Shivaji killed many Muslims - the information portal on South Asia

At around 4 a.m. the plane begins its approach to land in Mumbai - the sea of ​​lights of the metropolis shines on all sides, a city that has been home to more religious communities than almost any other in the world for centuries. India's largest city and seat of government in the state of Maharashtra is said to have around 14 million inhabitants, and the entire agglomeration even exceeds 21 million. Mumbai is the name of the metropolis on the coast of the Arabian Sea today. In 1995, the name was officially changed from Bombay to Mumbai. The old name Bombay - which can still be heard on the streets - is the Anglicized form of Portuguese Bom Baía (good bay) and originally referred to one of the seven islands that were connected to one large island by extensive land reclamation measures from the 17th to the 19th century (two more were added in the 20th century). Mumbai comes from the local language Marathi and is derived from Mumba Ai or Maha Amba (great mother - protective goddess of the autochthonous Koli fishermen). The renaming came about at the instigation of the Shiv Sena, a right-wing party that has been advocating the privileges of the Marathas over immigrants from other parts of the country since it was founded in 1966 and which has been strengthening Hindu nationalism since the 1970s (Hindutva) turned towards. Between 1985 and 1992, and again since 1995, she is the mayor of Mumbai. A number of facilities have also been named after the eminent 17th-century marathist leader Shivaji, including the airport (Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport), the former Victoria Terminus (Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus), one of the largest train stations in the world, and the former Prince of Wales Museum (Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Museum), as well as countless streets and squares.

Gateway of India and Taj Mahal Hotel Photo: Mariella Ourghi

Mumbai is India's financial capital and a melting pot of various religions and ways of life. The city houses them all, but they demonstrated Mumbai attacks from November 26, 2008 once again the vulnerability of the symbiosis - yes, it is still a symbiosis in spite of everything. Already in the winter of 1992/93 the so-called Bombay Riots reveals that the fragmentation of Indian society along religious affiliations resulting to a not inconsiderable part from colonial legacies can play a role even in India's most cosmopolitan city. In 1998, 2002, 2003 and 2006 there were repeated bombings in Mumbai. The last reported Times of India a terror warning issued in March 2010. A few days later, two young local Muslims with alleged connections to Pakistan were arrested for allegedly planning attacks in the city.


A good 67 percent of Greater Mumbai's residents are Hindus. The Muslims form the largest religious minority with over 18 percent, but make up the majority in some districts such as Dongri, Mahim or the bazaar districts of Kalbadevi and Bhuleshwar. A shrine visited by both Muslims and non-Muslims is the Haji Ali Dargah, a shrine in the Worli district, which is a small island in the sea and is only connected to the land by a dam bridge. According to legend, Haji Ali Shah Bukhari was a wealthy merchant who had given up all his worldly wealth before setting out on a pilgrimage to Mecca. He found death on the journey, but the coffin with his corpse miraculously drifted to the place where the shrine was built in 1431. His tomb inside is covered by a richly embroidered cape, which the believers touch with their foreheads to ask for the blessing of the saint.

Haji Ali Dargah, Worli Photo: Jenny Kinal

The Muslims in Mumbai are divided into various groups. Most of them are Sunnis, and unlike in the northern parts of India, the proportion of Shafi'i law schools is greater because of the Konkani Muslims. The Konkani Muslims trace their origins back to Arab traders who arrived on the west coast of India as early as the 8th century (Konkan refers to the area south from Mumbai to Mangalore). A minority among the Sunnis who see themselves as an ethnic group are the Memon (from arab. mu’min = Creditor). Its origins are in the dark. According to different but similar versions of tradition, they are the descendants of the ethnic group and Hindu merchant caste of the Lohanas, which originated from Iran and Afghanistan, who converted from Hinduism to Islam between the 15th and 17th centuries and emigrated from Sindh to Kutch and Gujarat. Another version says that the Memon have Arabic ancestors who settled in Sindh in the 8th century. The Memon were traditionally traders, and even today are often business people or have made merits in the humanitarian field. In the meantime they have mixed with other Muslim groups, although some still cling to the old practice of only marrying within their own community.

