It was like stepping into a mystical fairyland! Just that it wasn’t exactly one.
I was about 10 when I first stepped into this ethereal fane & everything seemed magical!
Ensconced in a beautiful bower, verily in the suburbs of Mumbai, then Bombay, the place was nothing short of a fairyland; it had held me in thrall.
The vibes were different & yet powerful. I had always longed for our temples to reflect the quietude of a church but that was hard to come by.
And here, I got to experience just that. It was so peaceful & divine & devoid of devotees that I wondered why other temples were noisy.
‘Why did temples have to play blaring music? Why did an acquaintance visiting the temple have to ask me if I had finished my homework or if I were still naughty?’ I pondered.
But this place was different. It was exactly as I had desired.
It was hard to comprehend the significance of tranquility at that age; but I was awestruck; the place simply stood out!
Among the locals in the hermitage, were foreigners who had renounced their culture & flown all the way to Mumbai, India, to embrace Hinduism. Clad in snow-white habits & with the sacred rosary for a necklace, their irenic countenance radiated nothing but sheer bliss.
Again, as a teen, I had visited the place. It was a rainy day & the vale cloaked in a veil of mist, looked so enchanting that I was loath to leave the place.
I might’ve made several trips to this enchanting spot but for the sake of this post, made a revisit recently, with a dear friend.
The place —the Chinmaya Jagadeeshwara Temple, located in the plush suburbs of Mumbai —Powai, whose tutelary deity is Lord Shiva of the Hindu pantheon, is undoubtedly an Elysium of sorts.
As you drive closer to its precincts, the Linga or the hallowed rune that’s enshrined atop the temple tower, begins to loom large. This is unmissable & there’s something about the route itself that heralds a divine vibe.
The leafy boscage at the gates that lends a sudden coolness & the pervading peace —all cast a spell that’s hard to resist.
The occasional chiming of bells as you trudge up the winding steps is bound to make you feel instantly light & serene.
Once indoors, a commodious prayer hall greets you & believe me, instantly, your worries will vanish into thin air! The inviting entrance & the patio, pale in comparison.
At the farther end of this spacious hall is the sanctum sanctorum, & enshrined within, is the imposing marble statue of Lord Shiva.
Facing this marmoreal statue is the Nandi (Bull) in black stone.
At His feet, emplaced in a recess on the floor, is the Linga. My wild guess —so that the libation doesn’t sully the sanctum, this is placed in the floor-cavity.
Behind the sanctum sanctorum, is the statue of Lord Ganesha.
Talking about the ambience, unlike other crowded temples, this is simply —otherworldly! Even little children seem to display unusual aplomb; you’d hardly see them running amok or wailing loudly.
No prying eyes trying to size you up or tear you down, for all eyes rest upon the deity or are shut in quiet contemplation.
Arti time & the hermits —both men & women, Indians & foreigners, who cohabit in harmony, commence their invocation with utmost reverence &, believe me, their sacred chants are literally music to the ears —so soothing & euphonious that you’d be in a trance! No loud paean here.
White is not my thing but the temple’s milky white marble floors & their coolness, the white-washed walls, the roomy space, all invoke an atmosphere that’s very pacific & comforting.
The ingress although not very elaborately done, is certainly pleasing to the eyes & matches with the spartan ambience of the prayer chamber.
The neatly carved pillars depict Shiva in a dancing pose (Nataraja —the Cosmic Dancer, He, with His consort —Shakti, He crushing the demon Apasmara, he in a meditative pose, the sacred marriage ceremony et al.)
When beauty & serenity commingle, can divinity be far behind? The temple reflects just that — Satyam Shivam Sundaram!
So, the spartan hall is between these embellishments & the main sanctum.
Is there a lesson here?? The rites of passage are to be left at the portals, if the seeker wishes to seek Himself, to discover that Divine Spark!
And now comes another interesting tidbit! Inscribed on the frontispiece at the entrance, is a plaque in Urdu that caught my attention. (I discovered this only ‘this’ time as I was clicking to make this post.) Upon enquiring with the retainer, I was informed that that was the name of a Mohameddan benefactor living abroad. The inscription was a token of appreciation for his generous contribution to the building of this temple.
A temple that embodies the stillness of a chapel & one built with devotion by an Islamite!
Visit in the morning hours to experience this bliss, for, the place is usually devoid of devotees. Stay on for Arti, to experience oneness with the Universe & solidarity with kindred spirits.
Note-Since August 2022, (till further notice) temple timings are from 9am to 11.30am.
Take your time & sit awhile; pray & meditate as long as you wish. When you’re done, you’d not want to leave because you’d be afraid to shatter the equanimity you just experienced!
Once you step out, you’d be delighted to see this patch of green.
Just behind, is the silent green valley —a rarity in the otherwise loud city. The tranquil temple environs & the soothing verdure will surely lull your senses.
We felt so carefree that morning that my friend & I spent ample time ‘capturing’ soaring eagles & chasing flitting butterflies.
Monsoon clouds were waiting to release their payload.
The air was redolent with the heady fragrance of Coral Jasmine & Frangipani.
And flitting about, was this pretty brown butterfly with delicately dappled wings.
Outside is a bookshop, which you certainly must visit.
Housed within are sacred texts & stories from the Gita & other ancient scriptures. You can take your pick, which I’m sure will keep you hooked.
Those for children are so illustrative that you’d want to buy even those.
Abutting this, is another shop selling all spiritual stuff like incense sticks, brass lamps, Urlis, T-shirts with holy imprints et al.
A little farther, is Chinmaya Pradeep —a small gallery exhibiting the life & teachings of Swami Chinmayananda.
Little reminders of Vedic wisdom stand out on ‘leaves’ & pebbles, on placards & plaques, as points to be pondered over.
To some, these may seem too profound but definitely they’re worth ruminating over.
Once out of the gates, these would be long-forgotten. Yet, at that point, we were receptive to the readily available meliorism.
Surrounding this hermitage & contrasting with its timeless aesthetics are state-of the-art structures, which despite their cutting-edge architecture, look quite hideous & startling.
Yet, we revelled in the heartsease that was soon to be replaced by the mundane.
Once you’re out of the sacred confines, you’d again have to face the sordid city scene; but now, you’d do it with utmost sangfroid. In short, you’d be ready to take on the world.
Visit the place whenever you need an emotional catharsis, for, it is indeed a spa for the soul & if you cannot, given your hectic schedule, do pause to browse through the books that you might’ve picked up from the bookshop. An early morning perusal will surely set the tone for the day..
Of course, it’s needless to say that you must make a revisit, for, I’m certain that you would.