Bombay became Mumbai

In 1661, Catherine of Braganza got married to King Charles II of Britain, resulting in seven islands of Bombay being given as dowry to Britain by Portugal. For residents of koliwadas and gaothans of these seven islands life was never the same again.


Catherine, born in 1638, was Catholic while British king was Anglican. Catholic queen was not liked by Anglican subjects besides marriage didn’t have happy ending. Queen suffered miscarriages and was unable to give heir to throne, while King was busy with his mistresses.

Few years before Catherine was born, in India, a Maratha noble Shahji Bhosle and his wife Jijabai gave birth to son who was named Shivaji. Jijabai wanted Shivaji to establish his own kingdom, not serve Mughals and Deccan Sultans as other Maratha Sardars and Shahji did. Shivaji faced Mughals, Deccan Sultans, Siddis and Portuguese to establish his kingdom.


Time when Catherine was getting married to King Charles, Shivaji was getting ready to face grand Mughal army under maternal uncle of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb- Shiasta Khan. Shaista Khan’s sister Arjumad Bano Begam was married to Shah Jahan. Death of his queen pained Shah Jahan so much that he constructed a domed marble mausoleum for her called Taj Mahal.

Shaista Khan was defeated and Marathas under Shivaji were now a formidable force in Deccan. Maratha nationalism was at its peak. After death of Shivaji, the Maratha Kingdom expanded to become Maratha Empire. But all these events didn’t have much impact on Bombay and its residents which still remained under British rule. Island was immune to developments on mainland.

By 1819 the Maratha Empire declined, and in same year a child was born in royal family of Britain. The girl was named Victoria, who later became queen of Britain. In 1876, the then Prime Minister of Britain Benjamin Disraeli passed Royal Titles Act in parliament and Queen Victoria became Empress of India. The inhabitants of koliwadas and gaothans, now a predominantly Marathi speaking Catholic community declared themselves as loyal subjects of Queen and called themselves East Indians.


Under British rule island of Bombay became one of the major cities of India and went on to become capital of Bombay Presidency. A grand railway station, garden and technical institute in city were named after queen. The city attracted talent from all over India.

But year 1960 was different, after 1960, the island could no longer remain immune to mainland. There was demand to split Bombay State into two states of Maharashtra and Gujarat and each wanted Bombay to be part of their state. Then chief minister of Bombay State Morarji Desai, who believed in observing celibacy and practiced urine therapy, was opposed to splitting of Bombay. One day urine therapy went wrong, and he ordered police to fire on crowd demanding state of Maharashtra with Bombay as its capital. 105 people were killed in this firing. On 1st May 1960, state of Maharashtra was formed, with Bombay as its capital.

A cartoonist called Bal Thackeray who worked in Free Press Journal was observing all this. He decided to quit Free Press Journal and start his own cartoon magazine called “Marmik”, later he also formed political party which he named after Shivaji called “Shiv Sena”. Shiv Sena soon became a formidable political force in Bombay and later in other cities of Maharashtra. The residents of koliwadas and gaothans were getting ignored; their land encroached by outsiders.


Anything Anglican was anathema to Shiv Sena. They decided to restore Marathi pride. Jijamata and Shivaji Maharaj were to replace Victoria. Bombay became Mumbai (as it was called by Maharashtrians and Gujarthis), Victoria Terminus became Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Queens Garden became Jijamata Udyan and Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute became Veermata Jijabai Technical Institute.

Had Catherine married some Catholic King, history of seven islands and its inhabitants would have been different.


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