Mumbai – The gate of India

Mumbai is the largest port in India. Since the city harbors that had been there for several centuries were not suitable for receiving container ships, a large container port was built across the bay in 1989, ten kilometers away. It is called the Jawaharlal Nehru Port, after the statesman Nehru. The port is also called Nhava Sheva, after the two villages that lie there.

Mumbai, a gigantic metropolis on a narrow peninsula with more than twenty million people, originally consisted of seven small, volcanic islands. People lived on fishing, and the cultivation of rice, mangoes and coconuts. There have been small ports on the west coast of India for centuries, trading with China, Persia and the Arab world. From the fourteenth century, the area was ruled by Muslim rulers.

Around 1500, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama sailed along the coast of India, visiting the islands of the future Mumbai to stock up on food. The Portuguese defeated the Muslims and named the place Bom Bahia, the Good Bay, which was changed into Bombay. In the seventeenth century India, and therefore Bombay, came into the hands of England. From that century onwards the draining of the marshland between the seven islands started, fortifications, streets and houses and a hospital were built, and trade was stimulated. The port became bigger and safer. But Bombay was still not a pleasant city to live in, it was hot and humid, many residents died of contagious diseases. Due to the fact that shipbuilders settled in the city, numerous large, excellent teak sailing ships were launched, which were much better than the English sailing ships. They lasted twice as long. The city became prosperous.

In the nineteenth century, many quays, ports and dry docks were built on the east side of the city. English steamships came to the port, bringing letters, officials and soldiers from England to Bombay. The construction of the Suez Canal in 1869 increased trade between Europe, India and China. Cotton was mainly exported from Bombay to Europe, and opium to China. One port after another was constructed. Railways and a train station were built to transport raw cotton, grain and tea from the interior to the port.

In 1948, India became independent from England. In the early decades after independence, under the peaceful leaders Mahatma Ghandi and socialist Pandit Nehru, the country pursued a social democratic policy. Later, the Hindu nationalist party came into government, pursuing a neoliberal policy. The Portuguese name Bombay was changed to Mumbai after a Hindu goddess.