PUBLISHED: 15:48 18 May 2015 | UPDATED: 15:48 18 May 2015
A visit to India can feel like an assault on the senses, but Rebecca Underwood found her trip to the mesmerising city of Mumbai to be very much to her liking
Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is the Indian capital of the state of Maharashta. This bustling city is an overwhelming, colourful swirling maelstrom of more than 18 million people and it offers an intriguing insight into a rich and vibrant culture and an enthralling history.
In 1661, Charles II married Catherine of Braganza, the daughter of Portugal’s King John IV, and the seven islands of Bombay, which formed part of her dowry, were handed to the English. In 1668 the Royal Charter leased the islands to the East India Company for an annual fee of £10 and the English gained control through a number of treaties following the first Anglo Maratha War.
In 1911 King George V and Queen Mary visited Bombay and to commemorate the occasion the Gateway of India was built. The yellow basalt arch reflects the Indo-Gothic style, standing 85 feet high. In 1947 India achieved independence and the last British troops marched through the gateway, which signalled the end of the British Raj. Today, the Gateway of India is Mumbai’s most popular tourist attraction.
In 1923, to commemorate King George V’s visit to India, the magnificent Prince of Wales Museum, also designed by George Wittet, opened. The museum’s 60,000 exhibits include Hindu and Buddhist sculptures, collections of porcelain, jewellery boxes, coins, snuff bottles, silk and brocade textiles, carpets and miniature paintings.
Mumbai’s Victoria Terminus railway station is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in 1887 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, it is a breathtaking example of Victorian Gothic architecture and every day 3million commuters jostle for space on the overcrowded trains.
Stand on the bridge at Mahalaxmi railway station and you will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the Dhobi Ghat. Said to be the world’s largest open-air laundry, this is where the dhobis (laundry men) work furiously side by side washing enormous mounds of laundry. The dhobis stand in a concrete pen, filled with water, alongside a flogging stone and you will hear the slaps of the linens and clothes as they are washed by hand.
For weary travellers seeking some luxury and first class service, the ITC Grand Central, located in Parel, is the ideal hotel. Inspired by the grandeur of old Bombay’s British Colonial architecture, it is a tranquil haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The hotel’s Kaya Kalp spa is highly recommended and provides relaxing treatments and there is a spacious indoor pool and a gymnasium. ITC Hotels are known for their excellent restaurants and for a first class culinary treat, the hotel’s exceptional Indian restaurant K&K offers an extensive menu.
Whatever you decide to do in Mumbai, you are sure to be mesmerised.