When Bombay Changed its Name to Mumbai

Geography

Bombay, now known as Mumbai, is a vibrant city located on the western coast of India. The name change from Bombay to Mumbai occurred in 1995 and holds significant historical and cultural significance. This article explores the reasons behind the name change, the historical background, the impact on the city, and the reactions of the local population.

The Historical Background

Bombay, a name derived from the Portuguese “Bom Bahia” meaning “Good Bay,” was originally a group of seven islands inhabited by fishing communities. In the 16th century, the islands came under the control of the Portuguese, followed by the British East India Company in 1661. The British developed Bombay into a major trade hub, transforming it into a bustling city.

During British rule, Bombay became the capital of the Bombay Presidency, an administrative region of British India. The city witnessed rapid industrialization and urbanization, attracting people from various parts of India and the world. It became a melting pot of different cultures, languages, and traditions.

The Demand for a Name Change

In the late 20th century, there was a growing movement to change the name of Bombay to Mumbai, led by regional political parties. The demand for the name change was rooted in a desire to reclaim the city’s pre-colonial identity and assert regional pride.

The name “Mumbai” is believed to have originated from the goddess Mumbadevi, the patron deity of the Koli fishing community, who were the original inhabitants of the islands. The name “Bombay” was considered a colonial legacy that did not reflect the city’s indigenous roots.

Political and Social Factors

The political and social factors leading to the name change were primarily driven by the rise of regional political parties advocating for the rights and cultural heritage of the Marathi-speaking population in the state of Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located. These parties argued that renaming Bombay to Mumbai would be a symbolic step towards recognizing the city’s local identity.

They also argued that the name change would help to rectify the historical injustice faced by the Marathi-speaking population, who felt marginalized during British rule and the subsequent dominance of non-Marathi communities in Bombay’s social and economic spheres.

The legal process for changing the name of a city in India involves several steps. First, the state government passes a resolution proposing the name change, which is then sent to the central government for approval. Once approved, the state government officially notifies the change and updates all relevant documents and records.

In the case of Bombay, the Maharashtra State Assembly passed a resolution in 1995 to change the name to Mumbai. The resolution was subsequently approved by the central government, and the name change became official on November 6, 1995.

The Impact on the City

The name change from Bombay to Mumbai had significant implications for the city’s identity, culture, and economy. Mumbai’s new name was seen as a symbol of regional pride and cultural assertion, reflecting the aspirations of the Marathi-speaking population.

Identity and Cultural Shift

The name change brought about a shift in the city’s identity, as it embraced its historical and cultural roots. Mumbai, as a name, resonated with the local population and instilled a sense of belonging and pride. It also reinforced the city’s status as the capital of Maharashtra and the heart of Marathi culture.

The change in name also had an impact on the city’s cultural landscape. Many institutions, landmarks, and street names were revised to reflect the new name. For example, the iconic Victoria Terminus railway station was renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, honoring the Maratha warrior king.

Economic and Global Recognition

Mumbai, even before the name change, was a major economic powerhouse in India. The city’s transformation into Mumbai further solidified its position as the country’s financial and commercial capital. It attracted global investments and became a hub for multinational corporations, further boosting its economic growth.

The name change also enhanced the global recognition of the city. Mumbai gained prominence on the international stage, and the new name became synonymous with India’s economic progress and cultural diversity.

Reactions and Controversies

The name change sparked various reactions and controversies, both within Mumbai and outside. While many welcomed the change as a positive step towards recognizing the city’s cultural heritage, others criticized it for being a political move that neglected the city’s cosmopolitan nature.

Support for the Name Change

Supporters of the name change argued that it was a long-overdue recognition of Mumbai’s indigenous roots. They believed that the name “Bombay” carried colonial baggage and failed to acknowledge the city’s rich history and diverse population.

Proponents of the name change also emphasized the importance of linguistic and cultural pride, asserting that renaming the city to Mumbai was a way to rectify the historical injustices faced by the Marathi-speaking population.

Opposition to the Name Change

Opponents of the name change expressed concerns about erasing the city’s cosmopolitan legacy. They argued that Bombay had become a symbol of inclusivity, multiculturalism, and diversity, and that changing the name would undermine these values.

Some critics also viewed the name change as a politically motivated move, aimed at consolidating regional power and diverting attention from other pressing issues faced by the city, such as infrastructure development and poverty alleviation.

FAQs

  1. Why was the name changed from Bombay to Mumbai?

    The name change from Bombay to Mumbai was driven by a desire to reclaim the city’s pre-colonial identity and assert regional pride. It aimed to recognize the city’s indigenous roots and rectify historical injustices faced by the Marathi-speaking population.

  2. When did Bombay officially become Mumbai?

    Bombay officially became Mumbai on November 6, 1995, following the approval of the name change resolution by the central government.

  3. What is the significance of the name Mumbai?

    The name Mumbai is believed to have originated from the goddess Mumbadevi, the patron deity of the Koli fishing community, who were the original inhabitants of the islands. The name holds cultural and historical significance, symbolizing the city’s indigenous roots.

  4. Did the name change impact the city’s economy?

    The name change from Bombay to Mumbai further solidified the city’s position as India’s financial and commercial capital. It attracted global investments, multinational corporations, and enhanced the city’s economic growth.

  5. How did the name change affect the city’s cultural landscape?

    The name change led to the revision of many institutions, landmarks, and street names to reflect the new name. For example, the iconic Victoria Terminus railway station was renamed Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, honoring the Maratha warrior king.

  6. What were the reactions to the name change?

    Reactions to the name change varied. Supporters welcomed it as a positive step towards recognizing the city’s cultural heritage, while opponents criticized it for neglecting the city’s cosmopolitan nature and viewed it as a politically motivated move.

  7. Did the name change impact the city’s global recognition?

    Yes, the name change enhanced the global recognition of the city. Mumbai gained prominence on the international stage, and the new name became synonymous with India’s economic progress and cultural diversity.

  8. How was the name change process carried out?

    The name change process involved the Maharashtra State Assembly passing a resolution proposing the name change, which was then approved by the central government. Once approved, the state government officially notified the change and updated all relevant documents and records.

  9. What is the historical background of Bombay?

    Bombay, originally a group of seven islands, came under the control of the Portuguese in the 16th century, followed by the British East India Company in 1661. It developed into a major trade hub during British rule, attracting people from various parts of India and the world.

  10. What were the arguments for and against the name change?

    Supporters of the name change argued that it recognized Mumbai’s indigenous roots and rectified historical injustices. Opponents expressed concerns about erasing the city’s cosmopolitan legacy and viewed it as a politically motivated move.

Conclusion

The name change from Bombay to Mumbai marked a significant moment in the city’s history. It reflected the aspirations of the Marathi-speaking population and their desire to reclaim the city’s indigenous identity. The change in name not only had cultural and symbolic implications but also impacted the city’s economy and global recognition. While the name change sparked debates and controversies, it remains an integral part of Mumbai’s evolving narrative, reminding us of the city’s rich history and vibrant cultural heritage.

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