Monday, September 26, 2011

Culturely diverse hidden gems of Mumbai - Temple tour

In this post I plan to present some unique, hidden temple gems in Mumbai, These places are not very architectural delight but holds its own significance and has been part of interesting history of Mumbai, which has got noticed by few but largely play a silent but important role in adding flavor to cultural diversity of city of Mumbai. I plan to cover few unique and hidden temples of Mumbai which I have recently visited, places which have been silently playing spectacular role in enhancing and preserving cultural diversity of the city.

Nipponzan Mydhoji Temple : The name doesnt sound Indian at all but the place has been very much a part of Mumbai. Tucked on the road to worli sea face from worli naka, lies a quaint Japanese Buddhist temple.

Built somewhere in 50's on the land donated by the Birlas and looked after by the followers of Nichiren sect of Japanese Buddhism. This small but spacious temple walls are lined with paintings of life of Buddha. The atmosphere here is rather tranquil and peaceful in the temple with regular prayer sessions conducted in the morning and evening, During these sessions chantings of mantra to achieve enlightment "Nam Myoho renge kyo" is followed with slow and rythmic drum beats. The divine ambience with slow and rythmic drum beats with mesmerising chanting of the mantra by devotees in the temple in the morning and evening relaxes your senses. 

When I stepped in the temple during evening prayers, It hardly had the presence of 3-4 people with one person lighting candles and other beating the drums and everyone chanting the mantra. I was amazed to see the paintings on the walls and some artifacts of Buddha. The place really had a divine ambience.  I was invited to enter small room which housed the statue of Buddha in white marble and some other religious artifacts of Buddhist religion lined on the walls.

Capturing the temple in my lens, I sat for some time experiencing the unique feeling as I heard the drumbeats and chants of few devotees.I bid adieu to the place hoping to step in whenever I am in Worli to experience the positive and amazing divine ambiance.

Kwan Tai Shek Chinese Temple :  Mumbai also has one hidden Chinese temple built almost 80 years ago by Chinese traders, sailors and migrants from China. Worshipped once by only Chinese settlement in Mumbai before most of families got migrated across the globe. And remaining few have got gelled in the air of Mumbai becoming a Mumbaite with their 4th generation in existence.On my way to the temple, from Dockyard station behind Mazgoan docks, I asked one local for direction only to be informed that there was no such Chinese temple in the vicinity but I had all the information from "Google baba" so I moved ahead only to find the temple tucked in peaceful locality in BPT colony at Nawab tank road. Its two story building painted in pink and hardly looks like a temple unless you walk in the building.

 The temple from inside painted in red is a peaceful place with Chinese meditative music played with burning incense sticks creating a serene atmosphere. Adorned with paraphernalia typical of Chinese temples, latterns hanging on the wall in red and yellow. The walls of the temple is adorned with pictures of other Chinese deities.
The main shrine of Kwan Shek is beautifully decorated with silk takes center stage. A large bell and a drum used to welcome the New Year sits in one corner waiting to announce the new year as it arrives on Jan 23rd 2012.
 The temple also has amazing carpet of shape of Tiger which is also a Chinese new year animal sign. When looked from top, it gives a 3 dimensional effect.

For believers, this temple is the answer to lots of questions, literally. The wall next to the shrine is lined with bamboo sheets that tell the fortune, if you know how to read it. There is also a pair of the Chinese mystical Yin and Yang, the forces of the universe. You ask a question and throw them to the floor. If they fall with the opposite sides up, it means the forces are with you

I happened to meet the caretaker of the temple Albert Tham who is 3rd generation Chinese and speaks fluent Hindi. His mother was also the caretaker of the temple.The temple rarely has visitors but in Chinese new year which falls in January and Febuary it comes to full glory with descendants of Chinese community who come here to worship and pay homage. Albert is building another temple on the ground floor which is dedicated to female deity revered for peace, mercy and wisdom "GUAN YIN".

Kwan Tai Shek is a serenely beautiful temple, and a great place to simply sit and meditate in silence. It’s one of those places in Mumbai that is rarely spoken about, but is a gem for a must visit. The temple is definitely a treasure trove of Chinese spirituality in Mumbai.I plan to visit the temple again in Chinese new year in last week of January hoping to capture the atmosphere and the temple in its full glory.

