Ever wondered why “SEVEN ISLANDS” is associated with Mumbai.

  • What is the significance of the seven islands?

  • Which rulers were responsible for the reclamation of Mumbai?

  • which incident placed the islands in possession of the English empire?

  • Whom did England lease Mumbai for a sum of £10 per annum?

To answer all these questions, we are here again with our not so weekly blog.

             “Why Mumbai is known as the city of seven islands”.

The Portuguese were actively involved in the foundation and growth of their Roman Catholic religious orders in Bombay.  The islands were leased to several Portuguese officers during their regime. The Portuguese built several fortifications around the city like the Bombay Castle, Castella de Aguada(Bandra Fort), and Madh Fort.


The English were in constant struggle with the Portuguese vying for hegemony over Bombay, as they recognized its strategic natural harbor and its natural isolation from land attacks. By the middle of the 17th century, the growing power of the Dutch Empire forced the English to acquire a station in western India.

On 11 May 1661, the marriage treaty of Charles II of England and Catherine of Braganza, daughter of King John IV of Portugal, placed the islands in possession of the English Empire, as part of Catherine’s dowry to Charles. However, Salsette, Bassein, Mazagaon, Parel, Worli, Sion, Dharavi, and Wadala still remained under Portuguese possession.


From 1665 to 1666, the English managed to acquire Mahim, Sion, Dharavi, and Wadala.

In accordance with the Royal Charter of 27 March 1668, England leased these islands to the English East India Company in 1668 for a sum of £10 per annum. The population quickly rose from 10,000 in 1661, to 60,000 in 1675.

In 1687, the English East India Company transferred its headquarters from Surat to Bombay. The city eventually became the headquarters of the Bombay Presidency. Following the transfer, Bombay was placed at the head of all the company’s establishments in India.


By the middle of the 18th century, Bombay began to grow into a major trading town and received a huge influx of migrants from across India. Later, the British occupied Salsette on 28 December 1774. With the Treaty of Surat (1775), the British formally gained control of Salsette and Bassein, resulting in the First Anglo-Maratha War.

The British were able to secure Salsette from the Marathas without violence through the Treaty of Purandar (1776), and later through the Treaty of Salbai (1782), signed to settle the outcome of the First Anglo-Maratha War.

From 1782 onwards, the city was reshaped with large-scale civil engineering projects aimed at merging all the seven islands of Bombay into a single amalgamated mass by way of a causeway called the Hornby Vellard.


In 1817, the British East India Company under Mountstuart Elphinstone defeated Baji Rao II, the last of the Maratha Peshwa in the Battle of Khadki. Following his defeat, almost the whole of the Deccan came under British suzerainty and was incorporated into the Bombay Presidency. The success of the British campaign in the Deccan marked the end of all attacks by native powers.


By 1845, the seven islands coalesced into a single landmass by the Hornby Vellard project via large scale land reclamation. the city became the world’s chief cotton trading market, resulting in a boom in the economy that subsequently enhanced the city’s stature.