Creative Thoughts

Creative Thoughts

Saturday, 6 October 2012


Last month Alliance Francaise de Bombay organised several heritage walks in Mumbai which were open to the general public. Not being a member of this organisation, I was not aware of this until the last 2 days. 

I was reading the morning news when I noticed an article that stated "Things to do today".  It featured a walk to one of my favourite corners of Mumbai.  I'd walked these streets umpteen times before, peeped into the narrow side lanes that gave a glimpse of temples (with cows munching grass in the courtyards) and wondered about the history of the place.  One can get all the information from the net but having a tour guide for company seemed like the best thing that could happen that day.  The article stated the tour guide was Sancia Sequeira, someone I knew from my working days.  So donning a cap (the walk was from 2 to 5 pm) and armed with a camera and notebook, I set out with great excitement and glee.  

Bhuleshwar literally means “where even God forgets”.  It is a south Mumbai neighbourhood, where you can ease yourself into old Bombay.  The British referred to it as the native town.  Victorian and haveli-style* architecture is evident everywhere, and scores of temples are scattered in its maze of lanes. 
*Haveli comes from the Persian word hawli, meaning "an enclosed place".

Below: Old guest houses that had been built to accommodate visiting relatives and friends. 

19th century Dharamshala or Guest House

Bhuleshwar derives its name from the 150 year-old Bhuleshwar Mahadev Mandir, where it is believed that a shiva linga appeared by itself. 

Densely populated colonies developed in and around Bhuleshwar, where Hindu immigrants from Kathiawar, Kutch and Marwar settled in large numbers in the 17th and 18th centuries.   Bazaar areas emerged where residential, commercial, social and religious activities were combined within the system of the city.  Hence, many temples in this quarter provide a glimpse of Gujarati and Rajasthani architecture.

The temples of Bhuleshwar are not flamboyant nor do they sprawl over expanses of land. It is rather the uniting point of two contrasts; what money is to trade, belief in God is to devotees here.

The Bhuleshwar-Kalbadevi area is characterised by several baugs or colonies constructed by wealthy inhabitants.

Madhavbaug was built in 1874.  It is the only area in Bhuleshwar where idols of deities are available.  All articles required for a puja (religious ceremony) are sold in this market. Close to Madhavbaug is the Bhagwat Gita School which was started by a Maharashtrian saint by the name of Pandurang Athavle.  The 18th century Digambar Jain Temple is an ex monastery. Mahatma Gandhi gave speeches here at Madhavbaug. 

We started at the massive doors of Madhavbaug. 

The temple inside the compound has a prominent nagarkhana above the arch of the entrance gate, which is in a state of semi-ruin. Abounding with ornate wooden carvings, it was built in a mix of Gujarati and Konkani architectural styles.

the nagarkhana

A common sight at any Hindu temple are small shops selling sweets, flowers, pictures of different Hindu Gods, and other items used for worship.

Trousseau Lane

a 'must' stopover for the bride to be 

As you meander through the lanes, you feel the pulse of Bhuleshwar.  The chant of mantras  blending with the buzz of shopping.  



Due to the existence of temples, there flourishes a flower market which is more than a 100 years old and also idol market (both marble and clay) at the 123-year-old Madhavbaug.

An idol shop dedicated to Vishwakarma, the patron saint of carpenters

On one side, if Bhuleshwar is known for its imitation jewellery market. There’s even a shop where you can hire a tuxedo or Indian dress for an evening out or for a children’s fancy dress competition.

The cow, sacred to Hindus, appropriately has its space here in Bhuleshwar. Run by the Mumbai Panjarpole Trust is the 172 year old cowshed that houses nearly 2,000 cows.  Abandoned cows are brought here and taken care of.  To our great disappointment, photography was not allowed.  There is a picture of Lord Krishna, the guardian of cows, near the entrance. The milk needed in the temples located in and around Bhuleshwar is supplied by this sprawling shed. The cows were being fed with nutritious laddoos made of jaggery and broken wheat.  There is a birthing shed and a nursery for calves.
In Mumbai, you very often see a lone woman with a cow outside a temple or any spot by the roadside.  We learned that these women do not own the cow.  They hire them for a day from Panjarpole, for a sum of Rs. 2,500.   At the end of the day, when the woman returns to cow to the Trust, she is richer by approximately Rs. 4,000 !
The Panjarpole Trust takes care of injured animals and birds and also shelters ducks, geese, rabbits, pigeons, parrots and other animals that have been abandoned.  They do not give these creatures away as pets. 

Mumbadevi Temple

Mumbadevi temple is the oldest Temple in Mumbai.  It is an iconic shrine and one of the oldest.  The city derived its name from Goddess Mumbadevi, the patron goddess of the Kolis (fisherfolk).  As we walked around, it appeared a few ancient customs still exist within the holy confines of this temple.

inside the Mumbadevi Temple

The road where the temple is located is blocked for vehicles, for security reasons, as several attempts have been made to destroy this place - in 1993 and in 2004.  

The area to one side of Mumbadevi Temple where approximately 2000 chapatis (Indian flat bread) are made daily !

Our walk ended at Phool Gulli or Flower Market.   One is not allowed to smell the flowers.

 flower heads and petals as offerings to the deities. 

garlands for the gods

An elephant carving (below) at Bhangwadi, a side street at Kalbadevi which connects Bhuleshwar. Some heritage walks start from here and end at Madhavbaug.

Our guide Sancia Sequeira (L) and Ileana of Alliance Francaise de Bombay (R)

I hope you enjoyed the tour.

Thanks for visiting.


  1. Absolutely marvellous. Such a wonderful post.

  2. That was a marvellous insight into Bhuleshwar. Must visit on my next trip to Mumbai..

  3. Marie-Louise, Des, when you next visit Mumbai it will be my pleasure to take you to there.
    Marie-Louise, I presume you have not visited the area.

  4. What a lovely post. I was part of this group too! I just wrote about Bhuleshwar's phool galli & was wondering if anyone else who took the tour that day blogged about it. I'm happy I discovered your site! I shall go through your other posts now.

    Have a good week!

    1. Hi, thanks for writing in. Crowded but quaint place isn't it? You have a good week too.

  5. Very useful post. Thanks for sharing. Bhuleshwar Market in Mumbai is a must visit for anyone looking to experience the culture of the city. This place is famous for being home to more than 100 temples, of which Swaminarayan Temple and Mumba devi temple are noted examples. Explore more about Bhuleshwar Market Mumbai.