Mumbai makes you cosmopolitan. And it also allows a Tambrahm like me to connect with my roots, whether it is the favourite cup of filter coffee or south Indian ‘tiffin’. And the north-eastern suburb of Chembur is the go-to place for that. The biggest draw, for me, however, are the temples in the area, namely, the Sri Ahobila Mutt, the Sri Sringeri Shankar Math Sharda Temple and the Sri Thiruchembur Murugan Temple. Though the three temples come from diverse schools of thought, the underlying concept is that of Bhakti and devotion to the Supreme Being.
- Sri Ahobila Mutt temple: Situated near Diamond Garden, this temple was consecrated in 1968 by the 44th Jeeyar of Sri Ahobila Mutt, His Holiness Srivan Satakopa Sri Vedanta Desika Yatindra Mahadesika. The temple is one of the few temples in India that has three main idols in its sanctum sanctorum. Lord Lakshmi Narasimha, the presiding deity of the Mutt is in the centre, with Lord Sri Lakshmi Narayana on the His left and Lord Sri Lakshmi Hayagriva – the lord of wisdom on His right. Other than these avatars or incarnations of Lord Vishnu, there is also the sannidhi of yet another important avatar- Lord Dhanavantri- the god of medicine or Ayurveda. Around the sanctum, there are idols of Ganapati, Srinivasa (Balaji), Jwala Narasimha, Gurvayurappa and Suryanarayana. Idols of Garuda and Hanuman are located near the entrance of the temple on either side. The temple has a small Gopuram and Vimanam called Vijaydhwaja Vimanam.
The Ahobila Mutt, by itself, is a Sri Vaishnava religious institution established 600 years ago in a place called Ahobilam located in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh by Srimad Athivan Satakopan. Originally known as Kidambi Srinivasachar, he was a disciple of Gadikasadam Ammal in Kanchipuram. It is believed that Lord Lakshminarasimha, the presiding deity of Ahobilam, appeared in Srinivasachar’s dream and instructed him to proceed towards the temple town of Ahobilam and is counted amongst the 108 divya desams. It has nine temples of self-manifested or swayambhu forms of Lord Narasimha in different moods. One of them – the Malolan form- is said to have jumped into the hands Srimad Athivan and ordered him to traverse the length and breadth of the country. To date, 45 successions of ascetics have headed the Mutt and are known as Azhagiya Singar.
2. Sri Sringeri Shankar Math Sharda Temple: This temple is part of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham – one of the four Advaita Vedanta monasteries that were established by Adi Shankaracharya in 800 A.D and was consecrated on May 8, 1992. The deities in this temple are Sri Sharadhamba in the centre with Lord Ganesha on Her right and Adi Shankaracharya on the left. They are made of alloy of panchaloha and were consecrated according to Vedic rites by His Holiness Jagadguru Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji. The kumbabhishekha was a grand event and also had a helicopter that showered rose petals on the kalashas as the kumbabhisheka was in progress.
3. Thiruchembur Murugan Temple: This temple was established by the Sri Subramanya Samaj of Mumbai. The Samaj raised funds through small voluntary donations from devotees of Lord Murugan and identified a plot in Chhedanagar, Chembur to construct the temple. Before finalising the location the Subramanya Samaj arranged for an ‘Ashta Mangala Prasnam’ conducted by a team of priests from Kerala referred to as ‘Thantris’ to assess its suitability for building the temple. This is amongst the six unique branches of Indian astrological science. The team of Tantris discovered some interesting information about the site, which indicated that in the past several sages, had performed auspicious sacrificial yagnas and hence was an auspicious spot to build the temple.
The Samaj assigned the job of making the idols and the sanctum sanctorum to the Presidential awardee Shri Kumaresa Stapathi of Mahabalipuram and his son Shri Ramakrishna Sthapathi. Shri Kumaresa Stapathi was also the Chief Instructor at the Sculpture Institute, Mahabalipuram. More than 50 artisans worked on the project and took seven years for completion involving the use of 800 tons of blue-green granite from Walajabad in Tamil Nadu.
The idol of Lord Muruga is 4.5’ in height and holds a diamond-studded ‘vel’. The stone for the idol was sourced from Mayilam in Tamil Nadu about 30 kilometres from Pondicherry and is famous for the Mayilam Murugan Temple. The Thiruchembur temple additionally has sanctums for Lord Dharma Sastha, Lord Guravayurappan, Goddess Durga, Lord Vinayaka, and the Navagrahas. The Uthsava Murthis (the processional Deities) are made of an alloy of five metals or ‘Panchaloha’ by expert craftsmen from Swamimalai in Tamil Nadu.
Since traditionally, Lord Muruga has his various abodes on hills, the Thiruchembur temple incorporated the design by which the temple will be built at a height of about 50 feet above the ground and the temple consists of three floors. The shrines for Lord Muruga and the other Deities have been constructed on the third floor and the bases of the shrines are in contact with the sand filled-in the vertical concrete pillars. The temple also has community halls to meet the social and cultural needs of the community.