A SPIRITUAL OASIS IN MUDDLED MUMBAI- PART I

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.  ☺️

MINI SHABARIMALA

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.

Comments

  1. Sangeetha+Iyer

    Thank you for a descriptive write up on many things that I’d like to see. Fabulous 💟.

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Yes, this is perhaps a hidden gem in its own right. Do watch the space for more..

      1. Radhika

        Absolutely beautiful Shubrata. Always a joy to read your blog. You actually take us to these places through your words.

        1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

          Thanks a lot for that. Sometimes, readers like you keep me motivated.

  2. Venkat Iyer

    Absolutely enchanting place, wonderfully described in your inimitable style. A divine place with greenery all around. As you said, if anyone wants oxygen, even though he maybe a nastik, he should come here. And it’s in the central suburb with facility of autos all the time. Enough parking space is also available.
    Wonderful narrative and gave me the provocation to visit this shrine again, after quite some years.
    Thanks…😊❤️👍🙏

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Yes, the place is indeed a wonder; am oasis of sorts in chaotic Mumbai. I was so enchanted the first time I had set foot here..

  3. Gopinath Iyer

    A different kind of Spiritual journey. This one has been a mix of observing and enjoying the journey before reaching the blissful state. The journey has been well described with beautiful pictures and description to those who have not treaded the path to Mini Sabarimala. Liked the phrase moving from cacophony to euphony…..it’s like shifting the focus from mundane to divine. It’s a picnic for the soul.

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Yes. I think we all as humans, connect to a Higher Force only after getting to experience the magic bestowed by that Force. At least, that’s the case with most of us. The highly evolved being could have a different perception though.

  4. Rajesh

    Wow..lovely review Shubhrata ..Have been there years ago while in College .Your detailed blog brought sinmany nostalgic memories alive..The climb,the green cover amidst the concrete and above all the peace and tranquil feeling you get while there are so unique .Thanks for this..

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Yes! That’s such a contrast & relief –in a moment all things ugly & loud are left behind & Nature’s beauty & sanctity come alive! It’s so surprising to know that in the heart of the city, we have such places too..

  5. Vidya Vijay Kulkarni

    Shubhrata, Your blogs are always very well worded, the title is just right. Your such writings are definitely rewards for Mumbaikars, I pray that all such holy places get proper publicity through you and reach maximum people. All the best and looking for your next blog.

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you so much for liking it, Vidyatai. I knew you’d like it. I shall be writing about such ‘not so popular haunts’. Although I wish to make them known to the outside world, I wish, they remain shrouded because if they become commonplace, they’d I’m sure, lose their sanctity..Do watch the space for more.

  6. Sunny Gupta

    Toooo good. The narration and the pictures made me feel as if I am there at that place.

    Keep it up shubha and I am definitely going to visit this beautiful and divine place very soon.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you for your kind words. Yes, do visit & I can vouch that monsoon is the best time to visit..

  7. Shanthi Sankaran

    Wow 👏 👌 . You have explored the most beautiful place which was there in existence since many years in architecture Mumbai. Would definitely visit this temple soon with family to take lord ayyappas blessings and have a firest bath. Thank you.

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Yes, do visit the place & now is the right time to do so. I wonder if the green cover will be in place in summer..

  8. Shital

    WOW! What a peaceful place. As usual perfectly
    described and beautifully captured the lush greenery it has to offer & so close to home. Looking forward to read the next spiritual place.

  9. Vasantha Rajan

    Enjoyed going through your blog . I was as usual mesmerised by the scenery you have captured with your camera.i kept looking at those pictures. I remember visiting this temple way back.

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Glad you liked it. We could possibly make a revisit..

  10. Priya

    Wow never knew of this temple. Thanks Shubrata for sharing this journey with beautiful pictures.

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Welcome Priya. Do make a trip & shall keep you updated with some more places.

  11. Rajesh Keshri

    अद्भुत!! प्रकृति के सौंदर्य का इतना अनुपम वर्णन- मानो मैं ही साक्षात अनुभव कर रहा हूँ- चिड़ियों की चहचाहट और वृक्षों की हरियाली को। आपके ब्लॉग को पढ़ने से ही इतना सुकून मिल रहा तो साक्षात ईश्वर के दर्शन का आनंद तो चरमोत्कर्ष होगा। मन बेचैन हो रहा इस दैविक सुख को पाने के लिए – और भागती दौड़ती ज़िंदगी से कुछ पल चुराकर आत्मिक शांति के लिए। जल्द ही जाऊँगा- प्रकृति की गोद में- सोने पे सुहागा ये की मुंबई शहर में ही अवस्थित। धन्यवाद tra-versa। 👍

    1. Rajesh Keshri

      ……oases where the distressed can destress……beautifully playing with words. 👌👌

    2. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Wow! So well-said. Thanks for your kind words. Yes, kahin jagah aisi hai jo dil ko chhoo leti hai. Do visit the place. It’s a very simple place but certainly a peaceful one.

      1. Rajesh Keshri

        😊 will do visit.

  12. Kishore Kumar

    Wonderful ! You are doing a great service by discovering these unknown gems ! Excellently expressed too as usual !

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you for liking it. Yes, there are a few hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. Although it gives me immense pleasure to present these in my blog, it also scares me because once these places see an increased footfall, they will in no time become vulnerable & the prevailing sanctity too will be compromised.

  13. Rekha

    Lovely temple and surroundings, I didn’t know it existed. When I read your blog I could clearly imagine myself amidst those surroundings. Your description gives a 4dimensional effect…. Very well written blog with beautiful pictures accompanying it, a treat to both the eyes and the mind.

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you dear. Do visit the place in monsoon or winter & you’d thank me for it, it’s such a soothing place.

  14. KP Ramachandran

    Excellent pilgrimage to the abode of Swami Ayyappa in the heart of the city but away from the crowd. The devotion with which you have established this blog is really fascinating.
    Swami Sharanam

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Thank you so much for going through it. Do make a visit in case you haven’t. I’m sure you too will love it.

  15. Vijayam Varadarajan.

    Only today i read your article.felt i was climbing up the wet steps, waiting for the nadai to open and having darshanam of Lord Ayyappa.if health permits i wouldlike to go to this temple during my next trip to Mumbai (which I don’t know when).

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      Attai, your health will permit & we shall visit the place together. Let’s make a plan soon. It was unbearably hot in May; else I’d have taken you.

  16. Vidya

    A divine and tranquil place so beautifully described!!!

    “Where one could connect with a Higher Force sans a wifi; where one can arrange one’s thoughts …. ” Just the the kind of place that i would seek !!

    Thank you so much, Subhrata.. that oasis will surely be on my must-visit list when i come to Mumbai next!! 🙂

    1. Shubhrata Shankar Iyer

      So glad that you savored every bit of it. Yes, visit asap & let’s visit the place together & catch up on family days. 🙂

  17. Subodh Ekbote

    Lovely blog👏👏 Am impressed and surprised to see the beauty and vibe of this place.. its soo pure, peaceful and relaxing .. I will surely plan a visit sometime here 😊 Thanks and wishing you the best for your blog. Keep writing and inspiring 💫

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