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Places of worship in Mumbai

Places of worship in Mumbai

Afghan Church
 
 
At the southern tip of Mumbai, Afghan Church stands in a quiet army cantonment, an imposing basalt edifice with a lofty limestone spire that can be seen several miles away. This is the church of St John the Evangelist, consecrated in 1858 to "honour those who fell by sickness and sword" in the conquest of Sind and Afghanistan. Thus it came to be known as Afghan Church, and in the old days had a sizeable flock of British officers who turned up for the Sunday sermon. Today, the church is badly in need of restoration, but a straggling group of devout Indian parishioners remains, and at Christmas, the lovely old rafters still quiver to the lilting melody of carols.
Babulnath Temple
 
 
This temple is situated at the end of Marine Drive and south of Malabar Hill. It was built in 1780. In 1900, a tall spire was added to the original temple. A stone Lingam of Shiva is worshipped at Babulnath. The main day for worship is Monday.

Nearest Station is Marine Lines (Western Railway).

Haji Ali Dargah
 
 
Across a rocky path that meanders into the sea from Mahalaxmi Temple, you can see a cluster of ethereal white domes floating on the water. This is Haji Ali Dargah, the tomb of a wealthy Muslim merchant, who renounced all his worldly belongings before embarking on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The tomb itself is over eight hundred years old and linked to the mainland by a path that is annually submerged in the high monsoon tide. Inside the central shrine, throngs of worshippers stoop to press their heads against the richly brocaded red and green chaddor covering the tomb, which lies in an exquisite silver frame engraved with all the ninety-nine names of Allah. The faithful then tie little red ribbons on wooden lattices to honour the soul of Haji Ali.
Isckon Hare Krishna Temple
 
 
A stone's throw from Prithvi, the International Society For Krishna Consciousness is known all over the world for its jet-setting, orange- robed sadhus, dedicated to spreading the name of Lord Krishna. For a peak into this fascinating world, drop in for lunch at the ISKCON restaurant: here pure vegetarian food, as prescribed by the Vedas, is served and eaten by these shaven, robed ascetics. Later you can visit the serene marbled ISKCON temple and sit in for the evening aarti or prayer that reverberates with touching devotion.
Jain Temple
 
 
Like the community that built it, the Jain Temple on Malabar Hill is opulent, but poorly maintained, thanks, probably, to a spiritual philosophy that disregards material things. Inside, frescoes depict various events in the lives of the 24 Jain apostles or Tirthankaras; upstairs, a black marble shrine is beautifully decorated with celestial personifications of the planets, painted onto the ceiling. The place is usually filled with worshippers, mostly Jain stockbrokers who walk barefoot to the temple every morning, and white-robed monks who have renounced everything save for their begging bowls. If you can spare the time, this is an interesting peep into the austere spiritual tradition of India.
Jumma Masjid
 
 
A hop across from Crawford Market brings you to Juma Masjid, a small, quiet mosque with a cluster of white domes. It rises from the mossy green water of a tank, supported by slender white arches, and is fashioned almost entirely in marble, right down to the exquisite inlaid floors and chiseled balconies. The mosque was built in 1770 and is considered extremely sacred by Mumbai's Muslim community. On Fridays, when namaaz is offered in the prayer hall, thousands of worshippers spill onto the neighbouring streets to pray, but on most days this is a tranquil oasis in the chaotic commerce of Mumbai's market district.
Mahalakshmi Temple
 
 
The Mahalaxmi Temple sits atop a long flight of steps on the edge of the Arabian Sea. It is devoted to Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth, and Lady Lucre to millions of adoring Indians. The shrine itself is quite characterless, but has a curious history. It is said that in the 1890s, when the adjoining causeway was being constructed by a British engineer, the project was always jinxed: every time the foundation was laid, the sea would rush in and destroy it. Then one night, a labourer dreamt of Goddess Laxmi who ordered him to dig out an idol from a spot under the causeway and build a shrine on it. This was done with due alacrity, and the causeway was ultimately completed.
Mount Mary Church
 
 
Situated on a quiet hillock in suburban Bandra, Mount Mary is probably Mumbai's best-known church for Christians and non-christians alike. As the name suggests, it is dedicated to the Mother of Christ and in September, the festival of the Virgin Mother culminates in a week long fair, popularly known as Bandra Fair, that has all the excitement of a small carnival. Stalls sell sticky Goan sweets and wax idols of the Virgin along with an assortment of candles shaped like hands, feet and various other parts of the body. The sick and suffering choose one that corresponds to their ailment and light it in Church, with the pious hope that Mother Mary will consider their appeals for help.
Mumbadevi Temple
 
 
Although the Mumbadevi Temple is not as striking as others are in the city, its resident deity, Mumbadevi, is the city's patron Goddess. The structure is about six centuries old, believed to be the handiwork of Mumbaraka, a sadistic giant who frequently plundered the city at the time. Terrorized by these unwelcome visits, the locals pleaded with Lord Brahma, Creator of all things to protect them. Brahma then "pulled out of his own body", an eight armed goddess who vanquished the brute. Predictably brought to his knees, Mumbaraka implored Her Holiness to take his name and built a temple in her honour. She still stands there, an orange faced goddess on an altar strewn with marigolds: devotees believe that those who seek her divine favour are never disappointed.
Siddhi Vinayak Temple
 
 
In India, faith is known to move mountains. Rich and poor, educated and unlettered, they Indians all converge at temples and churches and mosques to offer their destinies to the Divine. Nowhere is this more evident than at Siddhi Vinayak, a temple devoted to Ganesh, the elephant-headed God of Good Fortune. On auspicious Tuesdays, the serpentine queue of worshippers is over 2kms long. People stand for several hours with offerings of flowers and coconut, waiting patiently for a two minute "Darshan" or meeting with the Lord. The path to the divine is never easy, but it is said that those who tread it with true devotion will always have their wishes fulfilled.

For more information about Siddhi Vinayak Temple, visit their web-site at www.siddhivinayak.org

St Thomas' Cathedral
 
 
In the heart of the Fort stands St Thomas' Cathedral, a quiet oasis engulfed by raucous traders and the frenzied commerce of Mumbai's downtown business district. The Cathedral was the city's first Anglican Church, built in 1718 to improve the "moral standards" of the growing British settlement. Here, many a Briton was laid to rest, under elaborate marble tablets engraved with touching elegies - generals and clerks and young maids all lying together in the silent, sundappled interior. Despite its rather deserted and brooding air, for most of the year, the Cathedral is a quiet retreat from the urban pressure cooker outside, and a rich personal memoir of the British Raj in India.