Wednesday 28 August 2013

Babulnath Temple

I just love the word Babble.  Babble suggests lots of friendly chatter.  Babbler birds are indeed full of friendly chatter. Babbling brooks are usually accompanied by sunny days. Babs off Eastenders was a babbly lady.  I also like the words Bubble and Bobble.  So jolly!

It was not, in fact this onomatopoeia that first attracted me to visit Babblenath Babulnath Mandir - but probably that the temple is across the road from my favourite veggie restaurant Soam, where a friend and I enjoyed a lunch of Sev Puri and Masala Dosa prior to visiting it.

Located near Chowpatty in south Mumbai, the mandir sits on a hillock 1,000 ft above sea level and is a shrine to Lord Shiva (aka Lord Babulnath or Shiva in the form of a babble Babul Tree. I wonder if Lord Shiva was a talkative type?)

Upon entering under the road-side arch, plastic baskets of brightly coloured flowers and incense were pressed into our hands.  Confused, I looked for someone demanding payment - but nobody did. Well that was an absolute first in India - to be given something for free! However, it did leave us for the next hour with the uncomfortable feeling that someone would tap us on the shoulder for money.

You can get to the top of the hillock by walking up a narrow path lined with dwellings and up some steps - although there is also a lift supplied for the many thousands of devotees that visit the shrine every year.  But the climb is pretty easy going and half way up there is an open room where a couple of orange-clad Holy Men are sleeping - surrounded by images of Hindu Gods.  It was just after lunchtime at this point so I am guessing these guys come alive at night to bless those who are passing by (for a small fee).

Sleeping Holy Man - surrounded by Shiva imagery

At the top of the steps is the impressively carved white marble temple.  We had to take off our shoes and pass them to a grumpy old woman who insisted on looking after them for us (for a small fee). Then we were ushered into the shrine by a guard who showed us how to lay the flowers from the basket on to the lingam.  I felt a bit of a fraudy-firangi as everyone else around us clasped their hands together and said prayers to Lord Shiva.  But on the other hand it was quite nice to be welcomed in despite being blatant 'tourists' wielding big cameras.  Actually we weren't allowed to take photos either inside or outside the temple itself which was a shame as the shrine was so pretty.

After ten minutes or so - that was that.  We meandered back down to street level and to the hustle and bustle of Chowpatty.  We gave back our empty flower baskets and I was still looking out for someone to pay  - and ended up pressing 100 rupees into a boy's hand when we still weren't asked for money.

I recommend a look if you are passing by or eating across the road at Soam.  Here is the website for the temple - but it's not very helpful.

PS. There was no babbling at Babulnath.  It was very quiet!

I managed to capture a photo of the roof of the temple - before being told off.

Dwellings on the path up to the shrine

Entrance at street level - where you will find your flowers and garlands to take up to the temple (possibly for free!)

A close up of those beautiful flowers (and a nasty water bottle spoiling my picture!)

Friendly flower lady outside the entrance....

And a smiley flower man.  Perhaps there is something 'Babble' about the place after all!



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