Mumbai is a megacity. It’s the largest city in India and home to an astounding 21 million people. One of the most densely populated cities on the planet, Mumbai is famous across the globe for its fast pace of life and chaotic atmosphere- the city is a complete assault on the senses, and this is what makes it so special. A place of immense cultural wealth, evidence of Mumbai’s rich history can be observed on every street and around every corner.
One of the fastest developing cities in the world, Mumbai is quickly becoming a global superpower, with history’s largest democracy, and a rapidly growing financial sector. For decades, flocks of international travelers have made the trip to Mumbai and in recent years LGBT+ travel to the city is becoming more popular. India’s most liberal city and the home of the region’s largest gay scene, Mumbai is a great destination for any gay traveler.
The Gateway of India
The Gateway of India was built in 1911 to celebrate the arrival of the first British Monarch to India, however, upon the arrival of King George V, the arch had still not been completed and a cardboard structure was erected in its place. The Basalt construction was finally completed in 1924 and was hailed as one of the country’s finest pieces of architecture. Following the struggle for independence, in 1948, the Gateway of India was also the departure point of the last British troops to leave the country.
The central location of The Gateway of India means that many of the city’s other top tourist attractions are also situated close by, including Elephanta Island. The structure is set in a large open space meaning that even on busy days there is room to explore and discover the archway, and the nearby Indian Ocean provides a gentle breeze across the site.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus
When the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus was built in 1878 it was designed to combine both the traditional architectural styles of India and the gothic victorian silhouettes that were popular in Britain at the time. Often regarded as one of the finest functional railway stations in the world, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a masterpiece of ornate and refined craftsmanship, taking 10 years to complete. The exaggerated and over the top design of the station made it an international symbol of wealth and political power.
Today, the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site is still a vital hub of transport for Mumbai, with 18 platforms and outbound trains across India and beyond. Whilst Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is a functional station, it is also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city, with thousands of travelers visiting every year. As such, the station can get extremely crowded at busy times so aim to avoid visiting during the city’s rush hours.
Mumbai is home to the largest and most established gay scene in the country, in recent years establishing itself as a gay capital in the region, and a splattering of gay bars and clubs can be found throughout its streets. Whilst India has developed at an exponential rate in recent years, traditional culture in the country remains very conservative, and whilst Mumbai does have a gay scene it doesn’t reflect the creativity and diversity of the city’s residents.
The gay nightlife in Mumbai is centered around a few established gay-friendly venues, and gay groups in Mumbai often organize one-off events and club nights, these are promoted locally and via social media. Salvation Star is one of the only clubs in the city to host a monthly dance party that is popular with the LGBT community. The parties at Salvation Star tend to be well attended and the dates can easily be found online.
10km from the Gateway of India and sheltered in the Mumbai Harbour, Elephanta Island is one of Mumbai’s most popular tourist attractions. The lush and densely vegetated island is home to a number of ancient temples, most notably The Elephanta Cave Temples. The temples are estimated to be around 2000 years old, chronicling both Hindu and Buddhist culture in the city and serving as an important location in regards to both religion and tourism. The island is easily reachable from Mumbai by a one hour ferry that is reasonably priced and a generally comfortable ride.
Elephanta Island is home to roughly 1,200 people who live in its small villages and make a living selling souvenirs, snacks, and beverages to the boatloads of tourists who arrive every day. The cave temples are found in two locations with the most significant being The Great Cave, a temple complex that is believed to have been a Hindu place of worship up until the 14th century. The caves are spacious and their open fronts have fantastic views across the Indian Ocean- meaning that even claustrophobes shouldn’t feel trapped. Elephanta Island is a totally unique environment and a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Mumbai- an unmissable sight and a peaceful patch of tranquil serenity.
Chor Bazaar has one of the most fascinating histories of any of Mumbai’s notable locations. For over 150 years, the market has been a hub of trading and commerce, as well as acting as the center of the local community. Chor Bazaar was originally known as Shor Bazaar, meaning “Noisy Market”, however, the British mispronunciation of the word meant that “Shor” became “Chor”. The area surrounding the market was a hotspot of poverty and crime for much of its existence and stolen goods would often be sold here, earning it the nickname of “the thieves market”.
The best way to enter Chor Bazaar is via Mutton Street, a loud and chaotic road that is characterized by crumbling buildings and heavy traffic. Whilst the area can be overwhelming at times, it is generally safe. One of the highlights of the bazaar is the extensive and varied selection of stores selling handcrafted and ornate trinkets. The most popular material is bronze and many of the goods being sold will be plated or crafted with the metal.
by George Pizani | On: Gay Mumbai