What was the name and status of Mumbai during the times of Emperor Ashoka?

By Sunil Kumar

Mumbai as it is today is the result of British reclamation of 7 islands and building of connecting roads by Indian entrepreneurs under colonial rule. Only the port of Sopara(near present-day Nala Sopara(technically Thane district) was famous as a trading centre in Mauryan(Ashoka’s) times(3rd Century BC).

Most of the present-day city was covered with thick jungles. Keeping in line with the metaphysical searching for self that was an obsession of the times; Hindu and Buddhist culture was prevalent due to the empire’s encouragement.

The Kanheri caves(now in Sanjay Gandhi National Park) and the Mahakali caves(at the interesection of a busy road in Andheri East presently) were famous for their inscriptions and artwork.

In April 1882, a Gujarati antiquarian, epigrapher, numismatist and archaeologist pandit Bhagvanlal Indraji unearthed the Sopara site and found a stupa and fragments of two major asokan rock edicts, the eighth and ninth ones. The story of these edicts is another historical debate; as they are a whole bunch of them across the Indian subcontinent from present-day Bangladesh to present-day Afghanistan.

According to some sources; the fact that there were 14 major ashokan edicts, and two of them were found at sopara indicates that it was an important centre of Buddhist activity. All of these are on Salsette island(from the Marathi(in turn from Prakrit or Sanskrit) Sasashti or original 66 villages on the island which is today a major chunk of suburban Mumbai. Mahim was known as Mahikavati in the 13th century under the rule of Bhimdev; son of King Ramdev of Devagiri.

So; as the city did not exist in its present-form; no one name can be given to the place as there were a whole succession of kingdoms and the idea of a unified city came much later after the 17th and 18th centuries(starting from Fort(British) in South Mumbai.

Mumbai as it is today is the result of British reclamation of 7 islands and building of connecting roads by Indian entrepreneurs under colonial rule. Only the port of Sopara(near present-day Nala Sopara(technically Thane district) was famous as a trading centre in Mauryan(Ashoka’s) times(3rd Century BC).

Most of the present-day city was covered with thick jungles. Keeping in line with the metaphysical searching for self that was an obsession of the times; Hindu and Buddhist culture was prevalent due to the empire’s encouragement.

The Kanheri caves(now in Sanjay Gandhi National Park) and the Mahakali caves(at the interesection of a busy road in Andheri East presently) were famous for their inscriptions and artwork.

In April 1882, a Gujarati antiquarian, epigrapher, numismatist and archaeologist pandit Bhagvanlal Indraji unearthed the Sopara site and found a stupa and fragments of two major asokan rock edicts, the eighth and ninth ones. The story of these edicts is another historical debate; as they are a whole bunch of them across the Indian subcontinent from present-day Bangladesh to present-day Afghanistan.

According to some sources; the fact that there were 14 major ashokan edicts, and two of them were found at sopara indicates that it was an important centre of Buddhist activity. All of these are on Salsette island(from the Marathi(in turn from Prakrit or Sanskrit) Sasashti or original 66 villages on the island which is today a major chunk of suburban Mumbai. Mahim was known as Mahikavati in the 13th century under the rule of Bhimdev; son of King Ramdev of Devagiri.

So; as the city did not exist in its present-form; no one name can be given to the place as there were a whole succession of kingdoms and the idea of a unified city came much later after the 17th and 18th centuries(starting from Fort(British) in South Mumbai.

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