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.

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