Govind Narayan's Mumbai

Govind Narayan's Mumbai

An Urban Biography from 1863

Foreword by Gyan Prakash
Edited and translated by Murali Ranganathan

Anthem South Asian Studies

Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

The first ever book on Mumbai written in the Marathi language, this is a historically fascinating and revealing urban biography of nineteenth-century India.

Hardback, 407 Pages


March 2008

£70.00, $115.00

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About This Book

The expansion of Mumbai over the last four centuries has been documented in great detail by both contemporary writers and historians, yet this narrative stands out as an alternative, unique and authentic voice. Quite simply, it is a book about the city like no other. Govind Narayan’s ‘Mumbaiche Varnan’ was the first full account of Mumbai in any language, written just before the explosive growth and renovation of the city.

Guiding the reader on a tour of the sights and sounds of an emerging city struggling to shake off colonialism and wrestling with the formation of its own budding identity, Narayan’s beguiling book offers descriptions of Mumbai’s daily life, its people and its institutions: the parts of the whole that come together to create this diverse and vivacious place. In addition to a detailed structural overview, the author provides a ground level account of the street life and market places rife with gambling and criminal activity. In every sense, this valuable text is a rare and enthralling glimpse into a fascinating period and place otherwise lost to time.

Translated into English for the first time, and fully illustrated and with a detailed glossary and biography of the author, this edition does full justice to this remarkable historical document.


‘A good read for anyone interested in understanding what makes Bombay Mumbai’ —Frederick Noronha, ‘Navhind Times’

'Essential: Ranganathan has done everyone interested in Indian history, and in Mumbai in particualr, a great service by translating and editing Govind Narayan's 1863 masterpiece… An explanatory foreword from noted historian Gyan Prakash rounds out the translation of this indispensable 19th century text.' —S. L. Hoglund, ‘Choice’

'Ramanathan’s brief biography and bibliography add to the value of this window on nineteenth century Bombay, and his inclusion of photographs of the mid-nineteenth century aptly illustrate some of Govind Narayan’s observations. In all, this is a valuable resource for those who wish to explore urban life in mid-nineteenth century India through the eyes of a sharp and knowledgeable observer.' —Janaki Nai, Professor of History at the Centre of Studies in Social Sciences, Kolkata, in ‘Studies in History’

'Etched in this portrait of death and ruin are the outlines of a remembered city. Its shape peers through the images of the creaking infrastructure, eroded institutions… As a record of Mumbai’s nineteenth century history, as a text of urban consciousness, Mumbaiche Varnan is superb.' —from the Foreword by Gyan Prakash, Professor of History at Princeton University

Author Information

Govind Narayan (1815–1865) was one of the leading authors of his age, producing a series of original books that were principally designed to strengthen the moral fibre.

Murali Ranganathan lives and works in Mumbai. After having worked in various jobs, Murali turned to research. ‘Govind Narayan's Mumbai’ is his first publication.

Gyan Prakash is Professor of History at Princeton University.


Anthem South Asian Studies

Anthem Nineteenth-Century Series

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations; Acknowledgements; Foreword by Gyan Prakash; Introduction; Govind Narayan: A Preliminary Bio-Bibliography; Govind Narayan’s Mumbai; Notes to the Text; Biographical Index of Mumbai Men of the Nineteenth Century; Descriptive Index of Mumbai Institutions of the Nineteenth Century; Bibliography; Glossary; Index; Map


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