Making up 67% of Bombay's population, Hindus constitute a majority over other religious groups by far. It is for this reason that Hindu temples and shrines are the most widespread around the city. Yet, in South Bombay and in Bandra, Hindu temples are overshadowed by the grand colonial churches, while in the Moslem neighbourhoods, mosques dominate. Frequently, though, temples, churches, mosques coexist peacefully side-by-side. This is all part of the cosmopolitan and tolerant nature of the city. Attached are photos of some Hindu temples in Bombay not featured in the main "things to do" tab on this page.
Although Christians only make up less than 4% of Bombay's population today, the city is abundant with beautiful churches. This is largely thanks to the British who built many (Protestant) churches in Bombay to serve their community. In addition, the Portuguese added numerous Catholic churches in the suburb of Bandra, which remained a Portuguese colony until the 18th century. These churches continue to be used today, serving the local population as well as religious expats. Attached are photos of several churches in Bombay. In addition, the "Things To Do" tab contains tips on specific prominent churches.
With over 18% of its nearly 14 million inhabitants Moslem, Bombay in certain parts feels entirely like a Moslem city. The majority of the community is Sunni, though Shiites exist as a small minority. Much of the Moslem population, like other Mumbaikars, lives in slums, but the luckier ones seem to be concentrated in the area just to the north of Crawford Market and around Chor Bazaar. Naturally, this area has the highest concentration of Mosques in the city. Here and elsewhere in Bombay, mosques, Hindu temples, churches and other places of worship lie side by side showing exemplary tolerance with little tension among the inhabitants. Attached are photos of a few mosques around the city. The "Things to do" tab contains specific descriptions on a few other mosques.
For a community numbering only in the tens of thousands, the Parsis are perhaps the most visible minority of Bombay. Originally from Persia, Parsis are Zoroastrians who arrived in India centuries ago, mainly to escape persecution. In Bombay, they became successful businessmen and landowners who established a strong relationship with the colonising Brits, thus permitting their businesses to flourish in the 18th and 19th centuries. Subsequently, many members of the community devoted large amounts of their wealth to philanthropy and the construction of their city. As a result, many of the public and private buildings of Bombay were funded in large parts by the Parsi community and carry Parsi names. The University of Bombay, Petit Library and the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel were all built or partially funded by the Parsis. The tight knit community often lives in self-sufficient 'enclaves', or rather exclusive compounds, within Bombay. The most famous of such colonies is Cusrow Baug, shown in the attached photograph.
The spirituality of the residents of Bombay is hard to miss. Not only is the city dotted with numerous structures of worship of nearly every religion, but its residents seem to erect shrines for their saints and holy people everywhere. Some of the more important and famous shrines are described in the "Things to do" tab on this page, but there are numerous others that one comes across that are only known to the locals. Moslem, Hindu, Christian, Parsi shrines - and the list goes on - can be seen all over. Naturally, though, Hindu shrines are the most widespread given that Hindus make up the majority of the population. Attached are photos of some of the shrines I've come across.
The International Society For Krishna Consciousness is known all over the world for its jet-setting, orange- robed sadhus, dedicated to spreading the name of Lord Krishna. For a peak into this fascinating world, drop in for lunch at the ISKCON restaurant: here pure vegetarian food, as prescribed by the Vedas, is served and eaten by these shaven, robed ascetics. Later you can visit the serene marbled ISKCON temple and sit in for the evening aarti or prayer that reverberates with touching devotion.
Babulnath Temple : This temple is situated at the end of Marine Drive and south of Malabar Hill. It was built in 1780. In 1900, a tall spire was added to the original temple. A stone Lingam of Shiva is worshipped at Babulnath. The main day for worship is Monday.
Nearest Station is Marine Lines (Western Railway).
The Mahalaxmi Temple sits atop a long flight of steps on the edge of the Arabian Sea. It is devoted to Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth, and Lady Lucre to millions of adoring Indians. The shrine itself is quite characterless, but has a curious history. It is said that in the 1890s, when the adjoining causeway was being constructed by a British engineer, the project was always jinxed: every time the foundation was laid, the sea would rush in and destroy it. Then one night, a labourer dreamt of Goddess Laxmi who ordered him to dig out an idol from a spot under the causeway and build a shrine on it. This was done with due alacrity, and the causeway was ultimately completed.
Although the Mumbadevi Temple is not as striking as others are in the city, its resident deity, Mumbadevi, is the city's patron Goddess. The structure is about six centuries old, believed to be the handiwork of Mumbaraka, a sadistic giant who frequently plundered the city at the time. Terrorized by these unwelcome visits, the locals pleaded with Lord Brahma, Creator of all things to protect them. Brahma then 'pulled out of his own body', an eight armed goddess who vanquished the brute. Predictably brought to his knees, Mumbaraka implored Her Holiness to take his name and built a temple in her honour. She still stands there, an orange faced goddess on an altar strewn with marigolds: devotees believe that those who seek her divine favour are never disappointed.
In India, faith is known to move mountains. Rich and poor, educated and unlettered, they Indians all converge at temples and churches and mosques to offer their destinies to the Divine. Nowhere is this more evident than at Siddhi Vinayak, a temple devoted to Ganesh, the elephant-headed God of Good Fortune. On auspicious Tuesdays, the serpentine queue of worshippers is over 2kms long. People stand for several hours with offerings of flowers and coconut, waiting patiently for a two minute 'Darshan' or meeting with the Lord. The path to the divine is never easy, but it is said that those who tread it with true devotion will always have their wishes fulfilled.
Although Bombay has one of the largest concentration of followers of the Jain religion in India, this community constitutes only a small minority of around 4% in the city. Jain temples are scattered around Bombay, but for foreigners and non-Hindi speakers (like me), these temples sometimes may be difficult to distinguish from Hindu temples. One way to make the distinction is by the flag flying over the temple. The attached photo is of a Jain temple in Pydownie. I had erroneously marked it as a Hindu temple until a fellow VTer, aadil pointed out my mistake (THANK YOU AADIL!). He also translated the sign as follows: "Shri Shantinathji Maharaj Jain (Derasarji) Pydhonie, Mumbai - 400 003"