The game of names

The names of Mumbai’s monuments tell us the story of which way political winds were blowing when they were built. In the late 19th century the British named everything after their Queen, so we had Victoria terminus, Victoria Gardens and the Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute (built in 1887 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Her Majesty’s coronation). In the early 20th century, they named everything after the Prince of Wales.

After independence the colonial names could not be retained of course, so they were renamed . Depending on whether the city was suffering from bouts of nationalistic pride or Marathi pride at that time, they were named after either Jawaharlal Nehru (the first Prime Minister of India) or Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj (King Shivaji, who founded the Maratha empire in the 18th century). Often, they were named after Shivaji’s mother, Jijabai. The advantage of this was that using Veermata Jijabai (“Courageous mother Jijabai”) for a place that was earlier named for Victoria maintains the same abbreviation, so “Veermata Jijabai Technical Institute” is still VJTI.

For a traveller, the practical problem would be that many places have multiple names, as locals haven’t got the memo that the official names have changed. There is also the problem that there are multiple places named after Nehru, Shivaji or Jijabai, so you need to be careful about specifying which place you need to get to.

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