Saturday, December 29, 2012

Just Pontification 6. The end of Nirbhay (Fearlessness)... Time for a Personal Fear (Responsibility)?

A little girl died today. We hope we will remember her because of the fight she put up to survive and LIVE life in capital letters. 

She was called Nirbhay, perhaps because of this will to live. I will accept this name for that reason, even if it is given by the Times of India group, whose sensationalized pages have the maximum number of money-making, money-enforcing advertisements.

We hope we will not remember her for the other macabre details that caused/preceded her death. 

We also would like to remember her for her family and their values. I think, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, Meira Kumari made a point very tellingly on television. This is a family, she said, which sold off their family land to give their daughter what they thought is the best education they could give... a medical profession. 

Indeed, this would be the aspect that should make us most proud. 
India has finally reached a state where a father is not afraid to let his daughter study, simply because it is her  her right. This father did not succumb to the pressures of a medieval society which is famous for its female foeticide. 

The death of Nirbhay implies an ominous death of fearlessness. It will be required of the youth to resurrect Nirbhay

To begin with, let the young protesters dedicate the day of her death as a day following which the girls and boys  will not marry if dowry is required. 

I am also proud that of all the so-called leaders who made statements on this incident, the one that made the most impact was made by Meira Kumari, the daughter of our own Jagjivan Ram, who hailed from a family of so-called untouchables. One has to be careful in reminding ourselves that, after all, given all the so-called advanced or westernized education, the people who make the most sense are those --- the so-called harijans or adivasis --- that are first and foremost rooted in our own civilization/ They do not have to light candles and march when they have been lighting diyas  in folded banana leaves and floating them down streams for so many many many many eons. 

We seem to forget this in our ephemeral public consciousness generated by our media hep and hype.  

The youth are absolutely right in expressing concern for the nature of the crime in the way they did  The policing authorities deserve a real kick in their butts. This, the police will forget soon.

But where do the youth go from here? Surely, it cannot be only for the denting and the painting!

A typical blogger ( would for instance blog
 "A 23 year old girl, who was gang raped and brutally assaulted in Delhi bus, now fighting for life, finally lost the battle. It is sad news and shocked us. At the same time, it made us to think, how long it will go. CAN we do something to change the system so that such cases do not happen again"

What the blogger and his protesting ilks probably have in mind is that they have a right to a security that will allow them the freedom to do what they would like to do. For, after all, they live in a democracy. They require being assured that they have the right to participate in every multi-media merriment without being morally parented through them and without being threatened by others no matter how these others are provoked.  

Their arguments are simple. They are in a democracy, they say, and therefore they are free to do what they like and they should be protected.

I think, by saying so, the youth have missed the whole point. I may even think that they have been pampered for so long that they cannot think beyond their nose. All they can see is themselves and their rights. They do not have other responsibilities. 

In one of my earlier pontification (at > 70 one could pontificate) blogs (Just Pontification 5: Occupy an Occupation, not Wall Street of 16 Oct 2011) I had stressed the importance of looking inwards for answers to social problems instead of  looking for societal scapegoats. 

The youth have the energy and the inexperience to be fearless (Nirbhay). There are so many causes that they can take up!. 

These are not causes which other people (especially news channels) may encourage just to benefit from the negative aspects. 

What one has to fight for are those one feels personally about. These are what could be called the "ekla chalo re". types ("Walk alone if they dont follow you"). After all the fight against corruption can be won if people are individually not corruptible. The aim would be to be personally (by one's value system) incorruptible, 

If one is looking for a heart-rending case, such as the Nirbhay one, one could as well take up the issue of the Muslim girl from Mumbra, Ishrat Jehan, who was "encounter-killed" by policemen from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. If one is afraid of fighting so-called communal issues one could take up the issues of honour-killing that some panchayaats encourage. One could even take up the way out-of-class  tuitions are taken by school and college teachers for all kinds of exams, thereby defeating the very purpose of education --- to think for one's self when ready answers are not available. Why should a young man or woman require a capitation fee to get into a course for which he actually has no heart for? Why should a young man or woman require a reservation based on his birth accident to get an admission into a certification course he has no appetite for?

The most important of these is the personal honesty of the youth. They have to get out of their parental pampering brought about by their expressions of unhappiness when they perceive their peers to have material advantage. Such perceptions are heightened by advertisements which impress upon the youth  all the things they do not have, 

The youth should be able to look at themselves in the mirror and ask the one important question. Are they worth it, after all? 

Because of societal reasons there is a difference between the days of my youth (more than fifty years ago) and the youth of present times, in the responsibilities of the youth with respect to their role in society . Fifty years ago there were social issues which had to be corrected. They though they corrected them by providing social security, health benefits, unemployment insurance, free education. This was achieved in the western world who encouraged the workers to benefit from ideas from the liberal arts and social sciences. This dreamy Utopian (possessing highly desirable or perfect qualities) world has collapsed in the western worlds. They have not yet really begun in India; or even in China. 

The large (greater than 25%) unemployment among the youth raises an important question. Is there any ethical/moral basis for profit-oriented societies to look after the dispensable, inexperienced youth? Is it only necessary to postpone problems by mollycoddling (being  overprotective and indulgent toward) temporarily to their instant non-contemplated gratifications (football, cricket, item numbers, rave parties and their attendant ills)? 

 Is the society (by which one means the government, corporate de jure or de facto) responsible for finding employment, security for all? Or is there an inevitable way that redundancy (unemployment) is taken care of in a natural (say Malthusian) way?: Or simply by variations of ethnic cleansing? Clockwork Orange?

