Mumbai is the most important metropolis in India. As the capital of the state of Maharashtra, Mumbai is India’s center for commerce and entertainment. It is the home of Bollywood and the country’s leading financial institutions such as the Bombay Stock Exchange, National Stock Exchange of India and Reserve Bank of India. It is because of these large corporations that swimming in Mumbai is underrated.
Formerly known as Bombay, Mumbai is the richest and most productive city in India, which is why it is considered an Alpha world city. It has the highest GDP among the cities in all of South, West and Central Asia, generating about 5% of all of India’s GDP. Mumbai is also the most populous metropolis in India with more than 21 million people, and the fourth most populated city in the world. Its neighboring cities are Navi and Thane, and together they compromise one of the most populous urban regions in the world.
Mumbai is a coastal city that is made up of seven islands. It is home to a number of beaches but there are more beaches unfit for swimming than there are good ones. The beaches closest downtown are dirty and polluted. The most popular beach is Chowpatty Girgaum beach, but mostly known for Ganesh Chaturthi, the much awaited annual festival held in the area. Thousands of people from all over the country gather here to join the annual procession that culminates when images of lord Ganesh is immersed underwater to symbolize the deity’s journey back home. Locals come here to swim and bathe, and tourists are often surprised to see Mumbai residents swimming with full clothes on. Women bathe in full dress and saree while the men are in shirts and pants. Only a few men bathe without any shirt on, but definitely wearing long pants. Along the beach are several stalls and carts selling chaats (traditional savory snack) and belphuri (rice dish with vegetables and a spicy-sour sauce).
Another well-known beach is Juhu Beach, located in the northern part of the city along the shores of the Arabian Sea. Not many locals come here since Juhu is known to be an area for the wealthy. Most Bollywood superstars live in the area. Yet, the water is polluted, which is why the beach has not received international status as a leading Asian beach. It does get crowded in the evenings and weekends, but people come mostly to stroll and enjoy the breeze than swim. The side-street food is also a major tourist draw, much like in Chowpatty. A famous spot to the north end of Juhu is Gandhi Gram, a place where children and teenagers can play cricket, football and basketball, or just hang out with friends.
For the adventurous tourist, a quick tour to Madh Island is definitely a treat. Located off the shores of Aksa, Madh Island is home to a number of local farming villages, the most famous of which is Erangal village. There are holiday cottages and bungalows in Erangal, facing the picturesque farmlands and untouched Mother Nature. Among the important tourist landmarks are the old forts, the Ancient church of Our Lady of Sea, and the Temple of Harbadevi. Madh Island is also not particularly known as a place to swim.
There are other picturesque beaches around the city, such as Versova Beach, Aksa Beach, Manori Beach, and Gorai Beach. They may not be at par with the world-famous beaches in Asia, but together they make swimming in Mumbai a refreshing experience away from the hustle and bustle of the city.