Mumbai once had 3 time zones

January 19, 2017


Yes, it is the capital of our very own Maharashtra, that once had three time zones. It continued to follow those time zones for over 30 years of the 19th century.

James Cosmas Masselos, an Australian scholar, came to Mumbai in 1960s to study the urban history. During the research, he found some aspect which he named it as the “battle of the clocks”.  

He realized that, people who are late to their work place, used to blame it on a time zone called “Bombay Time.” But he discovered that, only few parts of the Bombay followed that time zone. Based on the movement of the sun, it was 4 hours and 51 minutes ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). It was followed only in the city of Bombay from Sion to Mahim. 

Railway Time (also known as Madras Time/Indian Mean Time) is another time zone, the rest of the country followed, and this time zone was 5 hours and 21 minutes ahead of the GMT. This was based on the longitude of the Madras Observatory.

It therefore means, that, the half an hour difference in the two time zones meant that, when the clock tower showed 10 AM, the Railway Time would be 10.30 AM. The Bombay citizens had got habituated to live with these two time zones.  

If the people had to catch a train by Railway time, they would start half an hour early by Bombay Time. This makes them fall in a dilemma, and as Sir James Fergusson (the Governor of Bombay from 1880 to 1885) found out, it wasn't too uncommon that people missed their trains when they failed to factor in the time difference. 

But the other side of the coin is, the seafronts on the East side of Bombay used to follow another time zone known as the Port Standard Time. Astronomer at the Colaba Observatory, Nanabhoy Ardeshir Framji Moos, set the Port Standard time to be ahead of GMT by 5 hours.

But all these time zones came to an end now and the entire country, including Mumbai is following the Indian Standard Time (IST), set by the longitude of the observatory in Allahabad.

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