The point I am trying to make is that is ay seem straight-forward to young people who consider themselves to be free citizens of a democracy to demand protection rights. It is necessary to show to themselves that they deserve this right, They would have to show that living life fully is to work hard with organic hands in an organic non-digital way.  In the end, it is the people who can survive on their own wits and imagination will be the eventual winners. At least they should be for they would be living life with Nirbhay --- living life fearlessly; treating every uncertainty as a new learning experience. 

The youth will be sorely tempted to believe that they have mattered. A few could be indeed hung. They will be told that they mattered, The youth could soon find out that they have only deluded themselves if they are quickly satisfied. This they will be when they are part of the mollycoddling game 

In another part of the world there was the death of another Nirbhay.
"The end of the self-styled Veerappan of UP, Nirbhay Singh Gujjar, has come as a relief for the Mulayam Yadav government. The dreaded dacoit, active in the ravines near the CM's native Etawah, recently even proclaimed his proximity to the SP leaders: "Mulayam and Amar Singh are my elder brothers." Needless to say, Mulayam was more than a bit perturbed by this. The brigand was shot dead in an encounter by the UP Special Task Force on November 7. Gujjar was involved in over 200 cases of kidnapping, murder and loot. Active for over three decades in Kanpur, Etawah and Mainpuri districts of UP and Bhind, Morena and Gwalior of MP, Nirbhay, 47, carried a reward of Rs 2.5 lakh—from the UP and MP governments—on his head. He also led a lavish life, armed with sophisticated guns and the latest gizmos. He was also a ladies man, marrying four of his women gang members."

This killing is another brutal story. There will be no candle light procession ordained for this Nirbhay. 

Will we care?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Mumbai’s “Lungi hatao pongey bajao” slogan: A Perspective on an ancient Historical conflict.

One book that I have extensively referred to for my learning (if not for this blog) is “The Origin of Bombay” by J. Gerson da Cunha published in 1900. Bimbakyan (Chronicles of Bimb or Bhim), is presumed to have been written in 1139, and is referred to by J Gerson da Cunha in his work, Raja Bhimdev established his capital at Mahikawati (Mahim). “ “With the king, came a sizable group of Pathare Prabhus, Palshis, Pachkalshis and toddy tapper Bhandaris, who comprised the first wave of immigrants to Bombay. Members of agricultural communities like the Vadvals, Malis, Bhois and Agris, Brahmans and traders from nearby regions were also thought to have settled in Bombay during this time.” See figure below (click to expand) for location of early settlements in an 1849 map and Fig 13 of previous blog for their location with repect to present-day Mumbai.
Burell (“Bombay in the days of Queen Anne”)would write “Banderes (his spelling for the Bhandaris) ,,,  that look after these trees ... will swarm up with incredible swiftness, having a basket hanging on the right side into which they put the toddy ... The basket ... work'd so closely together that although it hath no lining, [it] will not emit one drop, so well are they contrived.
After Raja Bhimdev “... took possession of Bombay. His immediate successor was dispossessed of his authority by a Bhandari chief, Shetya of Chaul, who in turn wa dispossessed by Musalmans. Upon the arrival of the Portugese the Bhandaris were once more in power and assisted the invaders against the Musalmans. Thereafter at Mahim a Bhandari kingdom was established Bhongules or Bhandaris. With the help of the Portugese several petty kingdoms seem to have been established by the Bhandari on the western coast.” One may therefore assume that the Bhandaris were among the major early influences on late (after, say, the European Dark Ages) Maharashtrian  culture. “Some of them possessed houses”(!!). Bhandari is said to be a combination of the Prakrit word Band and the Sanskrit word ari and “appears to have been invented by those anxious to assign a higher origin to the caste than it can probably claim.”

The Bhandari “Bhongulee”

One of the more lasting influences of the Bhandaris seems to be (to me, at least; I have not researched enough) their unwitting role in the Shiv Sena’s slogan “lungi hatao, pungi bajao”. One assumes that the pungi is something one associates with typical Marathi culture. The internet does not readily identify what pungi is in this context. The pungi is identified as as a “... pipe or nose-flute composed of a gourd or nut-shell into which two wooden pipes or reeds are inserted. It emits a droning or humming sound, and is the instrument commonly used by snake-charmers.” (fig 14 top left; the numbering of figures continues from the previous blog). Such a pungi is not peculiar to Maharshtra alone.

Of the Bhandaris the most remarkable usage is their fondness for a peculiar species of long trumpet called Bhongulee,which ever since the dominion of the Portugese, they have had the privilege of carrying and blowing on certain state occasions. Fryer, in a letter written between 1672 and 1681describes the Bhandaris as as forming a sort of honorary giards or heralds to the Governor, and even to this day they carry the union flag and blow their immense trumpet before the High Sheriff on he opening of the Quarter Sessions. From these descriptions I imagine that the bhongulee is the name for the immensely popular symbol of Marathi-ness, the Tutari (Fig 14 top). Like the Bhongulee of earlier times, the Tutari is blown in Mahrashtra to announce arrivals of kings or palkhis
Before I continue any further I am asserting at this stage that the Bhongulee orTutari is what Bal Thackeray may have meant in an onomatopoeia-ic poon-poon sense when he exhorted the marathi manoos to poongi bajao. The word poongi is actually a trans-Indian word for a “...pipe or nose-flute composed of a gourd or nut-shell into which two wooden pipes or reeds are inserted. It emits a droning or humming sound, and is the instrument commonly used by snake-charmers.” (Fig 14, top left).
On searching the internet I have not found much connection between the Bhandaris and tutari, In the neighbouring state (The Castes and Tribes of H R H the Nizam’s Dominions by Syed Suraj Yl Hassan, 1926) the Bhandaris are described as temple musicians “ ... and play on the sanai, a pipe, samhal, a drum, and cymbals, and blow the shinga or conch at the worship of the temple deity.” The Shinga or Shringa are Tutari-like instruments. An Wikipidia article “History of primitive and non-Western trumpets” has the “tutari (Marathi), tuttori (kannada), bhongal (Marathi)” as “... Indigenous straight trumpets (that) have been made in India since the Neolithic and are still found today ...  