We have so many religion in India and Mumbai is melting pot of all the religions. But the above examples prove that Mumbai is also a place where religion from far away land have also been part of cultural and religious diversity.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

My weekend stress buster places - My city My Mumbai

Travelling is great stress buster and reenergiser for me. It's like polishing myself with "Colin" to remove the dust of boredom and stress of daily routine. I have written about my trips to different location and hopefully will continue to write till the time my passion for travelling, exploring new places or same old places doesn't fade.

Here in this post, I plan to describe Mumbai and some places in Mumbai which I love to visit, which have always been my stress buster places on weekends when I am at home getting bored and have no plans what so ever.

 Marine drive: The Queens necklace as it is called and the 3KM long promenade is one place which I have frequented since my days in college and I still visit when in town. Walk all the way from chowpatty to NCPA building is amazing especially during the evening. Cool breeze blowing from the sea with noise from the waves hitting the shore creates a kind of rhythmic sound which gives quite a amazing feeling when sitting on the promenade wall in the late evening when there is less noise from traffic. I just love to sit here especially at the far end on the rocks opp NCPA building when I am in town before catching the train home. Not to forget the amazing Italian restaurant "Not just jazz by the bay" and the famous Warden's sandwich ice cream which I have relished since my college days.

Colaba :The southern most tip of Mumbai is the heritage belt for being the part of main city of Presidential Bombay. Colaba causeway walk is something frequented by tourist and locals alike. I like walking on the causeway watching what shops have to offer. Also two Irani restaurants come bar which is frequented by tourists and locals are also my favorites Leopold Cafe which was also part of the Mumbai terrorist attack and Cafe Mondegar a.k.a Mondy's sipping beer on antique chairs, listening to music or just sit and relax. Being a tourist spot in Mumbai, it host quite few hotels and restaurants. Woodsideinn, Foodinn, Delhi darbar for its famous Moghlai cuisine. Also one other reason I like coming here is of course Gateway of India, which is quite a sight in the evening especially on weekends. If you happen to come early in the morning at Gateway of India, its quite a  sight with small, big and rich yatch's parked at the bay. In the evenings after a beer or two at Mondy's or Leopold, food at BadeMiya is worth a million. Though veg options are few as compared to Non veg options but every dish here is worth a try. Kalaghoda festival which happens every year at Colaba is one festival of creative minds and artist, for the best brains in art converge here to showcase their art during this mela.

Priyadarshini park: One of the most beautiful park in Mumbai is one place which I have visited again since my college days. Its a best place when you are feeling low or depressed. Close to Arabian sea and in one of the most plush localities of Malabar hills. The sunset view from this park is best as compared to anywhere in Mumbai. Park is so well maintained and location close to the sea. Its comes in full glory on weekends and in evenings.
On my way back home, I make it a point to stop at Shree krishna restaurant close to Grant road station  which is the best South Indian restaurant in South Mumbai.

ISKCON Temple Juhu: First home to lord Krishna in Mumbai as now we have other two sites coming up in Kharghar and Mira Road. One of the most beautiful temples in Mumbai, One of the few temples I love to visit. The other reason is the GOVINDAS the restaurant with mouth watering veg food which is one sure thing not to be missed when at Iskcon. After puja and pet puja at Govindas, if time permits, sitting idle on the less crowded portion of Juhu beach next to Holiday Inn is enchanting. Juhu beach is also one of the few places in my Winter walkathon list, I normally start at 7am in the morning from Scruz Koliwada to Versova and back is worth a walk especially in winters.

ISKCON temple at Kharghar is quite a distance especially from Borivali. But the temple still under construction is uniquely located, Opposite the first golf course coming up in Navi Mumbai. Close to Cidco Central park. In rainy season the place becomes picturesque location of lush green mountains and waterfalls.

