Jīvdāni Mātā Mandir

Jivdani2-Amazing MaharashtraLocation:  80kms from Mumbai (map).

Timings: All day.

Khetra Purāam: Once Pāndavas, during tīrtha yātra, came to the banks of vaitariṇī river, which even today flows near this sacred place. On the banks of this river and near Tungareśvar hill, they worshipped Ekavīra Devī. (This ancient temple of Ekavīra Devī was destroyed by Moghuls and Portugese and now one can only see remains of this destruction). Inspired by the Devī, they then worshipped Her in the mountain caves near by in the form of invisible Goddess by the name Jīvadhani Mātā. Even today, one can see a small passage just beside the newly consecrated idol, where the Goddess resides in invisible form.

Till the advent of kaliyuga and Buddhism, this sacred place was visited by many yogīs and thereafter was forgotten. Infact, many ancient temples and caves around vasai were destroyed by the portugese (see this). To a large extent, the Śankarcharyas of Pū have played a key role in reversing the damage done by Buddhists as well as Portugese to this place.

Not surprisingly, Jīvdāni Mātā Mandir was re-discovered because of the 7th Śankarcharya of Pū, Śrī Svāmī Padmanābha Tīrtha. The story goes as follows. Once when Śankarcharya visited this place, a mahar came to Him and expressed his desire to have darshan of invisible Jīvdāni Mātā, who is his kuladevī. Śankarcharya blessed him and asked him to do go-seva on the Jīvdāni Hill. The mahar followed His instructions very carefully and ultimately indeed got darshan of the Devī . When Devī appeared before him, he with his conversation impresses the Devī. Devī then asks him how he being a mahar has such great knowledge of Vara-āśrama-dharmas. The mahar, with humility, says it is all the blessings of Śankarcharya. Devī impressed by mahar, says: “with the puya of serving this cow, who is none other than kāmadhenu, you can cross this un-crossable vaitariṇī and attain Mokha“. This amazing story throws light on how true followers of Hinduism and Guru’s of Hinduism like Śankarcharya did not discriminate mahars and infact helped them attain Mokha itself! On contrary, it is unfortunate that modern activists consider mahars to be of low-caste and victims of social injustice.

This entire episode of mahar getting Mokha was witnessed by a barren woman. Impressed by the woman’s stotrams, the Devī blessed her with a child. The barren woman replied saying, she would be happier if the Goddess blessed all barren woman rather than her alone! The Devi then gave a boon that any barren woman who offers beetle nut near my cave will be blessed with children. Thus the ancient cave and the Goddess once again became famous due to Gurus like Śankarcharya and great bhaktas like the mahar and the barren woman.

About the Temple: The temple and idol that exist now are recent constructions. The cave temple itself is on a hill and one needs to ascend around 1700 steps to reach the temple. There is rope-way facility intended for elderly people. For young people, the waiting time for rope-way will be more than hill-climbing time. The present cave temple is beautiful with idols of Devi and Shri Krishna in marble. The small passage, where the devi resides in invisible form, can also be seen near the main temple. The temple is visited by a large number of locals and pilgrims from near-by villages. On holidays and holy days, there will be long queues for seeing the Goddess. From the temple, the view of vasai is very beautiful.

Near-by temples: Agashi Bhavani Shankar, Tungareśvar, Chakreśvar, Chaṇḍikā Devi.

Mahālakṣhmī Temple (Mahalakshmi, Mumbai)

  Location: Mahalakshmi area, Mumbai (map).

  Timings: 6am-10pm.

  Kṣhetra Purāṇam: The story of this temple is connected to the Hornby Vellard project, where the goal was to block the Worli creek and prevent the low-lying areas of Mumbai from being flooded at high tide. However inspite of multiple attempts, many portions of the sea wall collapsed. Then one night, Goddess Mahālakṣhmī appeared in the dream of the chief engineer, Śri Rāmjī Śivjī, and instructed him to find three idols of Mahālakṣhmī, Mahākālī, Mahāsarasvatī lying in the seabed and build a temple for them. She gave a boon that the sea-walls will then not collapse. Śri Rāmjī Śivjī did as instructed by the Goddess and built the present temple, in around the year 1785. One can now have darśan of the three swayambhū idols of the Goddesses. Needless to say, the sea-wall never collapsed subsequently.

  About the Temple: The idols of the Goddesses are covered with beautiful golden masks. However, one can have darśan of the swayambhū idols either in the morning during abhiṣhekam at 6am or at around 9:30pm in the night. The swayambhū idols are covered with sindhūr, as is common in Maharashtra. One has to ascend around 25 steps to reach the temple. The temple is located on the banks of the Arabian sea. One can even reach the sea by descending around 50 steps from the back of the temple. This place is very beautiful especially during sunrise and sunset. There small temples of Gaṇeśa and Hanumān near this sea-side area of the temple.

Mumbādevī Temple (Bhuleshwar, Mumbai)

  Location: In Bhuleshwar area, Mumbai (map).

  Timings: Though open all day, since the place is a marketplace and is extremely crowded, it is advisable to visit in early morning or on Sunday. Also you might want to visit the temple during special arti at ~7:30am, ~7:30pm.

