A-maze of Temples

Temples are an integral part of Hindu culture. It is amazing to see the strength of simple faith and belief that attracts throngs of people to go ring the bell and fold their hands respectfully and pray for everything to work out. Now imagine a 10 square feet of area in the middle of hustle bustle of Mumbai city, that boasts about 100 or more temples, and has a history that crosses the socio-economic gap. Around 1835, bazaar areas emerged within the heart of South Mumbai in places such as Bhuleshwar, Kalbadevi and Girgaum, where residential, commercial, social and religious activities were integrated closely with the system of the city. Densely populated colonies developed in and around Bhuleshwar where Hindu immigrants from Kathiawar, Kutch and Marwar settled in large numbers in the 17th and 18th centuries.  Maybe that’s why the diveristy of temple architecture prevalent so abundantly.

Folklore says that the name ‘Bhuleshwar’ 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). I have never seen a more congested lane with such high density of temples. And the best part is, none of the temples are ornate or have grand shrines, as is the norm that is evident in South India.  All the 100 temples mentioned are not tourist sites but places of worship for the locals since last 150-odd years. They are part of their everyday life.

 

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. But the most unique and lesser known feature that I personally found fascinating is the Asses on Stone also known as Gadhegal, or the Donkey’s curse stone.

Image Courtsey: Khaki Tours twitter

Despite the crude sexual depiction, archaeologists date the stones back to the reign of the Shilahara dynasty from 1012 to 1651, basically served as declarations of land grants given to feudal or Brahmin families, and depicted a curse or punishment that would befall the person who violated the order.

Despite the maze status of the area, its interesting isn’t it to note the numerous folklores and historical snippets that have come up over time.

Update – While the post has been written in the year 2016, a recent interest to rediscover the hidden and non-existent photography talents has resulted in new update as of September 2022.

P.S – Bhuleshwar is a tightly packed surprise tucked away in a corner of South Mumbai and delightfully showcased by Bharat and his team from Khaki Tours.


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Maharashtra

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