In 1996 Bombay was renamed Mumbai, as part of a wider policy instigated by the right-wing Maharashtrian nationalist Shiv Sena Municipality to replace names of any places, roads and features in the city that had connotations of the Raj. The Shiv Sena asserted that the British term “Bombay” derived from the Marathi title of a local deity, the mouthless “Maha-amba-aiee”, Mumba Devi for short. In fact, historians are unanimously agreed that the Portuguese, who dubbed the harbour “Bom Bahia” (“Good Bay”) when they first came across it, were responsible for christening the site and that the later British moniker had nothing to do with the aboriginal Hindu earth goddess.

The name change was widely unpopular when it was first imposed, especially among the upper and middle classes, and non-Maharashtran immigrant communities, who doggedly stuck to Bombay. A couple of decades on, however, “Mumbai” seems to have definitively taken root with the dotcom generation and even outgrown the narrow agenda of its nationalist originators – just as “Bombay” outlived the Raj.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

India features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Indian trains: a traveller's survival guide

Indian trains: a traveller's survival guide

The Himalayan Queen, the Grand Trunk Express, the Deccan Odyssey… the very names of India’s trains are evocative of timeless style and old-school adventure…

09 Feb 2017 • Freya Godfrey insert_drive_file Article
26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

26 awe-inspiring architectural wonders

From ancient temples to hyper-modern skyscrapers, these are just a few of the world's most incredible architectural wonders. Whether you're looking to wander l…

01 Feb 2017 • Rough Guides Editors camera_alt Gallery
Quiz: can you name these famous places in India?

Quiz: can you name these famous places in India?

India is an addictive destination. Go once and something will draw you back time and again. Perhaps it's the food, maybe it's the people, or it could well be th…

24 Jan 2017 • Rough Guides Editors help Quiz
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month