Whether it’s the political past of age-old vernacular bookstores in Mumbai or the iconic Vada Pav that comes wrapped in cobwebs of right wing politics, the city is full of secrets. Every alley, every remnant of the British Raj, every legacy store that has watched this city transform, harbours within a treasure chest of unknown facts that have significantly contributed to the culmination of what we today refer to as Bombay or Mumbai.
While many of us know of Mumbai’s past under the British Raj. A glorious archipelago of seven islands that was later united to form one giant mass of land, Bombay did transform into a burgeoning city and financial capital under the British rule. However, the same would not have been possible without a certain marriage alliance that took place much before British established its stronghold in India.
Before the British, the seven islands of Bombay were ruled by the Portuguese. However, in the seventeenth century, thanks to a series of unexpected events, a strategic marriage alliance took place between the British (who were only starting to realise the trade potential of Bombay’s harbour) and the Portuguese. Catherine of the house of Braganza in Portugal married Charles II of England. Naturally, according to the customs of those good old days, Catherine was welcomed with the promise of a hefty dowry. But can you guess how ‘hefty’ the dowry was going to be?
Apart from a huge sum of money, Catherine of Braganza brought with her the seven islands of Bombay! All of which were under the Portuguese control at that time. If it hadn’t been for the union of those two, Bombay perhaps would never have become the thriving metropolis that it is today. It would, however, be interesting to speculate an alternate reality of what would have happened had things gone differently.
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