Photographer: Deepak Turbhekar
The Maruti Mandir near Mulund station bustles like any temple situated near a busy station and in an even busier marketplace. It is swamped with crowds during the Hindu month of Saawan, and during festivals like Shivratri, Govinda, Ganpati, Navratri and Diwali. Originating from a supposedly swayam prakat hanuman moorti (a statue whose features were as per legend, outlined on stone, not by man, but by natural elements) the temple has spread to approximately 700 square feet of enclosed space and sprung a carved pyramidal dome, just as the hamlet shed its cocoon and emerged a north-eastern suburb, boasting multiplexes, malls and skyscrapers. What is not known here is that in this sacred sanctorum lie two old statues and a Shivling which trace their origin to Pakistan. Lesser known is the real connection between these subjects of worship and their official address: Ganatra Chowk, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Marg.
The statues of Laxmi and Narayan, together as always and splendidly dressed in ornaments and colourful garments, have been sculpted from marble in the style of the traditional Jaipur school. The Shivling is encased in silver, both for conservation and adornment. Engraved marble plaques lie in between the statues and the shivling citing their original location, names of those whose possession they were in before, and those who’ve contributed to their maintenance since. Belonging to a famous temple in Karachi, they were removed in the event of partition and communal violence subsequently. They were shipped across and lay for months unattended in a storage godown at the Bombay Docks. Then, freedom fighter Ganatra who was informed about the statues asked Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to help in overriding red tape with the dock authorities to release them, telling Patel he had found a suitable spot at which to have them reinstituted.
“And so this temple, on Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Road, at Ganatra Chowk, is held by many to have blessed the area of Mulund as a whole, not just individual residents,” says Ratan Maharaj, a priest herein. “So, besides granting personal wishes, it has also led to the area’s rapid development.” The temple is supposedly maintained only on what devotees slip into its donation boxes. And it still manages to donate upto Rs 50,000 yearly, for the medicinal needs of the impoverished. Part of the reason for this popularity, according to Ratan Maharaj, is that the Laxmi-Narayan statues and Shivling have undergone a “double pratishtha” (been instituted twice), hence the rituals and prayers accompanying the second institution granting them twice their original religious potency. Old migrants from west and east Pakistan settled in this suburb over half a century ago relate to the veracity of these symbols. Like the statues and Shivling, they were pretty much left in the dock for long before being given a chance to redeem themselves. And like them, they re-built their fortunes, some attaining even greater prosperity than before. An elderly gent from Lahore, a regular visitor here, makes sense of his routine trips here: “To some questions, only God has the answers,” he smiles, before folding his hands towards the temple and leaving. All he can pray for, is that he won’t have to ask them again.
This article appeared originally in Mumbai Mirror, Times Of India: http://alturl.com/os2d