BEST bus ride: I especially want to mention this bus ride, its a normal BEST bus ride but at different place all together, away from hustle and bustle of the city on Gorai Island. The first time when I tried it, I was so moved by the journey that I have done it quite a few times now. Starting point for me is bus stop at Gorai Island just after reaching the island by ferry from Borivali mainland. Bus takes you to Uttan village in Bhayender passing through only road with Mango orchards and forest area with quite few bunglows and sleepy fishery villages. Uttan village also has some of the last remaining virgin beaches in Mumbai only used by fishermen but no so frequented by visitors. On the way back, I take the bus all the way to Marve in Malad and then catch a ferry to Malad Marve road and then bus or rick home. The bus ride passes through some small villages of fisherman giving a insight into how Bombay would have looked 60-70 or 100 years back when it was still a group of small seven islands.Its good that Gorai has not seen high rise and is still untouched by urbanisation.

Powai lake Promenade: Powai lake built in 1891 is an artificial lake which was built to supply water to city of Bombay. Situated in affluent Mumbai suburb of Powai. The lake water now unfit for drinking provides soothing and much needed escape from hustle bustle life of a Mumbaikar.
The recently built and renovated walkway on the banks of the lake is one of the best gateways for ideal evening walk or just to sit on the banks and enjoy nature. The lake and its surrounding are natural habitat for some exotic birds which is rarely seen in urban concrete jungles of Mumbai. There are also sightings of crocs in the lake as well. Here are some of the pics from my clicks from one of my visit. Njoy !!!!!!!!!!!!

Mumbai city is also know as foodie's paradise with every corner of city having its own Khau galli or some food street and some famous restaurants with its unique taste and food. I being a foodie, love to adventure in this so called Khau galli's or eateries of Mumbai to enjoy the food and its unique taste. Some of my favorites I could remember are listed here. Some that's missed here will surely make it in some of my other blogs for my adventures would never end !!!!!!!!

Zaveri Bazaar: Name Khau galli is synonymous with khau galli here. The famous jalebis, kichhya papads have been hogged by people here for generations. Its a must visit when I am in Bhuleshwar especially Bhel puri wala near Kalbadevi road and also BHAGAT Tarachand for some amazing north Indian and Sindhi food.

Flora Fountain (Churchgate) :- One unique and famous stall here is the vada pav stall opp the famous monument. I have eaten vada pav from here ever since I was in college and during my days in Stock markets, Its taste has remained the same as people say since it started in early 80's !!!!

Bombay central station: Come Bombay central and one cannot forget Pav bhaji from Sardar's. Place has wait time for one hour especially on weekends. I have been again regular here for some amazing, finger licking, butter pav bhaji for long time. The eatery uses 500kg butter on a single day on weekends on only pavbhaji !!!!!!!!

Dadar east: Tucked in the by lanes of busy dadar is the my favorite restaurant Pritam da Dhaba. My softcorner for punjabi food and the best punjabi food served here has made me a patron of this place.  I cannot describe the taste of the food here on the blog, it can only be experienced by making a visit !

Matunga / King Circle / Sion:  The place being a home for families of early south Indian migrants in Mumbai. Has some of the best Udipi restaurants like Madras cafe, Ramakrishna nayak, Cafe Mysore. Liked by celebreties and locals, the South Indian dishes here cannot be compared to anywhere in Mumbai. I make it a point to go empty stomach when ever I have plans to be in this area so can relish and fill my tummy upto the brim. The food is value for money and worth the burrp !!!!!

Vileparle west: - Walkable distance from the station, lies khau galli of parle, Bajaj road with sandwich walla, dosa walla and what not. But the grilled sandwich here is so hugh that one is more than a full dinner. Dosa stall next to it is something that I have visited for last 20 years and the taste is still the same. 30 different varities of dosas is worth a try. My all time favorite Kerala Masala !!!!!

Oshiwara Andheri -  Kareems - The boutique restaurant famous for its Moghlai non veg and veg cuisine is one that I visit especially on weekends. I have liking for Veg or Egg biryani and Kareems is one place for it. Apart from Kareems, Zaffarbhai at Marine drive and BBC at Orlem or Borivali is other locations for awesome mouth watering Biryanis which I have visited on my foodie adventure trips.

Andheri station west - Just outside the station, stands a stall which starts at 11.00pm to 6.00am in the morning serving amazing pav bhaji and egg bhurjee I have ever tasted in Mumbai. I developed the taste for the food here once after one of my late night parties and since then have been regular to just try the egg bhurjee late in the night. The taste really gets enchanced if you are eating in rickshaw or on the bonnet of your car.