The immediate point of my jumping-to-conclusion tendencies is to look for a connection between the word bhongulee and bugle, if only because the names sound so similar. During one of my forays through the juna bazaar of Pune I had found a bugle (fig 15) which was not kept in the best of shape and whose sound my dog did not particularly approve of. It had the British Empire insignia on it. There is a tendency for the layman like me to think that the bugle is just another version of the trumpet.  I educated myself from the internet.

From  I learnt that the Greek trumpet, salpinx, was used In 396 B.C. Greek Olympic Games.  These trumpets were made of ivory and had or.  They had bronze on the bell and mouthpiece. Something similar to the salpinx were found in Egyptian tombs as early as 3000-2000 bc. There is, however, a distinction to be made between a bugle and a trumpet.

In an article titled An Introductory History of the Bugle From its Early Origins to the Present Day, Jari Villanueva says that

 “... the basic difference between bugles and trumpets is found in the shape of the bell. The musical definition of a trumpet (natural trumpet) is that of a horn which has two thirds of its length in the form of a cylindrical tube – usually it is five sixths of the total length. A bugle has a conical shape through-out. We can therefore make the general assumption that a trumpet is cylindrically shaped with a cup-shaped mouthpiece, while a bugle is conical in nature with a funnel-shaped mouthpiece. .... The bugle first appears as a hunting horn with the distinctive coil ... In the late 18th century the bugle then took on the form we know today.”

By this definition the Tibetan horn (Fig 15) would be a bugle; so would the tutari, or shringi. The kombu depicted in Fig 15 would not be a bugle nor would the Roman Tuba or Cornu (Fig 14).


It seems natural to think that the Bhongulee would have been a bugle. In this case, it is perhaps of historical importance to realize that the humble Bhandari bhongulee or bhongal gave the bugle even if one calls it the Tutari now.


The lungi


Inevitably, the lungi is worn by the muslim community, although my father as well as my elder brother would not trade it for anything when they wanted to lounge around in the hot summer climate of Madras (now Chennai). The predominantly muslim association with the muslim community is roughly true if one considers that the lungi is typically worn primarily by the Islamic community of the kingdom of Travancore (now kerala), Bengal (Bangladesh), Burma (longyi, Myanamar) malay peninsula (Malaysia).


The difference between a lungi and a veshti is that both ends of the lungi are stitched together while in the veshti it is not. I have no idea why muslims should wear lungis and not dhotis or veshtis. It is probably derived from the Arab dress thawb which is something like a male version of the burqua except that the men do not cover their face. The lungi would then be a top-less thawb that was propagated in the coastal regions of the Indian subcontinent and elsewhere.


In highly humid weather one sweats considerably. One can then fold the lungi up and allow the sea-breeze to ventilate and cool your body. In Fig 16 top right, there is bare-bodied man who is sweating. He is wearing a mundu or vesti. Because his hands are not free he has a belt around his vesti to make sure it does not fall down. A man by his side carrying a broom wears a lungi. In Fig 16 extreme right there is a man lifting up his mundu and one can see his white cloth is wet probably by being in contact with his wet legs.


The folding up of a lungi is shown in the bottom middle of Fig 16. The bottom right of Fig 16 shows the relaxed body language of the veshti-wearer. At the extreme left is a scene from a village near Shirali, near Mangalore in Karntaka (the sloping roof uses Mangalore tiles). The majority are wearing the window-pane-patterned lungi. There is a lady in burqua (mulim). There is man in white veshti (non-muslim). And there is a fisherwomman selling fish much as a koli fisherwoman would. The whole scene is typical of a community of diverse people living together in easy harmony.


In its original form the lungi was probably known as veshti or mundu in kerala, It was a white garment and Tanuk fishermen were involved in its export to what is now the mainly islamic Middle-east countries. The transition from white fabrics to the now popular coloured windowpane (see Fig 16, top) pattern fabrics of the lungis does not not seem to have been documented clearly. One may speculate that it is the British who exploited the weaving skills of the people around Bombay to set up mills for making coloured windowpane cotton fabrics instead of the windowpane woollen fabrics that they were familiar with in England.

I have not found any reference to the origin of the word lungi on the internet. I have a feeling it comes from the word “lounge” which itself comes from the word “lawn” or early English “laund”. The lungi was earlier known as 'Veshti', a white colored garment. Historical evidences point out that the Muslin cloth of Veshti was exported to Babylonia by fishermen from Tamil Nadu. Writings in Babylonian archaeological articles specify the word 'Sindu', which in Tamil means 'garment'. The English word lungis itself comes from Longinus or Longius the soldier that pierced Christ’s side with a spear and “fell into a dreaming luske, a drosie gangrill” (from Dictionary of Word Origins by by Joseph T. Shipley).


One may look at tthe lungi-sation of the common people of early Mumbai. In Fig 17 left (click to expand) an old scene of native Maharashtrians from what seems to be the Bhuleshwar-Byculla part of the coast. They did not have the Congress cap then and wore a white cloth on their head either loose or as a turban. Thir dhoties were usually folded up. In the right of Fig 17, the bearers of Palanquin are seen with their veshtis folded up (see also Fig 18, right). The palanquin bearers are associated with the harbour and were probably required for transporting the lazier European aliens.  

