travelgrove Travel Guides

Bombay History, India

Bombay history is as fascinating as the city herself. The earliest episodes of Bombay history started in pre-historic times with the formation of the archipelago of seven islands – Bombay, Colaba, Little Colaba, Mahim, Mazagoan, Parel and Worli – as a result of a series of geological activities. Archeological findings have indicated that at least some of these islands were inhabited since the Stone Age; but the first permanent settlers of the Bombay islands were Kolis, a fishing community with Dravidian roots, who followed animism. By 1000 BC, the region was doing brisk business with other trading nations like Egypt and Persia.

Bombay History -under the Mauryas and the Native Hindu Rulers

Bombay’s first encounters with Hinduism and Buddhism occurred in the days of the Mauryan Empire in third century BC. Some of Bombay’s religious sites like the Kanheri Caves and Mahakali Caves (renowned for their artistry), belong to this period of Bombay history. Following the decline of the Mauryas, the islands saw rules of local dynasties.

The Satavahanas ruled the longest, from 185 BC to 250 AD. They were followed by the Abhiras and the Vakatakas, who ruled the islands concurrently for a little less than one-and-a-half centuries. The Kalachuris held power in the 5th century and the Konkan Mauryas in the 6th century. (The Elephanta Caves were built during the reign of the Kokan Mauryas).

The Chalukyas dethroned the Konkan Mauryas early in the 7th century and ruled the region till 750 AD, when they faced defeat at the hands of the Rashtrakutas. Next followed the rule of the Silhara Dynasty of Konkan – their reign spanned almost five centuries (beginning in 810 AD and continuing till 1260 AD) and is considered as one of the most productive periods in the history of Bombay. The last Hindu dynasty to rule over the islands was founded by Raja Bhimdev in the latter part of the 13th century. Raja Bhimdev’s successors were overthrown by the Muslim rulers of Gujarat.

Bombay History -under the Gujarat Sultanate and the Portuguese

When the Gujarat Sultanate was established in 1391, the islands became a part of the sultanate. This continued until the arrival of the Portuguese, with brief breaks in between resulting from the attacks of the Bahamani Sultanate of Deccan.

The first man of Portuguese-origin to set foot on the islands was explorer Francisco de Almeida; it was Almeida who gave the island-group a new name – Bom Bahia (standing for ‘Good Bay’ in Portuguese). Portuguese settlements in the islands started mushrooming only after the establishment of the factory at Bassein in 1526. Two years later, in 1528 the Portuguese took over the Mahim Fort from the Gujarat Sultanate. In the meantime, the advancing steps of the Mughal Empire (under Humayun) had started intimidating the Gujarat ruler, Bahadur Shah – and ultimately he had a peace treaty with the Portuguese in 1534, namely, the Treaty of Bassien, which gave the Portuguese complete authority over the seven islands. The Portuguese rule over Bom Bahia continued for more than a century, until 1661, when the marriage pact of Charles II of England and Catherine of Portugal turned Bom Bahia into a British territory. Bombay’s many landmarks built during this period, that continue to amaze visitors, bear testimony to the facts that the Portuguese were followers of Catholic faith and highly patronized art.

Bombay History -under British Rule

Charles II initially appointed a Governor General to administer the islands in 1662, but six years later in 1668, Bombay and the other islands were leased to the British East India Company by a Royal Charter. From the very beginning, the Company engaged in planning and expansion work with a view to turn the islands into a commercial/trading center. Soon the islands started attracting different business communities like Armenians, Gujarati Banias, Jews, Parsis resulting in population-boom.

Although the Company did not enjoy unopposed control over the islands, rather had to engage in crucial wars and face defeats here and there, the Company resisted any hindrances to the infrastructural development of the islands. A number of docks and harbors, forts and churches, etc. were built initially, but the ambitious Hornby Vellard engineering project that aimed at uniting the seven islands into a single landmass was undertaken in 1782. The next important thing to happen in the history of Bombay was the 1803 inferno that ravaged a large section of the Old Fort area.

The beginning of the 19th century saw the Company undertake educational and economic uplift of the city and its populace. The Elphinstone High School and College were established in the first half of the 19th century, as was the Grant Medical College. The University of Bombay was established in 1857. A number of banks and mercantile firms were established along with some more significant happenings like the establishment of Bombay Municipality and of the Bombay Stock Exchange, the arrival of electricity in Bombay and the completion of Victoria Terminus.

Nevertheless, the most important thing to happen in 19th century Bombay was the First Session of the Indian National Congress (held in 1885) that marked the political arousal of the nation as a whole. This was only the beginning and thereafter (in the 20th century) Bombay became a prominent center from where national leaders gave momentum and direction to India’s independence movements. Incidentally, Bombay happened to be the city from where the last British troops departed after India’s independence.

Bombay History in Post Independence Era

After independence Bombay city became a part of Bombay State. Following the division of the Bombay State into the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra in 1960, Bombay was included in Maharashtra along with other the Marathi-speaking regions like Pune, Nagpur, Nasik (while Gujarati-speaking regions like Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Vadodara and a few more became a part of Gujarat).

There is no denying that Bombay has been and continues to be the commercial capital of India since India’s independence but the post-independence era has given the city reasons/moments of discomfort and uneasiness side-by-side its moments of jubilation. The worst phases that Bombay has had to go through were during the Bombay Riots (Dec. 1992 – Jan. 1993) and the 1993 Bombay bombings. The last important thing to happen in the 20th century was the renaming of the city – Bombay became a history and has since been called Mumbai.

21st century Bombay or Mumbai again saw some ghastly episodes of terrorism – a couple of blasts in 2003, a series of seven blasts on the Suburban Railway in 2007, some racist attacks in the early 2008 and coordinated tourist attacks between November 26 and 29.

Ask our travel experts a question about Bombay

Things about Bombay you may be interested in

Be the first who requests a site listing for this page.

Read our members' reviews about Bombay

No reviews have been added yet for this category. Be the first to add a new one.

Read our members' travel tips about Bombay

No travel tips have been added yet for this category. Be the first to add a new one.


the best travel deals provided by TravelZoo...
  •$730Etihad Airways flightEtihad Airways
    New York, NY (JFK)  Mumbai, IN (BOM)
    10/26/2016 03:00 pm
    Mumbai, IN (BOM)  New York, NY (JFK)
    11/02/2016 09:25 pm
  •$755United Airlines flightUnited Airlines
    Detroit, MI (DTW)  Mumbai, IN (BOM)
    10/27/2016 11:35 am
    Mumbai, IN (BOM)  Detroit, MI (DTW)
    11/03/2016 11:10 pm
  •$781Etihad Airways flightEtihad Airways
    San Francisco, CA (SFO)  Mumbai, IN (BOM)
    10/26/2016 09:40 am
    Mumbai, IN (BOM)  San Francisco, CA (SFO)
    11/02/2016 09:25 pm

Bombay City Ratings

  • Ratingunrated
    City Rankunrated
  • History & Culture: not rated
  • Night Life & Entertainment: not rated
  • Family & Fun: not rated
  • Outdoors Activities: not rated
  • Food: not rated
  • Sightseeing: not rated
  • Shopping: not rated
  • Public Transportation: not rated
  • Must visit this place: not rated
ToolsBookmark and Share

Popular destinations

   Welcome to Travelgrove  register tell a friend bookmark it