Borivali west :- 10minutes walk from station at Ganjawala circle is the Raju's chinese kiosk. The chinese food here is so mouth watering that people wait for order even at midnight.
again at Borivali station, Bun maska jam and tea just outside the station from midnight to 7am in the morning is just worth trying, I still remember that it was my daily breakfast at 4.00am when I was doing American shift and would be home in wee hours of morning,

I am sure I have missed quite a lot of places that I have visited and like visiting either to rejuvenate myself or to pacify my taste buds on my foodie adventure trips. But the places would get mention somewhere in my coming blogs
Cheers !!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Long drive to hill resort - Lonavala

Lonavala - one of the twin hill station 100kms from Mumbai, weekend gateway, must see in rains for its waterfalls and scenic beauty, must visit in winters for chilling climate and quick vacation gateway in summers. Its a 365 days destination.

I have been to lonavala quite few times with friends and family. But couple of trips with Priyank and family to their weekend house in Lonavala have been most memorable times. Priyank a.k.a papaji or Sharmaji was getting bored at home on one Saturday with pressures at work taking its toll and same was the case with me. Again we took a spontaneous decision for long drive in his SUV to lonavala. We were on road to Lonavala by 11.00am. It was hot may summer. 


Whenever I and papaji are on our weekend trip, Its long ride in SUV and its always memorable be it our Shirdi trips or trips to Lonavala. Its one of those trips when we had decide to loosen our self. (of course this was till last year when I took a decision to drink only on social occasions and papaji also reducing the intake.) and since papaji's house in Lonavala is overnight stopover, so drink and drive does not come in picture. 

Our first stop is always at Panvel Mcdonalds for a quick burger and one bottle of beer each from the nearby restaurant. But during this trip, On our way we realised that it was a dry day !!!!! getting alcohol or beer is not big deal atleast in Mumbai on dry days as most of the famous bars in Mumbai have back door channel open for take home parcel. But this was one day when we realised it after we reached outskirts of Mumbai on expressway. 

By the time we reached Lonavala, it was already 2pm in afternoon. With quick freshen up at home, we were off to one joint or a very trendy place on the way to Lions point  - Lonavala,  Rivershack !!! Its a very trendy place with excellent location on the way to Lions point run by a young couple. From the joint you can sit and relax, sip beer or your drink with Italian menu cooked by the owner herself. The place is frequented through out the year by its loyal patrons and Papaji was one of them. As per owners words, Lonavala would be closed for alcohol but if you are loyal patron of rivershack, Its one place where you will get drinks for sure.

Sipping beer on hot summer afternoon with view of dry river banks and occasional cars passing by on the way to Amby valley is quite a sight. 

We relaxed for almost two hours sitting and sipping beer with the owner also joining us for a luncheon. With papaji getting a wild idea of driving the car on the dry river bank so we were off to Lonavala river's dry bank for a drive. Its unique experience which can be tried only on hot summers as rains would swell these rivers in Lonavala during monsoons and water levels only drying up by April / May summer time.


On our way back,Shopping for Lonavala chikki, Kokam sherbet can and variety of slush drinks from Maganlal chikki stores is a must from the main market on east side. Also worth trying and always on my buying list is Chocolate and walnut fudge and wide varieties of chocolates from Coopers (again in main lonavala market near the station on east side)

On one of my other trips with Papajis family in last week of December, we were joined my good friend & office colleague and papaji's family friend Janki with her kiddo and another common friend Jaycee. On this trip I and papaji on pretext of getting dinner went on long drive on the way to Amby valley at 11.00pm in wintery night ,The road leading to Amby valley is snake curve road with zero traffic in the night, It was one hell of a ride on the way passing by the navy training institute and on way back we stopping at Lions point for pegs of whiskey on SUV bonnet which was amazing experience while others waited for us to get dinner !!!! 

Our lunch in the afternoon is always either at Tony's or Sunny's dhaba on Karla caves road for some amazing food you could ever get in Lonavala. By the time we reach home around 9ish, We are dead tired but rejuvenated, back from amazing weekend trip and all set to take the pressures of work back on our shoulders till we again get bored in 3-4 months time for another hell of a trip.