The mode of the dress of palanquin bearers are the same later (Fig 18 left). The features of the palanquin bearers seem to me to (I have no idea of the anthropological sytem of classification) be Dravidian in an “aboriginal” Koli-Tamil sense (see Fig 18 right). These palanquin bearers are in the Bombay greens. They must have participated in other “empire”-building activites of Bombay and were probably as Marathi-speaking as anyone else. One may not draw an ethnic distinction between Tamil and non-Tamil Marathi speaking people indigenous to the regions around Mumbai. They were not immigrn\ants. As Bombay city grew and commerce led to a cosmopolitan-isation the dress of the people changed (Fig 18, middle). One cannot make out from their bottom- wear what religion or caste theybelong to. If one attempts to distinguish them by their head-wear they seem to be seamless homogeneous as friends.

The lungi hatao slogan cannot be allowed to apply to the so-called south Indians as many assume including Shiv Sainiks.


There could instead be another historical aspect in the lungi hatao Pungi bajao saga.

Given the historical antagonism between the Bhandaris of early Bombay and the Mussalman from Malabar one may interpret the lungi hatao pungi bajao slogan as a slogan which could be several centuries old. For this one has to associate lungi with muslims. Since the Bhandris themselves are also temple musicians from the present Hyderabad-Telengana region and the muslims are from the Malabar region the lungi-hatao-Pungi-bajao slogan is actually an ancient south-south, “telengana-kerala” conflict.

I do not know whether the Thakurs referred to in the early (1849) “Hindu map” shown in the beginning are the present-day Thakres. They don’t seem to be. 

Original Mumbadevi of Mumbai: Speculations on her location, her looks, and Cornwallis as her unwitting impostor

This blog has come out of a short but intensive search of the internet on Mumbadevi. It deals with the only first-hand description that I could find on what was within the Mumba devi temple. This description of 1710 is by one John Burnell, who may not have been a proper gentleman. This perhaps makes his account more honest. He describes the idol as red with a disproportionately big head and no mouth. Out of this search of the internet, I conclude that Mumbadevi temple was probably located near the dome where Cornwallis’ statue was kept, that the devi worshipped was the vermilion covered stones worshipped by koli fishermen and that the deep veneration for Cornwallis’ statue could actually have been worship of the mumba devi awakened by ancient memories. This is not new for stone-worshippers of Mother Universe.

In all my conversations with the Marathi-speaking people from Maharashtra Bombay has been rightly given the name Mumbai because they always refer to it as Mumbai. That’s it. Bombay has to be Mumbai. And tightly so (tight as firm, stiff,  fixed, rigid). The actual historical origin of the name need not be a tight-enough reason. It is the usage. For a natural Bengali (as distinct from a native Bengali) like me one can probably appreciate the sentiments behind the change in the name from Bombay to Mumbai”) as the change from Calcutta to the vernacular Kolkata seemed to be justified.

This blog, therefore, will not try to discuss whether or not the name should be Mumbai. It will also try to reconstruct the way the Mumbadevi temple may have looked as a koli temple in the place where it was thought to be originally erected. For this I can only use English accounts on th interenet and current Koli customs. I have not. In my brief search so far, found any English translation of Marathi accounts of ancient History of Mumbai.

Several cities have been renamed from their old names used by the British. The more dramtic change is that when Madras was changed to Chennai, as there was very little common sound bytes between them. Since the British came by sea (1639, when they built Fort St. George), the names used by fishermen should have been the ones they used first. Madars is thought to be named after a fisherfolk’s village, madrasapattinam, pattinam meaning town.  There is, however, no record of a pre-British name for madrasapattinam. A british mapmaker says it comes from Mundiraj shortened to undras or madras.  There is no regional god-name associated with Madras. It could have come from the Portuguese Madre de Deus Church in what is now Santhome built, they say, in 1575

The name Chennai is supposed to come from a Chennappa Naicker---which could be a Tamilised version of a Telugu ruler Damarla Chennappa Nayakudu---who is said to have sold the land to the British. It is also said it could also have come from the name of the first temple, Chenna Kesava Peruvar Koil, built after Fort St George was built. There seems to be no pre-Fort-St-George reference to Chennai or Madras, although the immediate region around Madras/Chennai has a glorious and ancient history. The Tamil version of Ramayana, kamba Ramayana was written in Thiruvottiyur, Thiruvallavar author of great Tamil epics is (perhaps wrongly) thought to have lived in Mylapore whose history could go back to first century BC. Tamils claim Valmiki, the author of the Sanskrit Ramayana (it may not have been in Sanskrit at all, but rather in Brahmi) got his moksha (great people do not die) in Thiruvanmyur. There is, of course, the famous Mamallapram or Mahabalipuram on the sea coast. It is likely that the alien sailors preferred to land their fleet in places where there was no existing population with an old record. The name of the place they landed in may not therefore have a recorded history.

The same would be true for what is now Mumbai. The aliens gave them the name that is local if not historical. It is another matter how they learnt of the local name in the first place!

