The battle for land in Mumbai is ruthless. With an average population density of 27,348 inhabitants per square kilometre (in some places this figure goes up to 101,066 inhabitants per square kilometre), the city has one of the highest population densities in the world. And still the influx of people into the city is incessant; job opportunities, the hope of a better life and so on, lure many to India’s Bollywood capital. Consequently, land prices are skyrocketing and every vacant square metre becomes subject to speculation. Nevertheless, within its dense city fabric, Mumbai hosts a great number of extensive open spaces – including a specifically Indian typology called ‘maidans’. A maidan is commonly described as a ‘large plain’, an ‘open field’ or a ‘vast ground’. The word ‘maidan’ itself is of Persian origin and in several languages it is the term for ‘open plain’, ‘park’ or ‘square near a town’, often used for military exercises, as a marketplace or a parade ground. For instance, Shivaji Maidan in Mumbai covers approximately 2 square kilometres, an area that – according to the city’s average population density – could house around 55,000 people; a dazzling number, given that over half of the city’s population currently resides in slums. Yet these maidans are kept open and empty, and form a stark contrast to the dense city fabric that surrounds them. Throughout the years, several narratives have described these Indian maidans, labelling them ‘the most evocative places in Indian urban life’ that are neither cultivated parks, nor neglected wastelands. Analysing the (historical) social production and construction of Mumbai’s maidans, this book chapter attempts to unveil the secret magic of Mumbai’s maidans.

Janina Gosseye, “Mumbai’s Maidans. From Fields of Fire to Non-places” in: Kelly Shannon, Janina Gosseye (eds.) Reclaiming (the urbanism of) Mumbai (Amsterdam: SUN Academia, 2009), 121 — 131.