7 Islands of Bombay

bombay_map_1700.gifBombay as a city is about 400 years old. Unlike Delhi, it is relatively young and therefore all the more interesting in its rise to becoming India’s Urbs-Prima.

Looking at Bombay today, it would be hard to imagine that all those centuries ago, it was a bunch of small islands. Officially Bombay was a group of Seven Islands, which now exist only in maps. These islands were over time joined by landfills, nature and what have you.

Proceeding roughly south to north, the seven islands ceded by the Portuguese to the British were

1. Colaba: whose name is a corruption of the Koli name Kolbhat.

2. Old Woman’s Island: (alternatively, Old Man’s Island) a small rock between Colaba and Bombay, whose name is a corruption of the Arabic name Al-Omani, after the deep-sea fishermen who ranged up to the Gulf of Oman.

3. Bombay: the main harbour and the nucleus of the British fort from which the modern city grew; it stretched from Dongri on the east to Malabar Hill on the west.

4. Mazagaon: a Koli settlement to the east of Bombay island was seperated from it by Umarkhadi and Pydhonie.

5. Worli: north of Bombay was seperated from it by the Great Breach, which extended westwards almost to Dongri.

6. Parel: North of Mazagaon and called by many other names, including Matunga, Dharavi and Sion. The original population was predominantly Koli.

7. Mahim: to the west of Parel and north of Worli, took its name from the Mahim river and was the capital of a 13th century kingdom founded by Raja Bhimdev.

By far there were more islands and there still are a few but these formed the city as we all know it.

1 Comment so far

  1. IdeaSmith (unregistered) on August 17th, 2007 @ 6:49 pm

    That’s informative, Arzan. I didn’t know the suburbs (and the actual ‘growing’ city today) weren’t a part of the original 7 islands. Guess we should stop referring to it as city of 7 islands then?

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