It is hard to imagine that Mumbai was originally an archipelago of seven islands, floating in the middle of marshland on the western coast of India. The main island, inhabited by the Koli, a caste of Hindu fishermen, was known to Greeks and Arab merchants, but it was not until 1300 that the first true town, Mumbadevi, was founded by a raja from Gujarat. The Portuguese conquered the area in 1534. In 1661, the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Bragance married Charles II of England and her dowry, the islands of Bombay, brought the archipelago under British control until its independence on August 15, 1947.
The gradual joining of the islands during the 17th century and the arrival of the first steam-engine locomotive in 1850 led to Bombay's expansion and, at the end of the 19th century, it was the centre of the world's largest cotton industry. Christened by the Portuguese-bom baim means "good bay" in Portuguese-the city is called Mumbai today in homage to the goddess Mumba Devi.
Most religious beliefs are present in Mumbai. More than 10 languages are spoken here, and the local Indian film industry, nicknamed "Bollywood," is the favourite entertainment of city dwellers. India's largest city and its economic heart, modern-day Mumbai is a metropolis of more than 13 million inhabitants, saturated with giant film posters, all kinds of vehicles and colourful plant life. Despite the prosperity that its natural port has always guaranteed, and which the English developed, this Rococo city also has its share of shantytowns, along with chronic shortages of water and space.