India // Mumbai //

Malabar Hill

Its shirt-tails swathed in greenery and brow bristling with gigantic skyscrapers, Malabar Hill, the promontory enfolding Chowpatty Beach at the north end of Back Bay, has been south Mumbai’s most desirable neighbourhood almost since the city was founded. The British were quick to see the potential of its salubrious breezes and sweeping sea views, constructing bungalows at the tip of what was then a separate island – the grandest of them the Government House, originally erected in the 1820s and now the seat of the serving governor of Maharashtra, Raj Bhavan.

Although none of Malabar’s landmarks can be classed as unmissable, its Hindu shrines and surviving colonial-era residences form an interesting counterpoint to the modernity towering on all sides. Bal Gangadhar Kher Marg (formerly Ridge Road) is the district’s main artery. You can follow it from Mumbai’s principal Jain Temple, with its mirror-encrusted interior dedicated to Adinath, all the way to the tip of the headland, where the famous Walkeshwar Temple stands as the city’s oldest Hindu shrine surviving in situ. According to the Ramayana, Rama fashioned a lingam out of sand to worship Shiva here, which over the centuries became one of the Konkan’s most important pilgrimage centres. Today’s temple, erected in 1715 after the original was destroyed by the Portuguese, is of less note than the Banganga Tank below it – a rectangular lake lined by stone ghats and numerous crumbling shrines.

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