The commercial capital of India has little time for art, let alone history. The city which perennially runs for success, dreams, ambitions and money slows down only to change gears — so as to speed up again for its fast-paced life. To expect such a city to delve into its alleys and corners for a spiritual and cultural journey is nothing less than asking for a moon. But Manjari Verma from Broken Compass expected just that.
“Mumbai is the most cosmopolitan city in this country, filled with people from different faiths and religions. Most of us have lived here for so long and yet don’t know much about many of the communities in our city,” she says. And with this objective in mind, she has planned a shrine hop wherein people from different walks of life can have a peek into each other’s religions and history. This tour will cover important places of worship for the various communities which in Mumbai includes Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Parsis, Jews, Buddhists and others.
“You don’t have to be God fearing to join this trip. We don’t intend to sing bhajans and pray either! It’s going to be a relaxed, informative trip across the city, just to understand each religion a little bit better,” Verma says. These shrines are spread across the city, having tremendous significance which hold many beliefs together and collectively Mumbai plays the perfect host owing to its cosmopolitan nature.
The five-hour Shrine Hop (walk and vehicle) will begin in town with Babulnath Temple. It will be led by Anjali Tolani — a professional with great amount of knowledge on these shrines and who has conducted many such day walks for small groups of people. The group will get to see and learn about seven different religious shrines across certain parts of Mumbai.
From Babulnath, the group will visit the intricately carved Iskcon temple. Next, in line is St Thomas Cathedral which was completed in 1718, to improve the ‘moral standards’ of the growing British settlement. Knesseth Eliahoo Synagogue (also known as Fort Jewish Synagogue), established in 1884 by Jacob Sassoon in memory of his father and Mumbadevi, constructed first in the 18th century, from which Mumbai gets its name, are also on the list. The group will also see Kwan Tai Shek Chinese temple, Magen David Synagogue (built in 1861 by David Sassoon) and drive past Haji Ali dargah to end the tour at the Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Temple which was built in 1931 by Japanese monk, Nichidatsu Fuji.
India is a country of diverse people — right from practising different religions to speaking various languages to enjoying separate cuisines. Indians have been living with diverse neighbours for ages now and it’s apt that such a walk be conducted on the Republic Day. “It just seemed like a befitting day for different faiths to come together and celebrate a sense of togetherness and understanding about each other,” says Verma adding that, “While many of us have been in Mumbai for years, we haven’t seen or even heard of many of these shrines. It’s also to encourage Mumbaikars to know their city a little bit more besides the latest theatre, mall or restaurant.”