Just over 12.5 million people live in Mumbai, making it the second biggest city in India and one of the most populous cities in the world. The official language of the state of Maharashtra is Marathi. However, local varieties of Hindi, Gujarati, and English, or a mixture thereof, are also among the many languages commonly spoken by urbanites of various backgrounds in Mumbai.
The rich mix of cultures, religions, and languages can be traced back to the city’s long history as the country’s most popular destination for migrants from both India and overseas. The different religions practiced by the various demographic groups living in Mumbai are an important part of cultural life.
Life in Mumbai features countless traditional festivals originating from the city’s various religious groups and spread out across the year. Baisakhi, for example, is a harvest festival celebrated by the Sikh population during the period of Vaishakh (April and May). It includes joyful processions, martial arts performances, and acts of charity.
Diwali or Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Lights, is very popular with nearly all residents of Mumbai. It takes place either in the last week of October or the first two weeks of November, and — since it’s associated with Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth — it also marks the beginning of the new fiscal year in Mumbai. Arguably the most important festival of the cultural life in Mumbai, though, is Ganesh Chaturthi, the birthday of the elephant-headed deity Ganesha celebrated in August or September.
However, it is not only Indian festivals that are highlights of the year in Mumbai; some Zoroastrian festivals as well as Eid al-Fitr (the end of the fasting period for Muslims), Christmas, and Good Friday are also very much part of the festival calendar of Mumbai’s diverse population. The latter two are not only part of the Christian year in Mumbai, but are respected by many other Mumbaikars, too.
Of course, there is a secular side to the cultural life in Mumbai as well. Locals and expats alike enjoy the lively entertainment offered in the countless theaters, museums, art galleries, music festivals, restaurants, and nightlife venues. The city also has a rich literary tradition, with Salman Rushdie being the Mumbai representative best known among Western expatriates.
As a resident of Mumbai, you will be able to browse the well-stacked, slightly dusty rows of second-hand bookstores or frequent the local branches of the Oxford chain, part of a major Indian publishing conglomerate which sells books too. In fact, bookshops play a multifaceted role, often functioning as a library as well as a children’s play-center. Public readings and kids’ activities open to everyone are hosted there, and enjoying a cup of tea or coffee while flicking through the books is a common pastime.
Cinema lovers in Mumbai benefit from a variety of movie theaters that show everything from blockbusters to arthouse pictures. The Regal Cinema in Colaba, for example, is appreciated for its wonderful Art Deco style. Obviously, one must not forget that Bollywood, the world’s largest film industry, is also based in Mumbai.
Sports, particularly cricket, are an important feature of life in Mumbai and enjoy great popularity among most inhabitants. Everyone is invited to take part, either actively on one of the city’s many cricket grounds or as a passive spectator in the stadium. Business almost comes to a screeching halt on the day of a big cricket match. Seasoned expats in Mumbai will know better than to schedule important meetings on those days!
One should not forget yoga, a very important part of life in Mumbai and of Indian culture in general. If you’ve never done any yoga before, now is the time to try it. If yoga does not suit you, though, check out Mumbai on the net or asklaila, India’s local information service on the internet, for useful updates on events and leisure activities in Mumbai.
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