Monday, September 25, 2006

Mother Goddess of Mumbai

The Mumba Devi temple, where the city gets its name from, is in a crowded street in Bhuleshwar. Every Tuesday, there is a large gathering of devotees and you will have a hard time getting inside the temple during Navratris (The Festival of Nine Nights, towards the end of September).

Although the locals worship this goddess, the deity primarily belongs to a caste of Hindus called char-kalshis (water carriers, char = four, kalash = waterpot; 'they who carry four waterpots') and the fisherfolk of the island.

Initially the temple was near Phansi lake next to the Victoria Terminus station. In 1737, the 'Company Sarkar' - East India Company - planned to expand the Fort of Bombay, and ordered that the temple be shifted.

The new temple was built in 1753 by a goldsmith named Pandu Sonar. The wealthy and prosperous family of Pandu Sonar and his heirs became the caretakers of the temple.

A water tank in front of the temple was built by a wealthy Baniya named Nagardas Navlakhia - his surname literally meaning a man worth 9 lakhs of rupees.

Near the center of the west side of the temple wall is the five foot high stone image of Mumba Devi in orange colour. On normal days, i.e. not the festival days, the goddess is dressed in a white saari and blouse with a gold necklace and a silver crown. However, on special occasions she wears a special handwoven silk saree and several ornaments from the temple's custody.

To her left side is the goddess Annapurna on her vehicle, the peacock. Anna (food) purna (fulfilment) is the goddess who ensures everybody gets to eat in the city. For a city that has 50% of its population in slums and illegal hutments, where trains loaded with people from other states pour in every day, this is quite a task!

The vehicle of Mumba Devi is the tiger himself. This tiger is made of pure copper. This tiger was humbly gifted to the temple authorities by Vithal, a pearl trader in 1890.

The temple also houses other gods such as Sri Ganesh, Sri Hanuman, Sri Balaji (a form of Vishnu).

- Satyen

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