There can be little ancient pride in the alien name of a place.  India is a case in point, even if I love my India, There must be some pride in giving a place the name the locals use in their own vernacular for it for whatever historical reason. Mumbai is one such case/

A few months ago during my routine inspection of a shop which buys old newspapers and other printed waste (ratthi shop) near the Pashan vegetable market, I found a book “History of Bombay, 1681-1776” by one M. D, David which was his doctoral thesis presented to Wilson College, Bombay, where he was Professor. This book that I bought (Fig 4, left; the numbering begins with Fig 4 since it is actually a continuation ofmy understanding of the Balasaheb Thackeray influence starting from the  the previous blog) was almost unread except being eaten and bored by a large number of bookworms. I bought it for Rs 20 has now an internet price of Rs 5000-6000. I always thought I will Blog on Old Bombay based on this book. Other books in English that I have downloaded from the internet and have referred to extensively for this blogs are (Fig 4)  da Cunha’s “Origin of Bombay” and Burnell’s “Bombay in the days of Queen Anne”.

The book by David starts with 1661 because as “…a result of the marriage between Charles II and the Infante Catherine of Braganza, Portugal ceded Bombay to the English king in 1661. ... the Portuguese King ceded the Port and Island of Bombay to the English with the idea ... of obtaining adequate support for the Portuguese in India against the growing power of the Dutch.” However, much of the ethnic history of Bombay begins before this time.

The Foreword of David’s book begins with
“The growth of Bombay from a settlement of rock, swamp and jungle to the proud position of the commercial metropolis of India is a most romantic story.” It is this story that we require understanding if we have to understand the political history of the Marathi Manoos in the context of the history of Mumbai. 

A book I must read is Mariam Dossal's “Mumbai: Theatre of Conflict, City of Hope - 1660 To Present Times” In a review of the book it has been written “Seventeenth century Bombay was a collection of islands, from Salsette in the north to Old Woman's Island in the south, packed with coconut plantations, paddy fields and fishing villages….” A web-site shows a view from present day Malabar Hill (Fig 5, click to expand; the place was called after the lookout-point for the Mapilla pirates from Malabar) that corresponds to this description.
Since Mumbai is now an agglomeration of several villages it is important to know how the various places got their names. An 1849 “Hindu map” published in the Census of India, 1901, shows (see Figure above, click to expand, as always) showing some of the local names including places named by trees. It also shows he settlement of various communities, such as Bhandaris, Prabhus, Thakurs, Brahmins, besides kolis. . An web site does this rather  exhaustively and concisely ( . According to this site some of the places got their names from trees planted by Raja Bhimdev who sert up his base in Mahim in the 13th century. For example, the name Parel is from the Paral tree, wadala is from wad or the banyan tree, names beginning with chinch3is is after the tamarind tree, phanaswadi is from the phanas or jackfruit tree, Madmalaor Mahim woods is from mad or the coconut tree, The ubiquitious babul (Acacia Arabica) tree, found from Raja Bhimdev’s time is said to give the name to Babulnath, with a temple on a hill that was built in 1780 on a site containing buried Hindu idols. An alternative is that there was a Somavanshi Kshatriya named Babalji Hirji Nath who funded the construction of the temple and the Yajurvedi Brahmins who consecrated the temple called it babulnath. It is interesting to note that the Fofalwadi Lane in Bhuleshwar got its name from the betel-nut (areca-catechu) tree which in Persian is calle pupal and n Arabic as fufal.

Mumbadevi, a koli temple that is currently acknowledged to be the reason Mumbai got its name. There are more than twenty koli villages in Mumbai and each of them have their own village goddess that they call by various names. The names of other places have little to do with the name of these Koli temples. The name Colaba, for example, is thought by some to be derived from a mis-pronunciatin of koli-wada which means a Koli hamlet.

Most of the short discussions on the names of Bombay in the internet seems to have been sourced from the 1917 book “Bombay Place-Names and Street-Names. An Excursion into the by-ways of the history of Bombay City”. By Samuel T. Sheppard where it is written:
The name is so exhaustively ' examined in the Bombay City Gazetteer (Vol. I, pp. 19-24) that no more than a summary of the various derivations need be given here.
DeCastro, writing in 1538, said the island was called Boa Vida (Good Life) on account of its groves, game, and abundance of food.
Fryer wrote (1673) of the '' convincing denomination Bombaim quasi Boon Bay." Grose (1750) refers to "Buon-Bahia now commonly Bombaim." These are commonly recognised as mere attempts to explain the more ancient Musalman and Hindu names, Manbai , Mambai, or Mumbai, which were turned into Bombain (occurs in 1508) : Mombaym, Bombain, Bombayim (Portuguese, 16th century) : Bombaye and Bombaum (1666), Bombaye (1676), and Bombay or Bambai, which occurs in 1538 and finally came into use in the 18th century. ... ...
One could consider a name such as Bombahim laying stress on a possible connection with Raja Bhimdev’s Mahikawati or Mahim.

One significant statement from Burnell is that “The Portugals … discarded the old name it had born for many ages, and coined one new they thought more proper, giving it that of Bombahim, by others Boon Baiha, and by the English Bombay, in alludance to the harbour … “ Burnell does not say what was the old name that the Portugeuese discarded. However, it does suggest that the commercially familiar name (necessarily alien since commerce was with outsider Europeans) of Bombay began with the Portuguese name.

