Mumbai, Nov 15: On a crisp Tuesday morning recently, we embarked on a spiritual journey from Hill Road in Bandra to the Siddhivinayak Temple in Prabhadevi, a distance of more than 5 km.
As every Mumbaikar knows, the Siddhivinayak Temple in Prabhadevi, Mumbai, is one of the most significant in the country. It is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of wisdom and prosperity and a favourite deity of Maharashtra which celebrates Ganpati every year with much affection over ten days.
The original temple was small, built in 1801. The current structure is massive and very impressive, started in 1090 and completed in 1993. The Mandir is run by an influential Trust and is a great favourite with celebrities and politicians.
As we stepped out on the journey at 5 am, when it was still dark, we were not sure what to expect. Would there be other people making the pilgrimage? Would the roads be deserted? Would it be safe?
Then we realized that already the city was waking up. At least, the birds were!
At that time of the morning, it is easy to walk, especially if you have good footwear. No traffic, no irritation, and it is possible to be quite meditative. We walked down Hill Road to SV Road and kept up a good pace, crossing the Mahim Causeway. Everything was shut and there was almost no-one on the roads.
At the traffic lights after the Causeway, itself built by a Parsi woman who had great faith in the Basilica of Mount Mary on the Bandra promontory, we went left into Cadell Road, which leads past the Mahim Dargah into a vibrant thoroughfare lined with shops, small restaurants, and towering apartment buildings. Even though we were going that early in the morning, it didn’t feel unsafe at all.
Maybe it was because our route took us by so many places of worship. Just after the Mahim Causeway, there is St. Michel’s Church, famous for its multi-faith Wednesday “novena” or nine-day prayers. And already by then, the city was gradually coming to life, with people rushing to work and shopkeepers setting up their stalls for the day ahead. Despite the early hour, the streets were already abuzz with activity, reflecting the energetic spirit of Mumbai.
As we walked, we did not notice many devotees walking towards the temple. We learned through Google, however, that approximately 1 million people visit the Siddhivinayak Temple on a daily basis, which also makes it the most popular temple in Mumbai. Finally, when we reached approached the iconic Shivaji Park on Cadell Road at around 6 am, we saw a few devotees walking barefoot towards the Mandir, chanting “Om gan ganpataye namaha” as they walked.
Curious about why so few seemed to be walking to the temple which has a million visitors a day, we questioned some people about the possible reason. The answer was, “All barefoot devotees take the route from Dadar station.” This made sensebecause the station is just a couple of km from the Mandir, thus those who are coming from the far subuurbs, use the local train and then walk from the station.
There are plenty of stories of devotees who walk for miles, braving pollution, cold in winter and quiet streets to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha, who is believed to grant wishes and remove obstacles. Despite the smog that envelops the city, especially in winter and post-diwali, the crowd does not diminish at the temple. People from all walks of life come together in faith and devotion, hoping for a better tomorrow. And Tuesday is extra special for the deity, who is also called Mangalmurti.
As we entered the temple, we were immediately struck by the sense of peace and tranquility. The temple was filled with the sound of devotional songs and the smell of incense. We made our way to the main shrine, where a large idol of Lord Ganesha was seated. We bowed our head in reverence and prayed for our loved ones.
We spoke to a few of the devotees to understand their experiences of visiting the temple on a Tuesday.
Shraddha Patil, in her 50s, said she walks to the mandir always, adding that anyway she lives at Dadar. Tuesdays are observe d by her faithfully and she has been coming on this day for the past 20 years. “On Tuesday, whatever your mannat is will be completed,” she said. And she particularly enjoys the sense of peace and tranquility that rules the mandir inside.
Another devotee, Arun Bhoir, said that he comes from Thane to the Siddhivinayak Temple on Tuesdays to pray for his family and friends.
We also spoke to a few devotees from different parts of mumbai who said that they come to the Siddhivinayak Temple on Tuesdays to get some exercise. They said that the walk to the temple is a great way to stay healthy and fit.
Written by PG in Journalism students of St Pauls Institute (SPICE), Vaishnavi Rasanbhaire, Sidhant Shekhar
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