Portuguese and handed over the seven islands of Bombay to them. These would remain in the possession of the Portuguese until 1661. When the Portuguese princess, Catherine de Braganza, married the English prince, Charles II, the islands of Bombay passed on into the English hands.
By then, the Portuguese had started laying the foundations of a city on these islands, albeit with the construction of forts and churches. The most noteworthy of which were the creation of the Bandra fort or Castella de Aguada (Water Castle), and the Madh fort. Several churches like St. Michael’s Church, Mahim, (1534), St. John the Baptist Church, Andheri (1579), and St. Andrew’s Church, Bandra, (1580) were among the prominent constructions of the time.
Since the Portuguese were mostly traders, they built many utilitarian buildings and it was not until the British rule, which Bombay started getting many of its iconic buildings. The ambitious Hornby-Vellard project undertaken by the British imperialists in the mid 18th century resulted in the reclamation of land from the sea around the seven islands and the construction of most roads and highways, we know and use today!
Under the British, Bombay became the capital of the Bombay Presidency, and the most prominent city on the west coast of the Indian subcontinent. The evolution of the rail network with the first train running from Bombay and Thane, gave Mumbai it’s very first ‘world famous’ landmark, Victoria Terminus, in 1887 (today known as CST). King George and Queen Mary’s visit in 1911 gave the city the Gateway of India. Mumbai was on its way to becoming the city it was destined to become. The area between Apollo Bunder and Tardeo, came to be known as the citadel, or town. This was where one had to be during the British Raj, with tram lines crisscrossing on cobblestone streets and gas lamps that never went out.
Bombay’s most famous export back then was cotton textiles, and looms, that spun the yarn came to be established in the Parel area of the city. This area also turned into the hotbed of nationalist activity as the Indian freedom movement progressed.
India’s freedom in 1947 heralded the start of a new era in the city’s history. With India opening up to the world, and rebuilding itself after 2 centuries of British rule, a city like Bombay was the perfect place to show off its capability to the world! Bombay became the showpiece of the nation, with constructions galore happening across the city. The period between the 1960s to the 1980s saw South and Central Mumbai get some of its most iconic buildings!
The surge in population, mainly immigrants in search of work, also galvanised the construction industry into building affordable housing to accommodate this rising population. This led to the rapid flurry of construction in the Northern reaches of the city, from Bandra to Borivali. In a nutshell, constructions played a vital role in ensuring that almost everyone who came to the city received some kind of accommodation!
With the late 80s and the early 90s the paradigm of the construction industry shifted from residential/commercial, to infrastructure and the city received a major fillip when elevated traffic corridors, bridges and railway constructions began to take precedence. Today with the Bandra-Worli sea link operational and the Mumbai Metro almost complete, the city looks set to embrace the challenges of the 21st century.