Mumbai has a rich heritage and is filled with iconic monuments and structures that define its history. The city has long been regarded as the commercial hub of the country, but its legacy extends well beyond its busy markets and high rises. Mumbai has a tradition of architecture, culture, art, and history, with a number of monuments dotting its landscape. Here are ten iconic sights that best represent the diversity of the city that never sleeps.
Mumbai is regarded by many as the commercial capital of the country, so it should be no surprise that the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) is at the top of the list of Icons of Mumbai. The BSE building has long been a defining feature of Mumbai’s busy business district, but it is also of great historic importance. Located on Dalal Street, the BSE is notable as the oldest stock trading center in not just India, but in Asia. It is also the fastest stock exchange in the world, with the median trade speed being 6 microseconds. The BSE is also one of the largest stock exchanges in the world in terms of market capitalization.
The Gateway of India is perhaps the city’s best-known historic monument. The foundation stone was laid in 1911 and the imposing monument was finally completed in 1924. The monument is located at Apollo Bunder, looking out at the sea, while the grand Taj Hotel stands behind it. In addition to the aesthetic beauty of the place, the Gateway of India also has great historic significance. It is tied to the story of India’s independence from British Rule, as the last colonial troops to leave the country departed through the gateway on 28 February 1948.
Mumbai’s railway network is very much a part of the city’s identity and Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is historic to say the least. This railway station was once called Bori Bunder station, before being rebuilt as Victoria Terminus, and it was part of the first rail network in all of Asia. The imposing structure that stands today was rechristened as Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, but is still referred to as VT by most of the locals. The huge railway terminal is an imposing structure with its beautiful blend of Victorian Gothic and Mughal architecture. It is still one of the busiest railway stations in the country.
Flora Fountain is another monument that is part of the city’s legacy, as it lends its name to the entire area. Located at the southern end of DN Road, in Fort, monument comprises of a beautiful Greco-Roman Fountain, adorned by a finely crafted sculpture of the Roman goddess Flora. The fountain itself is beautifully sculpted, with the four corners bearing mythological figures. This important center of art and commerce is still popularly referred to as Fountain.
The Rajabai Clock Tower is another one of the city’s old architectural treasures from the colonial era, having been built in 1878. The striking tower was modeled after the world-famous Big Ben, in London, and it is monumental in its own right. At the time, it was the tallest structure in the city, defining the cityscape for decades. The building was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and constructed with funding from Premchand Roychand, who’s only request was that the tower be named after his mother. The tower is still imposing with its fusion of Venetian and Gothic styles and is a must visit for anyone with an interest in history or architecture. Today, the structure is housed in the Mumbai University’s Fort campus.
Haji Ali Dargah (tomb) is another architectural marvel, built along Mumbai’s beautiful coastal stretch at Worli. Its mesmerizing beauty and the devotion of religious followers has made it one of the most prominent city landmarks. Located just off the coast, on a small isle in Worli Bay, the structure is connected to the mainland by narrow pathway. The 500 meter long path is only passable during low tide, but the dargah looks most enchanting on a moonlit night, when it appears to be floating on the sea.
Wankhede Stadium is one of the national treasures of Mumbai, considering that it has played host to some of the most historic cricket matches. In 2011, it was the venue for the Cricket World Cup Final, in which India emerged as the champions after beating Sri Lanka by 6 wickets. It was also the site of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar’s last international match. The world-class stadium was built in 1975 and has been the venue for many domestic and international matches, including Cricketing World Cup events. This makes it a veritable shrine for any Indian cricketing enthusiast.
The Bandra Fort is one of the oldest relics of Mumbai’s colonial past. Located in the plush suburb of Bandra, the fortification was constructed in 1640, with a watchtower that looked out across the Mahim Bay, Arabian Sea, and, what was then, the southern island of Mahim. Once the British took control of the seven islands that comprised Bombay, the Portuguese strengthened the fortifications to defend against any threats from British-controlled Mahim Fort. Eventually Portuguese power declined, the fort was partially demolished by the British and it slipped into ruin. In the last decade the fort received uplift, with beautification and restoration works transforming it into a tourist attraction.
The Bandra-Worli Sealink probably best represents the modern ethos of the city of Mumbai. The colossal structure may have been constructed to address the city’s traffic woes, but it was also built to make a statement. The link consists of pier-supported bridges, as well as a cable-stayed structure that adds to its aesthetic value. It dominates the seascape and has made Worli Seaface an even more popular hangout point. Visit the site to be treated to spectacular views of the Arabian Sea and the modern architectural marvel.
Sanjay Gandhi National Park, in Borivali, is the largest nature reserve in the world, to be located within an urban setting and it is also home to one of the city’s most ancient monuments. The Kanheri Caves comprise of rock-cut formations that include living quarters and huge prayer halls for Buddhist monks, who inhabited the area between one to two thousand years ago. These cave dwellings were beautifully sculpted from the natural basalt rock formations. The walls of the caves are adorned with intricate carvings, inscriptions and sculptures that are truly awe-inspiring. You can sign up for a guided tour of the caves with Cleartrip Activities and even enjoy a wildlife safari once you are done exploring the caves.
Whether you live in Mumbai, or are visiting, make it a point to check out these attractions. With a blend of old and new, Mumbai’s icons are typical of the city that treasures its history, while embracing the future.