Temples are an integral part of Hindu culture. It is a matter of simple faith and belief that attracts people to go ring the bell and fold their hands respectfully and pray for everything to work out. I am not hardcore prayer kind of person, so it really was a surprise when I literally started walking through an area that boasts of 100 or more temples. Can you imagine a 10 square feet area that has a history that crosses the socio-economic gap? Bhuleshwar is definitely a tightly packed surprised tucked away in a corner of South Mumbai which was candidly and delightfully showcased by Bharat from Khaki Tours.
The name Bhuleshwar itself might represent the prime shrine of Lord Shiva, but some people believe that the name came into existence because the Gods of Bhuleshwar forgot their way after returning from the sojourn in heaven and were found wandering through the lanes in search for their rightful abode(“Bhula” = Forgetful; “Eshwar” = God). And, for a person like me who was exploring the city for the first time, I seriously think these people with their fanciful musings were right. I have never seen a congested place with these many temples in one place. And if you are imagining ornate and grand shrines, then you will be wrong.
Beyond the unique and creative display of religion that one can see at every step, there are surprising niches of history that one can appreciate.
Fact #1: One way to reach this place is via train to Charni Road. But if you decide to take a cab like I did, your last stop would be CP Tank aka as Cowasjee Patel Tank which was built-in 1776 by a Parsee philanthropist Cowasjee Patel with the purpose of providing safe drinking water to the locals in Girgaon. The tank was later filled up in order to create a traffic island and stem the mosquito outbreak. Interestingly, Bhuleshwar is located within a triangle of tanks, namely the CP Tank, The Mumbadevi Tank and the Bhatia Bhagirathi Tank.
Fact #2: Walking through the narrow lanes while avoiding brushing up or bumping into random people, one could appreciate how history speaks more through the impressions that are left behind. The pioneer of hindi publication, Hindi Granth Karyalay, established in 1912 is one of such examples. Established by Pandit Nathuram Premi in 1912, Hindi Granth Karyalay is the oldest bookstore in Mumbai specializing in books dealing in books pertaining to Jainology and Indology. the name may represent Hindi, but don’t you work bookworm; it has English and other languages for your perusal as well. In fact, the first publication was a Hindi translation of John Stuart Mill’s Liberty, titled Svādhīnatā translated by Pandit Mahaviraprasad Dvivedi.
Fact #3: I usually tend to keep a distance from all animals; nothing to be scared or ashamed about. It’s just something that I am not fond of. So imagine when you are walking down a street visiting one temple another and clicking pictures and you come across an animal shelter named as Bombay Parsee Panjrapole which was in 1834 by Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy and Amichand Shah after the Britishers ordered a shoot-at-sight to control the nuisance of stray dogs and pigs on Bombay roads. Incidentally, there are 1000 or more cows residing here.
Fact #4: Hira Baug.
Also Known as Hirachand Gomanji Dharmashala was built-in 1905 at the cost of 125,000.. However, what is more striking about this place is the fact that Hira baug is also the place where Mahatma Gandhi, known at that time as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, gave his first public speech in the ornate hall in January 1915 after his return to India from South Africa.
Fact #5: The oldest temple of Mumbai represents a Goddess shrouded in myths. One of its kind, Samudri Mata Mandir is a 1000 year old temple representing the idol of the Goddess (Mahalaxmi) who appeared from the sea at the same spot where the temple has been built.
Fact #6: Mumbai’s only sun temple Shri SuryaNarayan Temple is aptly located in Surajwadi and was built completely out of stone by Seth Maniar, a Saurashtra resident, in 1899. The temple is an exquisite example of Vedic architecture. The temple opens at sunrise and shuts at sundown. The seven horses outside the temple represent the seven days of the week.
Fact #7: Coming to the 300-year old namesake Bhuleshwar Mahadev Temple, it is rumored that the Shiva linga appeared out of earth on its own. When a temple is shrouded in mystery, it definitely ignites the devotion in people.
Interestingly, the temple has a prominent nagarkhana (music room) above the arch of the entrance gate, which is in a state of semi-ruin and is currently covered with plastic sheets to prevent water leakage during the monsoons.It is one of those things that nobody notices any more; I wouldn’t have if our tour conductor Bharat hadn’t pointed it out.
Fact #8: It is imperative for people to put a face to whatever they see and believe. We are extremely visual and tactile oriented, a fact which commercialization has taken great advantage of. If you take some time to google depictions of Hanuman, the monkey deity, you will see various forms of images. If you venture to be more specific and type in the words Panchamukhi Hanuman (the five-faced idol), you will see the face of Hanuman in five different forms.
However, the original depiction of a five-faced idol of Hanuman differently startles you with its sheer size and stark color. Each corner of the shrine appeared to follow me with its weird button-looking eyes as I took turns to capture each face.
Fact #9: We all have read the Gullivers’ Travel. Some of us have seen the ridiculous movie that came out couple of years back. But did you ever imagine you will encounter a Lilliput in your own city? I didn’t even know if it was possible in a city like Mumbai. But hello Khaki Tours! Thanks for proving me wrong! Meet the Liliput street of Bhuleshwar where shops and houses are built at a level below the actual street. If you ever had insecurities about your height, you can get rid of them when you stand next to these stalls and feel like the tallest person in the area.
This is a recently discovered, archaeologically significant unique type of land grant stone depicting a donkey fornicating with a woman. These boundary markers—issued by kings to Brahmins — once sought to keep trespassers at bay by cursing the mother of any “unworthy”, who dared disobey the decree, with this vile act of bestiality. Ignorance and superstitions makes people worship it. If you are observant, you can see it behind the rebuilt Pipalwadi Shiva Temple.
10 Facts that made a small congested area in Mumbai the most unusual adventure. The chances of getting lost in the labyrinth of Bhuleshwar is extremely high, but sometimes getting lost does pay huge rewards. Right Gods?