Living in a cosmopolitan city makes you part of numerous religious festivals. And very often, they overlap. This month, while one community mourns on Moharram, another is celebrating the victory of good over evil with Navratri. The streets are abuzz with bands and brass orchestras, swirling dancers and EDM blaring from speakers.
During this festive season, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has decided to launch a Navratri darshan tour to give devotees easy access to temples. As the festival celebrates feminine divinity, referred to as Shakti, the tour will cover five of the most widely visited Devi temples: the Mumbadevi temple in Kalbadevi, the Mahalakshmi temple, the Dagdi Chawl in Byculla, the Murubai Devi temple in Matunga and the Sitladevi temple in Mahim.
Swati Kale, general manager, MTDC, says, “This initiative will not only boost tourism in the State but will also give tourists an opportunity to visit these temples in a hassle- free manner.” Each sacred location is known for its contribution to the historic landscape of Mumbai, which has seen a large influx of both religious devotees and foreigners.
The city derives its name from the Mumbadevi Temple, which is located in the heart of a steel and clothing market. The temple houses goddess Mumba, who is widely worshipped by the agris (salt collectors) and kolis (fisher folk) — the original inhabitants of the seven islands of Bombay.
Skipping long lines
Kale says, “The devotees will also be able to skip long lines at the Mahalaxmi temple.” Dedicated to Devi Mahatmyam, the temple was built in 1831 by Dhakji Dadaji, a Hindu merchant. Idols of the tridevi goddesses — Mahakali, Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati — are adorned with nose rings, gold bangles and pearl necklaces.
The Dagadi chawl in Byculla comprises seven chawls. The festival first took place here in 1974, when a young boy from the residential complex organised a small-scale gathering on the society terrace. With the encouragement of local elders and communities, Navratri here is now celebrated in an open ground, the Sarvajanik Navratri Mahotsav. The mandal is a vibrant edifice made up of traditional art and colourful lighting.
Recently, MTDC had also organised a similar darshan during Ganesh Chaturthi. The tour covered six of the most popular Ganesh mandals in Mumbai: the Lalbaugcha Raja, the Siddhivinayak temple, the Andhericha Raja, the Girgaoncha Raja, the Mumbaicha Raja and the GSB Sioncha Raja. Kale says, “The religious tours have worked well with devotees who are on the look-out to avoid the mismanagement during these big festivals.”
The MTDC also organised a tour of South Mumbai for differently-abled children on World Tourism Day, September 27. Kale says, “The tour began in Dadar and continued towards the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Byculla; the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Colaba; The Gateway of India; and the Girgaum Chowpatty.”
Making navigation easier in the congested city is what MTDC aims to do. The tours are aimed at helping tourists and citizens maximise on the city’s thriving culture without having to clamber to experience it.
Navratri darshan, October 3 to 5, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fee: Rs. 1,850 + taxes (inclusive of breakfast and lunch). Visitwww.maharas htratourism.gov.inor call 022-24300413 for more details.
The author is a freelance writer