It has served as a backdrop for many narratives in Indian cinema. Dharavi, said to be one of the largest slums in India has indeed many stories to tell. From Nayakan (Tamil), Slumdog Millionaire (English), Kaala (Tamil) to the latest Hindi film Gullyboy and many more, Dharavi has been the canvas for conveying many human interest stories. It has been nearly three years since moving to Mumbai- and I have gone past Dharavi many times. While I was always curious and intrigued, I never had any reason to venture into the locality.
This morning I had a meeting with a school in the neighbourhood, that had enquired about the waste management workshops that I conduct using the book that we had published last year called ‘The Waste Issue’. Check out the link for the book here
The taxi couldn’t reach the school and I had to walk at least 2 kilometres which gave me a feel of the place. I could see a self-contained place with all kinds of shops, eateries, small tenements, schools and temples, as I walked through the narrow lanes. I could hear a lot of Tamil being spoken (but of course!). The helpful residents directed me to the school where I had an appointment. There was yet another school in the neighbourhood and one could see students around in crisp uniforms on the campus that was cemented and quite neat.
After the meeting as I stepped out, my eyes fell on a Lord Ganesha temple and I simply couldn’t walk past without paying my obeisance.
Sree Sundara Vinayagar Temple:
From the short conversation I had with the priest of the temple, I gathered that the temple was over 70 years old and is known as the Sree Sundara Vinayagar Temple. The area is called Thevar Nagar, named after the caste of people who are native to the central and southern districts of Tamil Nadu. They comprise the Agamudyar, Kallar and Maravar social groups and are collectively called as the Mukkulathor people, which literally translates to three clans united together.
The Sree Sundara Vinayagar Temple was originally a small shrine under a Peepul tree. It was only later that a structure was built around it in 1939 by the trust that calls itself -‘The Bombay South Indian Adi-Dravida Mahajana Sangha’. The temple also has a Navagraha shrine and ample space for community activities.
The Adi Dravidar story in Mumbai is a tale of migration of people from Tirunelveli District, who left their home state of Tamil Nadu due to drought. They arrived somewhere in the early 19th century and arrived in Dharavi which was a swampy marshland and started working in the tanneries, textile mills or any vocation they could get. Having left their home state, they felt the need to be connected to their traditions and beliefs and this led to the construction of the Sree Sundara Vinaygar Temple. The community saved up and contributed even their smallest mite to acquire land to build a temple and house around 80-90 houses around it. It is anybody’s guess about the value of the temple in current times.
Arulmigu Karumariamman Temple: As I left the Sundara Vinayagar Temple, the priest urged me to visit the Arulmigu Karumariamman Temple that was situated on the Mahim- Sion Link Road. Mariamman is a pre-Vedic village goddess and her worship mainly focuses on bringing rains and curing diseases like cholera, smallpox, and chicken pox. Hence she is worshipped with neem leaves – considered to be the universal healer. She wields a neem leaf like a sword to strike down ill-health and disease.
I could hear the sounds of drums and nadaswaram from a distance as today seemed to be a festive day. The temple was crowded and as I waited, a gentleman with neem leaves came dancing out. I also witnessed frenzied behaviour in some women, who are supposedly possessed and the goddess along with the neem leaves helps exorcise them.
So with all this activity, I couldn’t get much information about the temple’s history. Perhaps, I will get an opportunity to update it at a later date, along with other temples in the area.
4 thoughts on “Mumbai Diaries: Temples of Dharavi ©Sangeeta Venkatesh”
Temples are all very nice. It is your good luck, where ever you go there will be some temple or other. Very well written with pctures alongside. love,,mom
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Thanks to Bollywood, when ever I thought of Dharavi I would imagine people queuing for water at the corporation tap n quarreling with each other, Shanties, urchins running around,dirt,filth. Today you gave me a different picture. It appears to be like any other settlement. I m sure it has a well knit community too. It is more than just a slum. Didn’t know about its Tamil residents.
I can relate to what you say about the Goddess Mariamman. In Bengal too a female diety is worshipped by the name Devi Shitala. She is believed to cure chicken pox and small pox. Although she is worshipped all year round an utsav is organised every year during the summer months of April or May. People do not consume cooked food ( warm) specially rice. Puffed rice ,curd, fruits are taken instead.
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You are right Leeja. Devi Shitala is the equivalent to Goddess Mariamman. And thanks for the input about the festival!