  Kṣhetra Purāṇam: Once upon a time, a rākhasa by name Mumbarāka lived in this area. He was very cruel and used to terrorize the locals. Not able to tolerate, the locals pleaded Lord Brahma to save them from the rākhasa. The Lord then created the eight-armed Mumbādevī from His body to slay the daemon. Mumbādevī  then vanquished the rākhasa and saved the locality. From then Mumbādevī was worshiped by the locals and is considered as their grāma-devata.

  About the Temple: The ancient temple was originally located at the present Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). The Britishers demolished the temple around the 1730s and built a railway station there in the name of Queen Victoria. Because of this, unfortunately, Mumbādevī was moved to an Annapūrna devi temple located at the current Mumbādevī temple location in Bhuleshwar. Currently, the temple has both the idols of Mumbādevī  and Annapūrna devi. The idol of Mumbādevī, covered in sindhūr, dressed in a beautiful robe, with the distinctive nose-ring (a mango shaped one called ‘nath’ worn by Maharashtrian women), a silver crown and a golden necklace is the one which draws everybody’s attention. Interestingly, the Goddess does not have a mouth, representing her tolerance and being a form of Bhūdevi. There are idols of other Gods like Ganeśa, Hanumān and Lord Indra in the temple premises. Because Mumbādevī  is the grāma-devata and is the protector of the area, this place is called as Mumbai.

Bābulnāth Mandir (Malabar Hill, Mumbai)

  Location: Near Chowpati beach, Mumbai (map).

  Timings: All day.

  Kṣhetra Purāṇam: Around two hundred years ago there lived a rich and modest goldsmith by name Pāṇḍurang, who owned the portion of the Malabar hill on which the temple is now located. For Indians of ancient and medieval ages, cows were very sacred and every gṛuhastha used to have a cow. Pāṇḍurang, being rich, had many cows and employed a bābul (care-taker) for them. Bābul used to take the cows for grazing to the very location of the current temple. While this was the routine, once Pāṇḍurang observed that one of the Kapila cows (brown-coloured) was not giving milk. On inquiring, Bābul said that since few days, the Kapila cow stops at a particular place on the hill while grazing and by itself delivers milk. Thus by end of day no milk was left with her. Surprised by Bābul‘s words, Pāṇḍurang inspected the Kapila cow’s changed routine himself. He was awe-struck to see the cow delivering milk by itself. On a little excavation, a Śiva lingam was found at this very place. This is the swayambhū lingam which is now worshipped as Bābulnāth.

  About the Temple: This majestic and spacious temple structure was built by Pāṇḍurang in 1780. There are beautiful idols of Lord Śiva and other deities on the temple walls. The most attractive is that of Śivaparivār, where Lord Śiva appears as a vṛuddha (old man), depicting that He is ancient (He is a sanātana). There are small temples of Ganeśa and Hanumān in the temple premises. One has to climb around 100 steps in order to reach the main temple. An elevator arrangement is made for the elderly pilgrims. The temple is very famous and is visited by many all throughout the year. There is extremely huge rush on the day of Mahāśivarātri.

Links: Temple website.

Ambarnāth Mandir (Ambarnath, Thane)

  Location: ~50kms from Mumbai (map). Well-connected through Mumbai local trains.

Timings: All day.

About the Temple: This is an ancient and an extremely beautiful temple of Lord Śiva, the king of the sky. The lingam here is swayambhū and appeared in the near-by river Vāldhunī. According to an inscription, the present temple structure was built by the Silhara kings in 1060AD. The temple structure is extremely rich in sculpture and is very attractive. The garbhālayam is few steps below the ground level and the lingam is exposed to the sky (ambar).

The temple is built from black basalt stone and is constructed in the Bhumija style.The temple is an architectural marvel with beautiful sculptures covering almost every nook and corner of the temple. From a bird’s eye view, the temple is star shaped. The most striking sculptures are the idols of  Mahākālī and Pārvatī on the inner most wall of the temple. The severe contrast in the facial expressions is worth noting: Mahākālī has raudram and Pārvatī has śāntam expression respectively.

khāndeśwar Mahādev Mandir (Navi Mumbai)

  Location: In Khanda Colony, Navi Mumbai (map).

  Timings: All  day.

  About the  Temple: This is an old temple of Lord Śiva and is known to be atleast 200 years old. It is situated on the banks on khāndeśwar Lake. The name of locality is derived from the name of the Lord khāndeśwar.

Kaupīneśwar (Kopineshwar) Mandir (Thane)

  Location: In Thane (map).

  Timings: All day (temple is located in a very busy area/market. So ideal to visit early in morning to avoid rush).

  About the Temple: This is an ancient temple of Lord Śiva from the times unknown. The Śiva lingam here is around 5feet tall. The lingam grows in height every year and it is believed that when it touches the ceiling of the temple, a pralayam will occur.

The temple was built by the Silhara dynasty kings who ruled Thane between 810 and 1240 AD. The lingam is swayambhu and appeared in the near-by Masunda Lake popularly known as Talao Pali. The present temple structure was re-built in 1760 by Sarsubhedar Ramaji Mahadeo Bivalkar.

There are many other small temples: Rukmiṇī-Viṭhṭhala, Sītalā Devi, Panchamukha Śiva Lingam, Brahma-deva, Uttareśwar, Rām-parivār, Dakshiṇāmukha Hanumān, Kālikādevi, Gāyatrī Devi, Kāla-Bhairava, Dattātreya, Vasiṣhṭha maharṣhi with kāmadhenu.

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