MUMBAI

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Mumbai a cosmopolitan metropolis, earlier known as Bombay, is the largest city in India and the capital of Maharashtra state. Mumbai was originally a conglomeration of seven islands on the Konkan coastline which over time were joined to form the island city of Bombay. The island was in turn joined with the neighboring island of Salsette to form Greater Bombay. The city has an estimated metropolitan population of 21 million (2005), making it one of the world's most populous cities. Mumbai is undoubtedly the commercial capital of India and is one of the predominant port cities in the country. Mumbai's nature as the most eclectic and cosmopolitan Indian city is symbolized in the presence of Bollywood within the city, the centre of the globally-influential Hindi film and TV industries. It is also home to India's largest slum population.

HISTORY

Though the seven islands that now make up the city have a long recorded history like any other place in India, their journey to form the city of Mumbai really started in 1498, when the Portuguese took them over from the Sultan of Gujarat. They built a settlement, forts, and churches, (including the strange looking Portuguese Church that stands to this day.) They, however, could not make much of their possession and the seven islands were handed over to England in 1661 as part of the dowry of Catherine de Braganza when she married Charles II of England. He wasn't very interested in the islands either, and he leased them to the British East India Company for £10 a year in 1668. The East India Company built the docks, the trading posts, and the fort that would form the nerve centre of the city. They also started off the long process of reclaiming land and joining the islands, an activity which went on until the 1960s.

The port attracted industries and the entrepreneurial communities like the Parsis, Gujaratis, and Marwaris (from Rajasthan) migrated and set up trading companies and factories in the late 19th century. Industries attracted migrant labor from different parts of the country. The successive waves of migration shaped the character of the city and its neighborhoods.

The city that owes its existence to the efforts of the British was also the birthplace of the Indian National Congress, which played an overwhelmingly important role in the independence movement. The city whose mills were built by industrialists from across the country is the capital of Maharashtra state, which was carved on linguistic lines for Marathi speakers.

In the 80s, high labor costs and unrest forced the closure of many textile mills and the city went into a decline from which it started recovering only in the late 90s. The high population put a strain on the infrastructure. The rail and road network has been undergoing a steady improvement over the 90s, but because of the magnitude of the task, the roads seem to be perennially under construction. Mumbai has now reinvented itself as a hub for the Service industry.

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