Outwardly, the Dawudi Bohras stand out among Shiite Muslims. The women wear a burqa-like two-piece robe, rida called, whereby the face veil is usually thrown back on the head and leaves the face free. The dresses are in pastel colors, mint green, pink, cream colored, light blue, and have rich embroidery. The men wear white, knee-length shirts (kurta) over loose trousers and sometimes a light overcoat (sherwani) and a cap. However, this dress code is an innovation from the 1980s, which was decreed as an identity feature by the current leader of the Bohras, Muhammad Burhanuddin. The Dawudi Bohras are a Seven Shiite (Ismaili) splinter group whose origins lie in Fatimid Egypt of the 11th and 12th centuries. The Indian Ismailis traditionally lived in Gujarat and were mainly traders. Hence the name Bohras, from Gujarati vohorvu (= German to act). They call themselves however Fatimids. Their number is estimated at a good half a million in India, the largest community today is in Mumbai. Many of them live in the quarters around the Bhindi bazaar, where the Raudat Tahera mausoleum is located, a Fatimid-style white tomb for Burhanuddin's predecessor, who died in 1965. However, there is a rift through the Bohra communities: as early as the 1920s, an opposition formed against the quasi-absolute power of its leader, who is allowed to excommunicate unwelcome community members, which can also isolate them socially and economically. But Mumbai is large and multicultural, so that the Bohras' dissidents such as the well-known reformist and activist Asghar Ali Engineer cannot be silenced.

Another Ismaili splinter group are the Khojas, some of which seem to have arisen through missionary work carried out from Iran in the area of ​​today's Pakistan and in Gujarat. Among the converts were also Lohanas, who held the title Khoja received, which then became the general name. The most important missionary, Pir Sadruddin (15th century), made far-reaching concessions to Hindu ideas, so that the religious teachings are strongly syncretistic. The Khojas have recognized the Agha Khan as their head since the 19th century, but have retained many of their peculiarities in their beliefs as well as in cultic and organizational aspects. They too are mainly involved in commercial professions.


Almost four percent of Mumbai's population are Christians. Most live in the districts of Bandra, Byculla, Mazagaon and Colaba. According to Indian Christian traditions, Christianity is said to have been introduced by the apostle Thomas in the 1st century in the southern Indian city of Kerala. It is more likely, however, that Christianity came to southern India in the 4th century with the Mesopotamian merchant and missionary Thomas Cana. Among the various Christian denominations that are represented in India today, the Roman Catholic Church, including the Uniate Eastern Churches, is the majority. Catholicism spread particularly in southern India from the early 16th century through Portuguese missionaries. Especially in Bandra one comes across Portuguese cemeteries and churches again and again; the former island of Salsette, on which Bandra is located, remained Portuguese until the late 18th century. The Basilica of Mount Mary there is not only visited by Christians, but also by followers of other religions and is known for a special practice of popular belief: Stalls in front of the church offer all kinds of objects made of wax, houses, cars, babies and all kinds of body parts such as Legs, spine, stomachs, teeth, etc. These symbolize wishes or a sick part of the body and are placed under the altar by the believers. It is believed that Mary will answer the prayers and grant the wish or provide healing.

Basilica of Mount Mary, Bandra Photo: Jenny Kinal

The second largest Christian group is the Church of South India, which is a union of Anglican and Protestant churches in South India. These churches came into being through British proselytizing since the 17th century. The oldest British building in Mumbai is the Anglican, neoclassical and neo-Gothic St Thomas ’Cathedral in the Fort district, very close to Horniman Circle, where services are still held today. Its construction was started in 1676 by the then British Governor Gerald Aungier, but it was not completed until 1718.

It was not until the middle of the 20th century that a noteworthy community of Syrian Orthodox Christians emerged in Mumbai. Although it is the oldest church in India, it has remained confined to its traditional territory in Kerala until recent times. Syrian Orthodox Christians only settled in other parts of the country through labor migration. Since the 1930s, disputes over the recognition of authorities have split the Church into the Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church, which reports to the Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, and the autocephalous Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.


The November 2008 attacks also hit an Orthodox Jewish establishment, Chabad House (formerly Nariman House) in Colaba, where six people were killed. The Jewish community is one of the smallest religious minorities in Mumbai. Today there are only about 5,000 Jews in all of India, as most of them emigrated to Israel and western states after India's independence in 1947, the friendly old man tells me in the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in the Kala Ghoda district, there were a good 1,500 Jews today in Mumbai. For the service on Friday evening, however, you would still get the ten obligatory men together, here and also in the Magen David Synagogue in Byculla, which is currently being restored with funds from Israel.

Magen David Synagogue, Byculla Photo: Mariella Ourghi

Some of the Mumbai Jews belong to the Marathi-speaking Bene Israel, who are said to have come to the west coast of India in the 2nd century BC before the rededication of the second Jewish temple and who had no contact with other Jewish communities for centuries, which is why they had some Jewish rites as the Hanukkah festival was not known. Their community experienced a religious revival with the arrival of the so-called Baghdadi Jews from the 18th century. Contrary to what their name suggests, they came not only from Iraq, but also from Yemen, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan and had come to India for political or economic reasons. David Sassoon, born in Baghdad in 1793, made considerable fortunes. He arrived in Bombay in 1833 and soon became an extremely successful businessman. Not far from the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue on Mahatma Gandhi Road is the Gothic-style David Sassoon Library, formerly the Bombay Mechanics Institute, which mainly houses historical books.

