Things to Do in Mumbai
Protected as a Unesco World Heritage Site, the Elephanta Caves are among Mumbai’s most astounding temple sites, home to one of India’s most precious collections of Hindu temple art.
In Elephanta Island’s labyrinthine network of subterranean caves, highly prized statues of Shiva and other deities, shrines, pillars, courtyards and halls are carved out of rock in high relief.
Elephanta’s collection of cave-temples date back to around AD 600, and were named for the elephant statue that once stood near the shore. The statue now stands in Mumbai’s Victoria Gardens.
Tours are essential to get the most from a visit to the island, revealing the stories and history of the island’s carvings and artworks. The highlight is the temple to Shiva with its towering statue of the three-faced deity, surrounding by latticework screens, carved pillars and winding corridors.
The Bombay High Court, one of Mumbai’s most beautiful examples of Gothic revival architecture, was built from 1871 to 1878, with the first sitting in early 1879. On the top of the black stone building’s two octagonal towers, you’ll notice statues representing Justice and Mercy, but some of the most interesting sculptures are found within.
Local lore tells of a dispute between the English contractors responsible for the construction of the Bombay High Court and a Parsi subcontractor. The Parsi lost his lawsuit in court, and in revenge, sculpted a monkey with a bandage over one eye and holding unbalanced scales of justice. This sculptural depiction of Aesop’s fable can be found in the western corridor.
Today, the Bombay High Court remains one of the oldest and most distinguished high courts in India. If you’re interested in India’s judicial system, it’s possible to enter the building and sit in on a hearing if one happens to be going on.
More Things to Do in Mumbai
This fabulous market is Mumbai’s largest, and also goes by the name of Mahatma Jyobita Phule. With its turrets and gables, it looks more like a medieval fort than a municipal market, and for visitors it’s every bit as exotic.
The market buildings were built in the 1860s and named for the city’s first Municipal Commissioner. The exterior frieze was designed by the father of Rudyard Kipling, and the interior is lit by a lofty skylight.
Come here to people-watch as locals load up on household goods and everyday items like fresh produce and flowers.
Guided walks are the best way to visit the market, ideally avoiding the meat section and targeting the fruit, vegetables and pets.
You’re in the right place if you’re feeling peckish, as the market also hosts street stalls and food vendors. Rose-flavored milk drinks are a popular choice, along with fresh seasonal fruit like mangoes and apples.
Most visitors to Mumbai eventually find their way to the bustling district of Colaba, the city’s tourist heart and location of the iconic Gateway of India monument. It’s an attractive area of crumbling colonial-era mansions and fascinating laneways, fishing docks, churches, vibrant vegetable markets and great selection of street-food stalls.
As you take a wander through the district, seek out the opulent mix of Victorian and art deco buildings, like the Regal cinema and 1870s Sailors Home. The grand buildings of the High Court and Mumbai University flank the maidan, and a series of arcaded state buildings surround the 1860s Horniman Circle. The Portuguese held onto Little Colaba Island until the 1760s, longer than other parts of Mumbai, but the colonial remnants are firmly British. Colaba is also where you’ll find the ritzy Taj Mahal Hotel, Naval cantonment, upmarket residential areas and shopping malls.
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