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Book Review: On Philosophising, Philosophers, Philosophy and New Vistas in Applied Philosophy, by Dr. Sharmila Jayant Virkar

A little bit of context before you begin reading this book review. I have recently enrolled for an MA in Philosophy at the University of Mumbai. Philosophy is something I have been getting interested in, over the past few years, as those of you who have been reading my blogs and Instagram posts would know. During the pandemic, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do next, and this is what I eventually came up with. It has been a challenge, getting back into academics as a student at this age, especially in a subject I have no academic background in. However, it has also been very exciting, especially thanks to my wonderful classmates (who, surprisingly, are of all age-groups, including some quite near my own) and my teachers, who have been very supportive and understanding. How well I will do is something that remains to be seen, but so far, I am enjoying this new journey and look forward to where it leads. Now that you know the background , you probably get an idea of how

Mahalakshmi Temple,Mumbai

Mahalakshmi Temple, Mumbai (Photo Courtesy: Internet)

I first visited the Mahalakshmi temple  as a kid, sometime in 1980. Since then, I have been lucky enough to visit the temple a number of times, and have not yet ceased to be fascinated about the place, especially its location right on the sea shore. Over the years, I have visited the temple at various times. The temple opens at 6AM and shuts at 10 PM, and I have been to the temple in the mornings, afternoons as well as evenings, but yesterday was the first time I visited at night, just before the temple was to be shut. This gave me the opportunity to gain some more information about the temple, something few people know about.

All day long, the idols of Parvati (Durga), Mahalakshmi and Saraswati are covered with beautiful golden masks. Indeed, they are beautiful, and it is how we know the Devi to be. However, what is less known is that the Devi is a 'swayambhu' - one who has not been carved, but has appeared on stone by herself - and we rarely get to see the original idol. The only way we can get a glimpse of her is to visit the temple around 9:30 PM. At that time, the masks are removed, and the original idols are open for darshan for about 15 to 20 minutes before the temple closes. The temple opens at 6AM directly with the Abhishek (bathing of the idol), after which the idols are covered as usual before darshan opens with the first Aarti.The original idol, being a 'swayambhu', is not carved, but just an imprint on stone, and is covered with sindoor, as is common in Maharashtra. 

Incidentally, as I was trying to get more information about the temple, I stumbled on some more interesting information about the temple and its origin. Apparently, British engineers were engaged in connecting Worli and Malabar Hill - the area we know today as Breach Candy - and all their efforts were laid waste. Then, one of the lead engineers, an Indian, had a dream in which Goddess Mahalakshmi appeared, and directed him to a site on the beach, where she said he would find an idol of her. He followed her instructions and found the idol, which was installed in a temple on the location. Soon after, the engineers' efforts were successful, and they were able to make all the constructions as required. 

This also reminded me of the story of the temple I grew up hearing. According to legend, Mumbai was then just a tiny island, home to none but fishermen, simple folk who ate what they managed to catch and were satisfied with their simple lifestyle. One day, Goddess Mahalakshmi was wandering around during her menses, and due to the restrictions, no one asked her to enter their home. She arrived at the island, where she was warmly welcomed by the fisherwomen, who weren't the least bothered about her impure condition at the time. She stayed overnight in simple comfort, and the next day, revealed her true self to the fisherfolk, and blessed them, and their land with prosperity and good fortune. She is considered to be the reason for the prosperity of this city, which is why crowds flock to the temple at all times of the day!

Comments

  1. i wont forget my 1st visit to the temple back in 2004... with a friend,her 2kids, her sis and her 2kids.. sheesh..it was quite an adventure.. we took a cab to the temple from Colaba..and walked the entire stretch of the road,being pushed shoved around thanks to the crazy crowd[ i think it was around new years time].. and finally made it to the temple... but was worth it... beautiful.. watching the ocean behind...wow!!what a sight the temple was :))

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  2. I have visited the temple many times but was unaware of the fascinating stories that revolve around here!!
    It is a very beautiful temple no doubt!

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  3. Makes me want to visit the temple.

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  4. Hey! Finally a post on one of the local temples! I once thought that Anu covers temples across India but hasn't written on the Mumbai ones :)

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  5. Wonderful temple. I have been to this lace only once.

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  6. Hey you have a very interesting blog, i will visit ur blog very often, hope u go for this website to increase visitor.Happy Blogging!!!

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  7. Lovely! Loved the intresting nuggets of myth and history surrounding the temple :)
    Made for a very interesting read

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  8. @Aarti: I have had some really 'crowded'experiences at the temple too.... which is why these days i visit either early in the morning or late at night... on weekdays except fridays, and never on any holidays... if u take the crowd out of the place, its absolutely wonderful!

    @Arti: for me, the main attraction of the temple is the story connected to it... and if it feels right.... and here, it does, which is why i keep going back!

    @Indrani: thanks..you should, when u next come to bbay... and let me know, so we can meet there!

    @usha: I actually thought i had written about the temple already!! but then again, i never carry my camera when i go to these temples, and there is always a bit of a hurry.. unlike when i go out....

    @Rajesh: it is a beautiful place... if u are ever in bbay, visit again!

    @Lydia: thanks a lot!

    @Meena: thanks so much!

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  9. nice post, Anu! as you've said, Mumbaikars believe that this temple is the reason for the city's prosperity - everyone who goes to Mumbai survives somehow because of this goddess :)

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  10. Thanks Anu. I am eager to go there.

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  11. There is no Chappal stand for the temple, one has to pay to the professional Gujarati women who keep and guards the chappals. And this is the most temple of Mumbai! Why dont the teple authorities construct one official shoes stand? It will be so much helpful for the Hindu devotees!

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    1. Jitu, there actually is a chappal stand inside the temple... just on the left as soon as you enter.. earlier, thats where we used to leave ours.. it was medium size, but enough for the normal crowd... unfortunately, post 26/11, they increased the security and started using that space for the security guards, forcing us to leave our slippers with the people outside... not an excuse for not setting up another stand outside, but guess thats how the system is.. unfortunately...

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  12. Interested legends. Nice information. Thanks for the post Anuradha.

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  13. Inspired by above posts i'm planning to have darshan at 15/07/12...VISHAL SURAT

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  14. I have been to Mumbai for the first time in 2011,as my brother is working there.Its my first trip beyond the south india.I visited so many Hotspots in Mumbai.Eventhough i's so fascinated by Mahalakhshmi temple,not only for its tradition but also by its location,which drives me to the same..It was really a unforgettable Dharshan & experience...

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  15. Thanks so much for the detailed history of Mahalakshmi Temple, Mumbai. Wonderfully written I might add. Was searching for it for some time, but couldn't find anything. God Bless.

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  16. I was looking for this legend story. Thanks for the story

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