But Mumbai has another, new Jewish community: the Bnei Menashe, who come from the northeastern Indian states of Manipur and Mizoram and claim their descent from the Manasseh tribe, one of the ten lost tribes of Israel. The Tibetan Burmese speaking Bnei Menashe were converted to Christianity by animist ideas in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1951, a man dreamed that the original religion of his people was Judaism and found more and more followers. A number of religious rituals and song texts are said to show striking parallels to Jewish customs and chants, which remains controversial from a purely scientific point of view. In 2005 the Bnei Menashe were recognized by the Sephardic Chief Rabbi in Israel, Shlomo Amar, as part of the lost tribe of Manasseh, so that after a full conversion to Judaism they are allowed to immigrate to Israel. In the Worli district, young Bnei Menashe are currently being helped by the Jewish Organization for Educational Resources and Technological Training supervised and prepared for their emigration to Israel through religious instruction, but also professional training.


Another minority, numerically small, but extremely present in the cityscape in the form of street names and monuments, are the Parsees, who have also left clear traces in Indian economic history. This is how India’s largest group of companies became today, the Tata group, which is active in the fields of vehicle construction, energy supply, communication technology and services, founded in 1870 by Jamshedji Nasarwanji Tata (1839-1904). He is also the builder of the Indian Gothic style Taj Mahal Hotel, which was completed in 1903 and is located opposite the Gateway of India. The construction was motivated by Tata's experience of British racism at the time: As an Indian, he was refused entry to a British hotel. As Parsing are the names of the Zoroastrians, who have lived on the Indian subcontinent for centuries. Monotheistic Zoroastrianism emerged in the 2nd millennium BC. In the Central Asian-Iranian area. The first Zoroastrians who came to India, especially to Gujarat, seem to have emigrated from Iran between the 8th and 10th centuries due to their deteriorating situation under Muslim rule. Another wave of emigration from Iran to India occurred in the 19th century. These Zoroastrians, who are linguistically and culturally different from the previous comers who speak Gujarati (unless English), will Iranis called.

Petit Fasli, Parish Fire Temple, Churchgate Photo: Mariella Ourghi

When in the 17th century five of the islands of the Good bay became British, Parsees also arrived to trade. As early as the 1670s, the first Tower of Silence was built in Malabar Hill (dakhma) built. As Towers of Silence are the Zoroastrian burial places where the bodies of the dead are laid out so that birds of prey can eat the meat. Earth and fire, like air and water, are sacred elements that must not be contaminated. But today the Parsees have a problem with burials: Vultures died in India, probably due to a drug used to treat cattle. Now sun reflectors are supposed to accelerate the decomposition of the corpses; the breeding of vultures is also discussed.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of Parsees families made a fortune in Bombay, founded charitable institutions, schools, hospitals and distinguished themselves in artistic professions and Indian politics. 48 fire temples still exist in Mumbai and the surrounding area. And there are still purely parisian housing estates such as the exclusive Cusrow Baug built in 1934 in the middle of Colaba. But the Parsees are not only having difficulties with the burials today, but also with the continued existence of their community at all: There should only be a maximum of 70,000 Parsees in all of India, most of them in Mumbai. In addition to a low birth rate, this is mainly due to the fact that, according to the prevailing opinion, one is only Parse if both parents are also, which means that even Zoroastrians who are not of Parsei descent are not recognized as full Parsees. Of course, this has been causing discussions within the community for a long time. As long as there is no generally recognized opening, however, it remains to be feared that the parsing will soon disappear entirely.


If you go to one of the countless vegetarian restaurants in town, you will discover the words "also for Jains" on some dishes.The Jains make up around four percent of the population in Mumbai. Jainism is rooted in Brahmanism, the forerunner of Hinduism, and was probably introduced in the 5th century BC. Founded by Mahavira. Mahavira is said to be the last of 24 revered ascetics, so-called tirthankars, have been. In Jainism, the spiritual and the unspiritual face each other. The latter includes material things, which include not only humans and animals, but also plants and water. In addition to truthfulness and independence from unnecessary possessions, non-violence plays an important role. Since violence can also be done to plants, the Jains practice a special vegetarianism: They do not eat root vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, etc., as the tuber can germinate and microorganisms die when they are pulled out.

Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji Jain Temple, Walkeshwar Photo: Mariella Ourghi

The Mumbai Jain community also comes mainly from Gujarat and, since its establishment at the end of the 18th century, has dedicated itself primarily to trade and banking, traditionally because agriculture or military services disregard the ban on killing. Like the Parsees and Jews, many of them made considerable fortunes and set up social institutions. In the otherwise predominantly Muslim bazaar district of Bhuleshwar, many jewelry stores are owned by Jains. Three particularly impressive Jain temples are located in Walkeshwar (south of Malabar Hill), built by wealthy Jains. The oldest is the Babu Amichand Panalal Adishwarji Jain Temple, built in 1904, a particularly impressive temple whose entrance is lined with two marble elephants. The interior is adorned with frescoes and chasing work with scenes from the life of the 24th tirthankars.


