Mumbai's infrastructure ranges from the most modern bridges to the most manual open air laundry. Discover what keeps Mumbai functioning by visiting these places.
Bandra Worli Sealink
The 5.6 kilometer Bandra Worli Sealink, which crosses the Arabian Sea, linking the Mumbai suburbs with south Mumbai, is viewed as an engineering marvel. This cable-stayed bridge (one that consists of one or more columns, with cables supporting the bridge deck) apparently contains steel wire equivalent to the circumference of the earth. The bridge also weighs the same as 50,000 African elephants, and used 90,000 tonnes of cement -- enough to make five 10 storied buildings.
The Sealink hasn't been without controversy though. Delays, due to public litigation, doubled the amount of time it took to construct it from the estimated five years, to 10 years. The original cost estimate also increased from 6.6 billion rupees ($119.46 million) to 16 billion rupees ($289.6 million). The first four lanes were opened to the public on 30 June 2009. All eight lanes were opened on 24 March 2010.
- Where: The Bandra Worli Sealink starts near Bandra Reclamation (at the Western Express Highway) and ends at Abdul Gafar Khan Marg junction, Worli. The Taj Lands End hotel at Bandra Bandstand offers a birds eye view of it. Pedestrians and motorcycles aren't allowed on the Sealink.
- More Information: Bandra Worli Sealink website. You can also see photos of how the Sealink was constructed.
Flyovers, long bridges that pass over other structures, have changed the face of urban India. The 2.5 kilometer long JJ Flyover, opened in 2001, is an outstanding example of this. Snake-like, it twists and turns its way through a labyrinth of old buildings, including the government offices at Mantralaya. Before the flyover was constructed, free movement in the area was virtually impossible. One of the most congested neighborhoods in Mumbai, it constantly buzzed with hawkers, vendors, cars, buses, bicycles, handcarts, and pedestrians.
Yet, what's really distinctive about the flyover is the troublesome effect that it's had on privacy (so very hard to come by) in Mumbai. Level with and in close proximity to people's homes, it reveals a gallery of human life.
- Where: J.J. Hospital to CST (Victoria Terminus), in South Mumbai.
Grant Road Skywalk
Another distinctive feature of Mumbai, the unique Mumbai Skywalk Project has produced close to 50 pedestrian walkways that connect to prominent railway stations across the city. The skywalks aim to help pedestrians disperse from these congested areas, which are often lined with hawkers. The first one was built in 2008.
One of the most interesting skywalks to stroll along is the one at Grant Road railway station, in south Mumbai. A total of 650 meters in length, it will give you a voyeurs view of the city as it passes right by people's apartment windows.
- Where: Grant Road railway station is on the Western Line, in South Mumbai.
Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat
Dirty laundry from all over Mumbai is brought to this massive open air laundry and painstakingly hand washed by the dhobis (washermen) in the seemingly endless rows of concrete troughs fitted with flogging stones. It provides an unforgettable glimpse into the inside of the city, making it one of the top 10 attractions in Mumbai.
Mahalaxmi dhobi ghat was formed in 1890 to service the city's large English and Parsi population. It's owned by the municipal council, which charges the washermen rent and maintenance costs for the troughs. Most of the washermen are migrants from other parts of India. There are hundreds of them who live at the dhobi ghat, and their families have been doing the washing work for decades.
The dhobi ghat is actually a registered organization, called the Dhobi Kalyan and Audyogik Vikas Co-op Society, and it even appears in the Guinness Book of Records. In March 2011, it achieved the world record for the largest number of people (496) simultaneously hand-washing clothes at a single location.
If you're feeling bold, it's possible to go right down into the thick of things. Take the stars to your right, then turn left onto the road at the bottom. You'll find the entrance to your left, further along. There will usually be someone waiting there who will be willing to escort you through the labyrinth inside, for a fee (expect to pay 200 rupees per person), to have a look around, meet the workers, and take some photos.
It's worthwhile doing so, to find out more about this fascinating place. They don't just wash laundry there. They also bring old saris, collected by the city's recyclers, back to life. The saris are given special treatment to revive their fabric, before being sold at markets for a discount. You'll also learn about the impact of the introduction of modern machinery at the dhobi ghat, and how it's eliminating the need for so much manual work. While this might sound positive, it's affecting the livelihoods of the washermen.
- Where: Next to Mahalaxmi railway station (the 6th station on the Western Line from Churchgate). Walk out of the station and turn left on the bridge.
- More Information: Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat website.
