A SPIRITUAL OASIS IN MUDDLED MUMBAI- MINI SHABARIMALA
Perhaps it’s your dream to find a spiritual sanctuary in the city that never sleeps. Where the rickety footpaths reflect the city’s squalor, where the thunderous trundling of trains & hooting horns of vehicles are a constant, where jostling for elbow room is a norm, where rendezvous is by turn & chance & where the citizens are a weary & distressed lot, a quiet oasis is a huge relief!
What if I told you that ‘Maximum City’ does boast of a few quiet oases where the distressed can destress, where one could connect with a Higher Force sans a wifi; where one could just gad about or idle away or arrange one’s thoughts without being shooed away?
In this series, I shall be posting a few select spiritual spots in Amchi Mumbai that are my personal favorites. One needn’t be a believer, for, every soul, even that of a non-believer’s, every now & then hankers after pure solitude & bliss.
These are some of the off-beat temples sequestered in suburban Mumbai. Some are ancient & some recent but because they’re out of sight, they are definitely out-of-sight! At least, to me. ☺️
Away from the madding crowd, the din & the garish glitter, ensconced amidst sylvan surroundings —in a busy suburb, is this tranquil & sacred spot named, Mini Shabarimala!
And where do you think this is? Right in the heart of Mumbai’s eastern suburb —Kanjurmarg!
It was in December, almost 20 years ago that I had first set foot here & believe me, I was bewitched! It was festival time & the precincts were lit up with oil lamps & the place looked absolutely ethereal!
My husband had convinced me that I’d like this temple & that it would fulfill my expectations of being a tranquil & divine place.
Cocooned in the woods & with its quintessential gabble roofs, the temple seemed right out Kerala! God! How did I not know about this place, having lived in Mumbai all my life??
And when I revealed my discovery, many were clueless about the existence of this temple.
After 20 years, I made a revisit only to present this before my readers.
It was a rainy day but I knew the woods would be lovely, dark & deep & when we ventured out, the rains had abated!
We reached the gates of Naval Civilian Housing Colony, Kanjurmarg. Vehicles are allowed inside the colony & thus we disembarked a few meters away from the temple.
The cacophony outside began to fade as we inched into the woods & was replaced by the euphony of birdsong.
Dense thickets flank the ingress to the temple. A series of 107/108 steps leads to the main sanctum.
Believe me, trudging uphill was nothing but sheer bliss. The pervading tranquility & the lush verdure were so spellbinding that several times we paused to behold the scene.
It was still wet & enchanting although the rains had subsided.
Do you, like me, enjoy the heady aroma of burning firewood? The nippy air was suffused with a woody fragrance & the scent of burnt wood. The place was surely rich in Oxygen. 🥰
Some of Nature’s largesse can never be replicated. I’m yet to come across a bottled perfume redolent of petrichor or phytoncides or the wet sands of the ocean, although I heard these days these are synthesized, trapped in bottles & sold for a price.
We reached our destination in 10 minutes. There in the forest glade, embosomed among lush vegetation, stood a humble yet divine shrine.
The occasional chirpings of the cricket & the metronomic tweets of the Coppersmith Barbet were the only sounds & these accentuated the elysian ambiance.
There were just 2 priests or Namboodiripads, who informed us that the sanctum sanctorum would open in 10 minutes.
And they were kind enough to allow me to click snaps, although they requested me not to click the deity. That was fair enough & I mooched about capturing the beauty of this place.
The temple courtyard houses the Tulsi maadum (Holy Basil) & the Kodimaram (Dwajasthambam)
I stood silently as this verdant woodland echoed with canorous woodnote & I captured the sounds on my cellphone, so that I can recapture the scene later.
Water droplets dripping from the boughs & the occasional chiming of temple bells —all seemed so refreshing!
At the entrance, is a pair of leonine figurines guarding the temple.
When the doors of the deities opened, we stepped in.
Inside the main sanctum sits a metal statue (Panchaloha-made of 5 alloys) of Lord Aiyappa. The surrounding oil-lamps threw light on His benign countenance. That was such a divine moment —our ‘wow moment’!
Under the same roof are a Shiva Linga, the shrines of Goddess Bhuvaneshwari & Lord Ganesha.
Rows of diya plates adorn the outer walls of all sanctums.
These are lit up on festival days & during Shabarimala season. You can request for the entire temple & the steps to be illuminated but for a small endowment.
Abutting this temple is another small one housing Dattatreya, & another that was kept locked.
I sat in quiet contemplation, allowing the atmosphere to engulf me. This seemed like forest bathing to me. No prying eyes there & the 2 or 3 devotees who visited, were focused on their intent.
Dusk had begun to descend. There was a rare anoetic contentment; subliminal bliss 🤗 that was so overwhelming. On that note, we began our descent.
The temple’s proximity to where I live, is a huge advantage apparently & I mentally decided that I’d visit the place more often.
A Note to Readers:
This is not your archetypal ancient temple with profuse carvings, nor is it your 21st century one with granite floorings & elegant chandeliers. However, this is a sacred retreat of sorts —the perfect place for forest-bathing, a place that offers some respite, albeit for a short time —in a concrete jungle.
Elders may find it difficult to climb up; so, be warned.
Watch this space for upcoming posts on more temples.