One conjecture is by P. B. Joshi in “A short sketch of the early history of Bombay: Hindu Period”. He considers Mumba is derived from Amba (Bhawani the consort of Shiva) it being a compound word of Maha and Amba pronounced by the “illiterate” kolis as Mamba or Mumba and the suffix “ai” signifying mother.  Joshi may have considered the kolis to be illiterate about the culture behind the two pagodas (described by Burnell) near walkeshwar dedicated to Mahadev or to (strangely) to both Krishna and Durga that built a temple at Walkeshwar (The original temple of Walkeshwar, built by the Silaharas of the north Konkan, destroyed either by the Muhammadans or the Portuguese (Bomb. City Gaz. vol. in, p. 359)).that was blasted off by the Portugese (according to Burnell). There is likewise the remains of some extraordinary good sculpture, and several bases and capitals of pillars of several orders, to all [sic,? totally] different from those we use in Europe, tho' indeed are really worth observation, being cut by very good hands, tho' all broke and decayed, lying in a heap of confusion, as here the leg of a god, and there a head; a god is without a nose and another is without an elbow, all lying scattered up and down, according as the strength of the blast was pleased to disperse them, tho' something of beautyis still legible in the remaining part, its front prospect,
It is customary to assume that the Koli fishing community were the main occupants of these islands.  It would seem ( that the Koli community were the original aboriginals of the Indian subcontinent. This website has the the term koli being derived from the word “black”. In Maharashtra the kolis came from the kalabhras community. The change Kalabhras - Kalabhros - Kalbhros Kalbhors - Bhors and Kala(bhras) - Kala - Kalo - Kale - Kali - koli have been suggested. There are also the Kshatriya kolis of Rajasthan, the Mudirajas of Andhra and the Muthurajas of neighbouring Tamil Nadu, the bhils and the jats of MP and UP and Punjab. The same web site would have Valmiki, Ekalavya (I like that), Buddha’s mother (I agree) and therefoe Buddha (?), and  Shivaji’s Commander-in-Chief and several of his Generals as descendants of kolis.It is thought that the original kolis are of Dravidian origin. This would be ironic in the early Shiv Sena “lungi hatao, pungi bajao context. I will write on this in the next blog.

Sheppard’s book on the names of Bombay has " Prolonged investigation leaves little room for doubt that the word Bombay is directly derived from the goddess Mumba, the patron deity of the pre-Christian Kolis, the earliest inhabitants of the island ; and it only remains to ascertain the original form of the goddess's name." (Gazetteer, Vol. I., p. 21.)”. There is the rub.

An actual first-hand English description of Mumbadevi temple is from Burnell’s book. He writes describing a Kolwada (a koli hamlet) near a place he calls Caradaw:
It hath but one town of note in it, called Colorey [Kollwada], the inhabitants being fishers, and joineth in point of government with those of Dungary. Of publick structures it hath none but two small pagodas on the back of the town, behind which is a large tank. The pagods are those of Mombidivia and Gunis [Ganesh], Mombidivia is seated In a poor hovel upon a small altar bedeck'd with flowers, her head being three times bigger in proportion than her body. It is painted red, hath two eyes and a nose, but never a mouth, and makes a most terrible figure, her forehead being adorned with the Braminy mark, on which are some grains of rice sticking to it. In the niches of the room are several lamps and two stones in the fashion of pillars, about 10 feet high.

Images of the Mumbadevi temple available on the internet shows the interior (Fig 7, bottom left) as well as the lower part of the exterior (Fig 7 2nd from left) to be similar (Fig 7 2nd from right) to the exterior of the Buddhist caves at Bhaja or the interior of Karla caves. The two stones “in the fashion of pillars” in Burnell’s Mombidivia temple suggests a Buddhist cave influence. It is also not clear there could have been an Elephanta cave influence. After all, there have been laments that the advanced culture of Elpehanta when left to its own “descended” to worship of red stones.

The image of Mumbadevi (blue face Fig 7, bottom right) riding a tiger (Fig 7 top right, from is a later (probably Gujarathi/Rajasthani style) represenetation while Annapurana riding a peacock on her left has a more primitive face (in red) similar to other faces found outside the temple (Fig 7 bottom right). The red face of Annapurna could be from memories of what Burnell calls Mombidivia. This face is not mouth-less. On the other hand the early stone worshippers had red stones with two prominent eyes and are usually mouthless as discussed in some of my earlier blogs (shown in Fig 8  below). This seems to be a typical Maharshtra tradition. The swayambhu (not made by hand) tradition of ganapathi images and the Marathi preference for ganapathi. It could be important to know whether the ganapathi image in the second pagoda in

Burnell’s description below for ganesh temple near mumbadevi temple could be viewed came as a rival temple for upper class Hindus to attract kolis just as the Portugese would build their church in the same place.
Gunis is seated in much such another habitation, being cut out of a large solid stone and placed on a square altar, on the left side of which is a concavity for the water wherewith they wash the god to be convey'd. He hath hardly any eyes visible,

There is, interestingly, a koli fisherfolk temple at the entrance (Fig 7 top left) of the Karla caves which also has images of a lady (aai ekveera) at the sanctum sanctorum (Fig 7 top middle; the eyes seem to be different in two images found in the internet). The silver decorations behind the goddesses are of the same style as those of the  Mumba devi temple and probably of the same age as each other. The connection between Karla caves and the Mumbadevi temple is consistent with some views that the early Koli fishing communities were probably Buddhists who continued worshipping their local goddesses. The kohli communities in the various islands of Bombay seem to worship different goddesses. The kolis of Worli islands worshipped Golphadevi, while those at Versova worshipped Hingla devi, and khardevi  at Colaba which was part of the Old Woman’s islands.
A peculiar feature of images of aai ekveera on the internet is that the photographs of the same idol at Lonavala do not seem to be identical as far as their eyes are concerned. Slight but definite changes are shown in the bottom right of the deity in Lonavala (Fig 9, bottom right). There must be some morphing. Extreme change is in the figures on the left of Fig 9 bottom where the eyes are glaring and fixed. The eyes here resemble the eyes of the pieces left outside in the complex of the present day Mumba devi temple of Mumbai (Fig 7, bottom right). The morphing seems to be definitely there for the deities of Lonavala in the two figures of Lonavala in the top left of Fig 9.  The red colour and the staring eyes are typical of the stones worshipped in figures given in Fig 8. The reproducible ekvira devi images that one gets on the internet those from the Dhule temple in the interior of Maharashtra. The ekbira devi here is a painted stone to begin with!
There is a suggestion therefore of a folk memory, which insists on restoring images of the god of they worship to a featureless stone whose conscious is represented only by their eyes. It does not matter what name they give it. They only worship it as a memory. Different stones of worship have different memories. The memory is powerful and persuasive and could linger over generations and get stamped in real-space by a token of a flower, or vermilion, or a garland. It would seem very “savage” to the “educated”.