Rated as one of the best racecourses in Asia, the Mahalaxmi Racecourse was built in 1883 along similar lines to the Caulfield Racecourse in Melbourne, Australia. It's spread over 225 acres and has an oval shaped 2.4 kilometer race track. The Grandstand is a designated heritage structure.
Horse racing is held at the racecourse from November to the end of April, on Sunday and Thursday afternoons. Towards the end of the season, races are held on Saturday and Sunday. The Indian Derby, which takes place in February, is the major occasion there. The inner lane of the main racing track is open to everyone for walking or jogging, during certain times in the mornings and evenings.
Enjoy innovative food and drinks at the classy Tote on Turf bar and restaurant.
- Where: Keshavro Khadye Marg, Mahalaxmi.
- More Information: Royal Western Turf Club website.
Mumbai Local Train
You've probably seen infamous photos of crowded Indian trains with passengers hanging out the doors and sitting on the roof -- that's the Mumbai local! Essential for commuting in Mumbai, the local train network is the quickest and easiest way of getting from one end of Mumbai to the other. It transports an astonishing eight million passengers per day! Take a ride on the Mumbai local to really get a feel of daily life in Mumbai.
Dadar Flower Market
Mumbai's largest wholesale flower market has over 700 stalls overflowing with blooms. This sprawling undercover market is a photographer's delight. It comes alive at around 4 a.m. every morning, after the night's deliveries have been unloaded. Much of the action happens before 9 a.m., although the market is open all day.
The flowers are supplied to local street vendors who use them to make religious garlands, as well as wedding decorators and event managers.
It's especially vibrant during the Dussehra festival, as the golden marigold flowers are traditionally used in worship and to decorate homes. The garlands signify happiness to mark the victory of good over evil, particularly Lord Ram's defeat of demon King Ravana and rescue of Sita from his evil clutches, and their victorious return to Ayodhya.
- Where: Near Dadar railway station. Tulsi Pipe Road, between Dadar and Parel, in central south Mumbai.
- Tours: Mumbai Magic includes Dadar flower market on its Good Morning Mumbai tour.
Mumbai Film City
When people think of Mumbai, Bollywood readily comes to mind. Mumbai is the center of India's booming "Bollywood" film industry, which produces over 100 films each year. Film City was built by the Maharastra state government in 1978 to help the Bollywood film industry and provide facilities for it. The sprawling complex covers nearly 350 acres and comes fully equipped with almost 20 indoor studios, as well as outdoor settings for filming.
Unfortunately, Mumbai Film City isn't open to the public unless special approval is obtained. However, it's possible to visit it on an organized tour.
- Where: Film City is located in the western Mumbai suburb of Goregaon -- in the vicinity of Aarey Colony. It's easily accessible from the Western Expressway.
- More Information: Take a Mumbai Bollywood Tour or be a Bollywood Extra.
Sewri Jetty is an industrial hub located along the eastern waterfront in Mumbai. The area is characterized by its rather unattractive dock, lined with huge container ships, and smoke-belching industrial units. Numerous ships also come there repairs and renovations, such as steel renewal, and will set sail once restored.
The real highlight there is the flamingos, which migrate from the Little Rann of Kutch, in Gujarat during the winter. Witness this unexpected phenomena against a unique backdrop of ships and cargo carriers in various states of repair. The flamingos start arriving in late November and stay until late March. The best time to see them is two hours before high tide. If you don't mind an early start, try and get there before sunrise.
- Where: Sewri is one of the stations on the Mumbai Harbour train line. To get to Sewri Jetty and the mudflats, follow the road directly opposite the railway station (on the eastern side) to a T-intersection, then turn right. It's around 15-20 minutes walk.
It can be surprising to discover that the heaving, concrete jungle of Mumbai has approximately 640 buffalo tabelas located amidst apartment buildings, shops, and roads. These huge cowsheds house around 50,000 buffaloes, which supply 750,000 liters of fresh milk to the city every day.
In recent years, the tabelas have become controversial, as the state government wants to move them out of the city limits. The reason? They're occupying around 150 acres of now expensive government land in residential areas. The stench and unhygienic conditions is also a problem for residents. Although the Bombay High Court has issued an order for the tabelas to be relocated, the government has so far been unsuccessful in implementing it.
- Where: Western suburbs of Mumbai, mainly Goregaon, Jogeshwari, and Andheri. Some of the tabelas can be see along the Western line of the Mumbai local train. Aarey Milk Colony, which was set up in Goregaon East in 1949, is the city's best organized milk colony.