Welcome to the city that never sleeps! Pulsating, Alive, On the Move, Vibrant, Fun — this is Mumbai or as it is still frequently referred to — Bombay. The most modern city in India, it captures the spirit of the changing pace set by liberalization and modernisation.
Once a cluster of seven islands, Mumbai was presented to King Charles II in 1661 as part of the dowry when he married Princess Catherine de Braganza of Portugal.
Over the years, as colonialism gave way to independence, Mumbai has transformed itself into an entity with thriving markets, business houses and many different communities reflecting a cosmopolitan and trendy atmosphere rarely seen elsewhere. On the surface, it represents the ever-changing face of today’s India — the old coupled with the dynamic new, and yet at its very core, the heart of the city is steeped in Indian customs and values.
It is the capital of Maharashtra state, and its official language is Marathi although English and Hindi are widely spoken and understood. The fast-paced life has given rise to hordes of “fast-food outlets” on almost every road, offering lip-smacking choices of Mumbai’s very own pau bhaji, bhel puri and kababs. There is no dearth, though, of multi-culinary delicacies dished out in posh restaurants by expert chefs. Mumbai is a shopper’s delight with bargain buys, exclusive boutiques, ethnic markets and mini bazaars. This busy city is also the hub of a thriving cultural life, with a constant stream of performances in music, dance and drama. The seat of the Hindi film industry, known locally as Bollywood, it produces the largest number of films in the world. Mumbai caters to the adventurous and the romantic through its sporting activities, nightclubs, pubs, theatres, beaches and restaurants. Old and new, rich and poor, classical and modern — its all here for you to savour and enjoy!
Delhi is a city that bridges two different worlds. Old Delhi, once the capital of Islamic India, is a labyrinth of narrow lanes lined with crumbling havelis and formidable mosques. In contrast, the imperial city of New Delhi created by the British Raj is composed of spacious, tree-lined avenues and imposing government buildings. Delhi has been the seat of power for several rulers and many empires for about a millennium. Many a times the city was built, destroyed and then rebuilt here. Interestingly, a number of Delhi’s rulers played a dual role, first as destroyers and then as creators.
The city’s importance lies not just in its past glory as the seat of empires and magnificent monuments, but also in the rich and diverse cultures. No wonder chroniclers of Delhi culture – from Chand Bardai and Amir Khusro to present days writers – have never been at a loss for topics. In Delhi, you will discover that the city is sprinkled with dazzling gems: captivating ancient monuments, fascinating museums and art galleries, architectural wonders, a vivacious performing-arts scene, fabulous eating places and bustling markets.
Delhi has been the political hub of India. Every political activity in the country traces its roots here. This was true even of the mythological era. The Pandavas of the Mahabharata had their capital at Indraprastha, which is believed to have been geographically located in today’s Delhi.
Queen of the Deccan, Oxford of the East, and cultural capital of Maharashtra, Pune is a city with a future that promises to be as interesting as its history.
Long-standing bastion of the Maratha empire and home to the legendary Raja Shivaji, the Pune district is marked by magnificent land and forts, testimony to its glorious past.
After Shivaji, the early 18th century saw the emergence of the Peshwas, a Maratha family that grew from being ministers at the court into a major political power over the next few decades. However, after the battle of Panipat in 1761, the Maratha empire began to decline and in 1818, Pune was taken over by the British East India Company.
Today, Pune is the centre of traditional Marathi culture, in which education, arts and crafts, and theatre are given pride of place. It has one of India’s oldest universities and its numerous colleges attract both Indian and international students, which is probably why it is called the Oxford of the East.
Pune is slowly becoming a cosmopolitan city and is now an important commercial centre. The narrow winding roads of the old Pune offer an interesting contrast to the open, spacious new city. However, Pune retains the old-world charm and its many quaint characteristics, including the omnipresent cyclists, rickshaws and a daily siesta hour that is taken very seriously indeed.
Surrounded by verdant hills and beautiful lakes, Pune has a temperate climate and is among the greenest urban areas in the country.