The Golphadevi temple at Worli has a stone idol that is worshipped by the son-kolis. Another curious koli temple is a more recent Hingla devi temple from Versova. This temple in Versova. has an idol which is the conventional “Gujarati” style like that in the modern Mumba devi temple. The origin of the Hingla Devi name is uncertain. I tend to agree with the belief that it is from the Hinglaj temple on the banks of the Hungli river in Baluchistan (Pakistan).  A “small shapeless stone is worshipped as Hinglaj Mata. The stone is smeared with Sindoor (vermilion)” (Wikippedia) (see Fig 10, right). This temple is associated with shakti  worship and the stone feature is very similar to khadadevi or aai ekvira of Dhule or indeed any other stone that is worshipped in India.

It is quite likely from the above that the idol inside the Mumbadevi temple is also a red stone with eyes. It conforms with Burnell’s description “Mombidivia is seated In a poor hovel upon a small altar bedeck'd with flowers, her head being three times bigger in proportion than her body. It is painted red, hath two eyes and a nose ... .” Burnell also mentions a tank near Mumbadevi. The koli temples are not associated generally with a tank. It suggests that the tanks were initially part of the complex of two pagodas mentioned by Burnell. One could guess that the earlier temples were built by those who built the sculptures of Elephanta/Ajanta. They had to be abandones and would have been later occupied by the kolis who converted existing images to red-stone images they are more familiar with. This has already been suggested by the modern morphing exercises apparent in Fig 9.

In a blog on “Pantocrator: the snake, the lion and the dragon ... and Belur” (22-1-11) I had noted
There is strong evidence that the structures left standing at Belur were built on remains of some other previous structure unlike the structure at Halebid a little further away from Belur. Many of the stones that pave the spaces between structures at Belur have geometrical shapes that suggests pillars and bases and arches (Fig 13, left and centre). In one or two places there are even signs of worship with haldi and kumkum (Fig 13, left). There is no sign of an idol having been installed there although there is some sign of some inscription on the whiter stone. There are many such geometrical shapes but no other with signs of worship (at least that day). It is as if there is a folk memory (swarm intelligence if you like) of time past when a sacred object of worship would have been associated with the stone. The worship endures because the memory endures because the worship continues with or without the haldi and the kumkum. There is little veneration from the devotee for the art of the sculptor as such.

I give some examples below which could be in accordance with the above.

The Khardevi temple (khara means salt) on Colaba is actually a cross made of two poles that are draped in a sari and given a painted mask that is topped with a gold-coloured tin crown. The make-shift idol stands (Fig 10, left) close to the sea such that the waves can touch it since “Khardevi must have her regular quota of sea water.” (  According to the same website the Khardevi temple stood on a hillock where the idol is now planted and was slowly buried under construction rubble. In the compounds of the Colaba police station (I don’t know how it got there) nearby there is a red mound with painted eyes. This mound is known as khada devi. (see Fig 10, middle; from ) which is said to be on the far left and is in “the company of the seven water spirits of Bombay”. The memory of khardevi probably lingers in the spot where it originally was and Khadadevi is at least a re[resentation of that koli devi.  
A local “Koli expert”, Sanjay Ranade, is quoted as saying that “... the mound is an ancient volcanic rock that was later covered with vermillion to prevent it from crumbling,” However, all over Maharashtra vermillion covered (now conveniently vermillion-colour-painted) rocks (see Gnostic Embrace of Warkaris in the Monsoon Season around Pune: Part III Kanifnath, Kanoba, and Syncretism of 21sr august 2010.).

The passage from my earlier blog came back forcefully to me when I was reseatching this blog. In “Glimpses of Old Bmbay and Western India” by Sheppard.
There is the very fine monument, in the Elphinstone Circle, to Cornwallis. Go when you will, yoii will see flowers placed on the open book, or garlands on the figures. This is not a new custom. In 1825 it was thought by the natives to be a place of religious worship, and they called it Chota Dewal. Government tried to stop this, and issued some vernacular notices that it was a mistake. But it was of no use, for when these feelings take possession of the natives they are not easily eradicated.

