Girangaon was the name commonly used to refer to an area which is now a part of central Mumbai. At one time this area had almost 130 textile mills, with the majority being cotton mills. Girangaon covered an area of 2.4 square kilometers, without including the workers' housing. The mill workers lived in a community, and they fostered a unique culture which shaped Mumbai at the turn on the century.
The mills of Girangaon contributed significantly contributed to the prosperity and growth of Mumbai during the later nineteenth century and for the transformation of Mumbai into a major industrial metropolis. The Bombay Spinning and Weaving Company was the first cotton mill to be set up in Mumbai, in 1856. A boom in the textile industry followed, with 10 cotton mills set up in Mumbai by 1865, employing over 6,500 workers. A gradual increase led to a total of 136 mills being set up by 1900.
The textile industry was offered added government incentives in the form of long term leases, as mills stimulated the economic growth and employment. These mills were owned by former traders like the Tatas, Petits, Wadias, Currimbhoys, Thakerseys, Sassoons, Khataus, Goculdas, Cottons, and Greaves.
Both men and women worked in the mills. They would start working there at a young age, and worked 12 hours a day until the passing of the Factories Act of 1847 restricted the working day to 10 hours. Most of the mill workers came from areas around Mumbai. The mill owners housed their workers in chawls built in the areas of Tardeo, Byculla, Mazgaon, Reay Road, Lalbaug, Parel, Naigaum, Sewri, Worli and Prabhadevi. These areas gradually came to be known collectively as Girangaon.