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Bombay or Mumbai - Whats in a Name Change?

Updated: Feb 18

Mumbai is the heart of India serving as its financial hub, birthplace of Bollywood, and a city of almost 21 million residents. Being one of the most densely populated cities in the world, the city to many is often still referred to by its old colonial name 'Bombay'.


From London to Dubai, Bangkok to Brunswick, you can find an Indian restaurant just about anywhere these days. Bombay Mahal in Brunswick, Maine has been serving up some of India's most delicious Indian curries for over 30 years, having opened its doors in 1991, four years before the city of Bombay controversially changed its name to Mumbai in 1995.


The earliest records of names in use for the city are said to be Kakamuchee & Galajunkja, while the city was referred to as 'Manbai' in the Mirat-i-Ahmadi, a historical text on Gujarat dating back to 1507 written in Persian by Ali Muhammad Khan.


In Lendas da Índia or the Legends of India, written in old Portuguese by writer Gaspar Correia, the city was referred to as Bombaim, meaning ‘good bay’.


The name Bombay came to be as an easy Anglicized version of the Portuguese name used by the British Empire when taking control of the city in the 17th century as well as the rest of the Indian subcontinent.

Mumbai is said to already have been in use in the 16th century by the local Koli fishermen communities. It is considered to have been derived from the name of the Koli goddess Mumbadevi, viewed to be the city’s patron deity & Aai (mother).


The city’s official name change, to Mumbai from Bombay happened when the regional right wing Hindu nationalist political party Shiv Sena came into power in 1995 and ordered the change.


The Shiv Sena saw Bombay as a legacy of British colonialism & the British Raj, and wanted the city’s name to reflect its Maratha heritage, hence renaming it to pay tribute to the goddess Mumbadevi.


The city’s controversial renaming to Mumbai from Bombay is something a lot around the world had trouble accepting and still today local residents & expats abroad interchangeably use Mumbai & Bombay when referring to the city.

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