In “Govind Narayan's Mumbai: An Urban Biography From 1863” by Govinda Nārāyaṇa Māḍagã̄vakara there is another account of this veneration using an Indian loya;ist’s perspective..
 “In the front is an open space about five hundred hands square known as the Bombay Green. Our people refer to it as the chowk. In the centre of the Chowk, a small temple-like structure has been built and a statue of Lord Cornwallis, the Governor General has been installed there. ... ... Many of the labourers and the poor used to worsip the statue, and place coconuts and other offerings in front of it. Recently the government has put a stop to this craziness. Our people are truly hopeless! Truly naive! If they see any shape in a stone, they bring a coconut and fold their hands in respect. They do not bother to think.
In order to provide a clear view when attacked the English had cleared some area of land of semi-circular shape around the fort around 1770s. This area became the Esplanade and the Bombay Green. The Esplanade Road that ran through it is now the MG Road. The development of Bombay Green with its “temple” for Cornwallis (shown in Fig 11 top left) to the modern Chartered Mercantile Bank Building at Elphinstone Circle (now Homiman circle) is shown in Fig 11. Cornwallis’ statue is kept in a thatched hut in the bottom of Fig 11 top right (taken in 1870s). For some reason the green was reduced to a circle and a fountain placed in the centre and given more importance than Cornwallis. The views taken from where the Town Hall now is, shows St Thomas Cathedral at the back.
The question that comes in mind is whether the flowers and garlands were not for Cornwallis, but for a distant memory of a place of worship. It would be remarkable if the statue of Cornwallis was actually near the place where Mumba devi temple stood. I have not been able to locate an image of the Mumbadevi pagoda on the internet. I have located an image of a pagoda (Fig 12 left) from 1826 in an article “Sidis attack and defeat English in Bombay-1689 A.d., Bombay History” by one Yakub Khan. The dome of the pagoda is similar to that under which Lord Cornwallis’ statue stood. The speculation is whether Cornwallis’ dome stood near the place where Mumba devi stood.

Another perspective on the location of the Church gate of old Bombay Fort. Mumbadevi was located outside the walls of the fort near the church gate. A perspective of the gate with respect to the St Thomas Cathedral is given in Fig 12 left. This is consistent with the location of Church gate near Flora Fountain (indicated by blue circle in Fig 13 left).  It is the area towards the north that was cleared and became Bombay-Green/Esplanade and now Azad Maidan. Looking at the different perspectives in Fig 11 top it would seem that the Cornwallis’ dome was not exactly where the fountain of the Elphinstone circle is now located. The dome seems to be more towards the left, more towards the Church gate nare Flora fountain.

I have not had access to records. I can only guess from information on the internet
In some descriptions, the temple of Mumbadevi was constructed at Bori Bunder that currently makes the site of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Boribunder is also close to Cavel. The Mumba devi temple was also close to Nossa Senhora d'Esperansa,  a Portuguse church built by Franciscans before 1600. This church is said to have been near the tank that belonged to Mumbadevi. Both the Portuguese church and Mumbadevi are early non-British establishments which were outside the walls of the of Bombay fort and therefore lacked protection unlike the old Thomas Cathedral of British which was within the fort walls near what was then called Church gate. It is apparent at that time, the British had scant respect for things other than their own. John Burnell’s book written  around 1710 it is mentioned that the “… gallows and Phansl Talao (gibbet pond or gallows tank) were on the site of Victoria Terminus.” The phansi talao and gallows tank where public hangings took place was also near Mumba devi. The sites of the present Bombay Muncipal Corporation building is said to be built near the saite where phansi talao was..

While searching for information on the Elphinsone Circle, I came acrpss an article entitled “A Joint Enterprise: The Creation of a New Landscape in British Bombay (1839-1918)” by Preeti Chopra, Associate Professor of Architecture, Urban History and Visual Culture Studies Department of Languages & Cultures of Asia, and Design Studies Department University of Wisconsin published in governance. In that artilcle she writes about Elphinstone circle.
The native public adapted to the new circle, which replaced the chakri or circle where children played. The fountain was erected on the exact spot where a well of spring water existed and was named after the well’s donor.The well was a spot where passersby— cotton and opium brokers, clerks, and strangers—quenched their thirst. The old tamarind tree, where “groups of all kinds of men” gathered at noon or in the afternoon to rest and refresh themselves in the 1850s, was not cut down and in 1920 was frequented by men on a daily basis between noon and four o’clock.

The reference to the “old Tamarind Tree” is important since it marks an important spot for various popular activities. A report of 1803 mentions that adhoc auctions were held under the tree. The old map of 1849 specifically marks out the tamarind tree. One map of Azad Maidan shows a tree (Fig 13 middle). I have superimposed the 1849 map on the map of modern Mumbai after fitting the contours of each to the bay and Worli area. This is shown in Fig 13, right, with the location of the tamarind tree from the 1849 map being shown by a red circle. The agreement is surprisingly good considering the roughness of the fit and the uncertainty of the 1849 mapping.

The point of interest is that the koli area in the 1849 map stretches right into the area where Azad Maidan or Bombay Green begins. This would be consistent with Burnell’s descriptions of “... Colorey [Kollwada], the inhabitants being fishers, and joineth in point of government with those of Dungary” The locations of the pagodas bak of the town and the locatin of the tank would now be consistent with the location of the phansi talao (gallows) or the portugese church or the dome for Cornwallis on the Bombay Green.

Mother Universe may not care about the name we give her

The worship of Mother Universe does not de[end on the name or form given to her. They may have mispronounced Mahadevi Amba to mumbadevi, The kolis woeahipped the stone with the neme they had in their mind and with the rituals their community had in mind. It perhaps was a distraction if their idol of worship had a definite shape. It would not have mattered to them what their acual object of worship was deemed to be as long as they had their mind quite clear. The kolis converted easily. They easiy converted to Portuguese Catholicism, The sol kolis could convert to mahadev kolis. They could also convert to Vedic worships under Shivsena’s patronage, It did not matter. Nor did it matter to them that Mumbai got her name from them.

The history behind the name of Mumbai should not matter to us. Nor will it matter to Mumbadevi,

When I go to Mumbai the next time, I will be little richer in the knowledge of her history and curious about it. If I walk around Homiman circle and feel a little shiver down my spine, I will be wondering whether I was in front og Mumbadevi or on the gallows near gibbet pond.