Although Buddhism in the 6th century BC Originated in India, it has long since fallen into a minority position there. Apart from a few small Himalayan regions, Buddhism in India began to slowly disappear from the 12th century due to the strengthening of Hinduism and the spread of Islam, so that by the end of the 19th century there were almost no Buddhists. Today the proportion of Buddhists in all of India is only 0.8 percent, but in Mumbai it is over five percent. Buddhism experienced a revival in the 20th century mainly through the Buddhist Dalit movement (Navayana). Dalits (Marathi literally for "oppressed") is the self-designation of the so-called "untouchables", by which members of the lowest castes are understood (there are actually no "real" casteless people). Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), after whom a large street in Mumbai is named. Born into a Dalit family himself, he fought for equal rights for the Dalits. A few weeks before his death, he converted to Buddhism together with around 388,000 other Dalits in a public ceremony in Nagpur. Since then, he has been followed by millions of Dalits, particularly in the states of Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. But people from India's new middle class have also turned to Buddhism. As in western industrialized nations, the number of people who are attracted to Buddhism primarily through the forms of meditation is increasing, as a compensation for a more and more materialistic environment. The oldest Buddhist temple in Mumbai is the Nipponzan Myohoji Temple in Worli. In the 13th century, a Japanese monk prophesied that the salvation of mankind would lie in the West Indies. In 1931 the Japanese monk Nichidatsu Fuji came to Bombay to fulfill the prophecy. He had a small temple built, which was rebuilt in 1956 and to which a charitable institution with a school for needy children is attached. In the far north of Mumbai on the terrain of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park are the Kanheri Caves. The 109 caves were carved into the rock by Buddhist monks between the 1st and 9th centuries BC; the first were used as overnight accommodation for traveling monks, and later a permanently inhabited monastery was built.


The Sikhs from the Punjab have had a lasting impact on the European image of India, which is basically paradoxical, since the typical appearance of men - turban, beard and bracelet - originally served to distinguish themselves from the other religious communities in India. Bhangra, a folk dance for Thanksgiving in Punjab, became popular all over India and made it to western discos in populated form. Bollywood (a trunk word from "Bombay" and "Hollywood"), India's largest film industry based in Mumbai, has recently discovered the Sikhs as a new milieu for their films. And India's current Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is a Sikh. But the Sikhs make up just under two percent of the Indian population, the vast majority of whom live in their area of ​​origin, the Punjab. The monotheistic Sikh religion was there in the 15./16. Founded in the 14th century by Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and emerged from the rejection of traditional social hierarchies according to religious, social and gender affiliation as well as the rejection of religious rituals. In Mumbai, the Sikhs make up just under 0.6 percent of the population. You came after the partition of India in search of new economic opportunities and are represented in various professions. Gurdwaras, like the Sikh temples, which also include dining rooms, dormitories and libraries, are located in different parts of Mumbai and are accessible to everyone.

St Thomas' Cathedral, Fort Photo: Mariella Ourghi

Mumbai has been a multi-religious city from the very beginning. Unlike the Portuguese, the British had little interest in religious proselytizing, but all the more in the prosperity of trade. The creation of urban infrastructure was thanks to the governor Gerald Aungier (r. 1672-77). He encouraged merchants to come to Bombay regardless of their ethnic or religious affiliation. In 1687 the headquarters of the East India Company from Surat (in Gujarat) to Bombay. To this day, Mumbai can certainly be considered India's most multicultural city. If you walk along the Shahid Bhagat Singh Marg (formerly Colaba Causeway), a busy shopping street in the south of the city, you will find shops run by Muslims next to those of Hindus, Jains or Christians, like the names on the signs or sometimes the clothing of the Betray the owner. But this should not hide the fact that the problem of communalism remains virulent. The attacks of recent years seem to have been carried out by Islamist groups. Not least because of this, the Muslims have a particularly difficult position Shiv Sena has been involved in anti-Muslim agitation since the 1970s and called on Hindus to destroy mosques on whose floors there were allegedly temples. The Shiv Sena propagates that the loyalty of the Muslims does not apply to India, but to Pakistan; the high birth rates of the Muslims would lead to the displacement of the Hindus.

The nice older gentleman in the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, when I asked about the problem, weighs it down: In Mumbai all religious communities lived together peacefully. This is probably only half the story. But there is still the other half: Mumbai is still Bombay. For taxi drivers, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus is simply the Victoria Terminus and the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Marg is simply Marine Drive. And to this day Mumbai has lost none of its attraction for people from all regions of India.