Are you planning a trip to Mumbai? When you’re done with work, the tourist beat, the shopping and eating, you may want to take time off to pay your respects to the city’s patron gods. Their temples are a world removed from the rush and bustle of this city – and yet, an intrinsic aspect of its ethos.
Siddhi Vinayak Temple
There’s something special about this early 19th century temple, which has grown in prominence from a tiny shrine in Prabhadevi to the large complex it is today. For years, the city’s politicians, industrialists, and it’s best known faces – Bollywood stars, have frequented the temple to pray for deliverance from their problems. That could be one reason for its huge popularity and phenomenal growth over the years into Mumbai’s richest temple trust.
Unlike most Vinayaka idols, this one’s trunk curls to the right rather than the left – one of only three such idols in all of India. The right denotes the southern direction, where lies the kingdom of Yama, Lord of Death. The right also belongs to the Surya Nadi (subtle channels of the vital energies in our bodies) or sun channel.
The fourth Tuesday of every month, called Sankashti Chaturthi, is particularly auspicious. Devotees, anxious for relief from worldly obstacles, fast all day until after moonrise and visiting the deity. On this day, devotees can start visiting the temple from 2 a.m. till 1 a.m. the following day. For an experience of the power of faith, an encounter with Mumbai’s best-loved god is hard to beat.
Mahalakshmi, the benign goddess of wealth, rules from another corner of the city, the northern end of Malabar Hills, with the Arabian Sea behind her temple. The legend goes that towards the late 18th century, the British were attempting to construct the Hornby Vellard, connecting Breach Candy to Worli to no avail, as fierce tides foiled all their efforts. They nearly gave up, when their chief engineer, Pathare Prabhu, had a dream one night, in which the goddess appeared, telling him to remove three statues from the seabed and build a temple to them. The construction team forthwith searched, found the statues of Mahalakshmi, Mahakali, and Mahasaraswati and built the present temple. Believe it or not, their project went ahead without a hitch.
Here, the main idol of Mahalakshmi is shown riding a tiger and the demon Mahishasur in tandem. Though always bustling with pilgrims, a sense of peace prevails here. After offering coconuts and flowers to the deity, take a few minutes to sit on the stone benches, enjoying the warm breezes blowing in from the Arabian Sea.
ISKCON Temple, Juhu Beach
ThisHare Krishna Land was a jungle before Swami Srila Prabhupada sought permission to build the ISKCON Temple. The 4-acre complex was inaugurated on Makar Sankranti, 14th January 1978. It’s a beautiful sight – the marble-floored halls, intricately carved shrines, and paintings. The saffron robed monks make for an interesting contrast to other Hindu temples.
There’s more to this superbly maintained complex – an auditorium, a 46-room guesthouse, and a publishing unit. Nearly 10,000 devotees visit this temple on weekends. Don’t leave without stopping by at the Govindas Restaurant, an expanse of white and gold. Food at Govindas is considered as prasadam, since it’s first offered to Lord Krishna before reaching your table.
Faith in the divine is as deep-rooted in this, the commercial capital of India, as it is in any other part of the land. Have you watched the Ganapati Visarjan processions in Mumbai, Mahalakshmi’s Navratri celebrations, or Lord Krishna’s Rath Yatras? If you have, write in about your experiences.