Bombay: From Portuguese negligence to British mercantile hub

The financial capital of India has seen many entrants with dreams of making a fortune but only a few could realise Mumbai’s true potential as the autocrat of commerce and trade.
The territory was merely a conglomeration of fishing villages, marshy lands, mudflats and hills. with  seven islands — Bombay, Colaba, Old Woman’s Island, Mazagaon, Parel, Worli and Mahim when Portuguese settled here back in the mid 16th century but they eventually failed to tap its potential and ceded it to British. 
At that time land was apportioned and rented to noblemen. The landowners maintained coconut groves on the islands, profiting off sales of coir and thatched palms. The local traders dealt in silk, muslin, chintz, onyx, rice, cotton and tobacco. A big port in Bassein (now the suburb of Vasai), harboured the bigger ships and major trade but Portuguese saw no need to develop Bombay.  
After having been presented to Charles II of England by Portugal’s King John IV as a part of his daughter’s dowry in 1661, Bombay flourished only under british monarchy, who had long been scouting to make a foothold in India.
 Consequently they began to develop infrastructure in the grand natural harbour, reclaim the marshes to build a city, and by the 1850s, had turned Bombay into a nerve-centre of commerce through setting up  the East India company and merchant of diverse communities like Parsis, British, Bhatia, Khojas, Gujaratis and others.
By 1890s the resulting influx of foreign fabric into India was increasingly seen as a threat to its domestic textile economy. This sparked mass protest and galvanised a political movement to liberate India from British control.
However, Poreguese managed to establish a strong foothold in adjacent territory Goa which is celebrating 60 years of liberation from their rule this year and has got an unexpected windfall in the Union Budget 2021-22 with the FM’s Rs 300 crore allocation on state’s request for the year long celebration. 
The legacy is still perceptible in pockets of the island city of Bombay and the extended suburbs even in the kitchen, seeing  the potatoes and chillies that characterise our cooking but were first brought to India’s shores on Portuguese ships.
Cover Image Copyright: Chidanand M.
PV's Chikan

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