I had reached home early. The evening was still fresh. I told Padma let us go to Sidhivinayak Temple.
This temple along with few others like Mahalaxmi, Mumbadevi, and Babulanth symbolizes Mumbai and its continued success. In spite of being a coastal City, it has so far been spared of any natural disasters which many other Indian cities have faced. Tuesday is the most popular day to visit this shrine and depending on the auspiciousness of the day ( Angaraka Chaturthi falling on a Tuesday, Ganesh Chaturthi), the line would snake through the adjoining roads. There are individuals who stand in the queue previous evening itself to be the first to see the Lord on Tuesday- some of them doing this for decades.
The security threats of the last two decades have restricted the access to this temple and its adjoining area, with continuous police monitoring being the norm, in spite of litigation against the wall constructed literally on the road to protect the temple.
When our family re-located to Mumbai over five decades back, Sidhivanayak was a small temple which you could walk in from the pavement. Besides Lord Vinayak, there is Hanuman also. The footwear could be kept at the entrance to the temple without any payment. I recall my brother taking me to this temple (after the Annual Exams to plead for success in exams) and making me stand on the hot pavement after keeping the footwear inside the temple. He seemed to believe that standing on the hot pavement would give us an edge with Lord. Today it is a big temple attracting good crowd on a daily basis.
Padma and I reached the temple at 7.00 p.m. The crowd was limited. Police cordon is reasonably tight. The entry is from the backside on the temple from a road which is now blocked for traffic. At one time we could take the vehicle into the road. Now it is allowed only for the inhabitants in buildings in that road. We could walk in straight into the railings near the sanctum.
The deity is at a lower level. The devotee has to descend few steps to get into the sanctum. For some reason, the Temple authorities have not installed any system by which the devotees walk through it in queue after giving their offerings. So what happens is the queue, which was divided into two or three railings, all converge into a mass and get into the sanctum pushing an jostling each other. The devotee carries the offering above his head- to attract attention and also to ensure that it is not derailed in the movement to the Lord.
The deity is a medium sized one with saffron color applied liberally on it. There are three or four priests who are waiting to serve as medium or messenger between the devotee and lord. The normal offerings are coconut, peda (a milk based sweet), arugam pullu (a grass which is said to be favored by Lord- I will find out the reason) and garland. In addition there are special offerings arising out of vow made by devotees.
This Temple evokes huge belief amongst devotees. The Lord is believed to have the ability to solve any problem. It is common to find an incredibly rich man (I once saw an extremely influential and wealthy merchant banker before the Lord) standing alongside a normal citizen struggling to lead a normal life. Post exam season, Engineering/IIT admissions period increase the footfalls and queue on Tuesday. The normal vow is to go for at least five Tuesdays.
There are volunteers who seek to encourage the devotees to depart from the sanctum after the brief communications Meeting with Lord is complete. The rectangular space within the sanctum has two large gates for entry and exist. Since the crowd of devotees do not have any proper arrangements to queue to see the Lord, it is like getting into or out of the local suburban train in Mumbai. The trick is to flow with the crowd towards the platform near the Lord, keep gazing at him till you believe that He has your attention, and pour out your heart to Him. Does He listen? If so, has He noted your plaints? Will He provide solutions or more importantly guide you to a solution? Does He really care and forgive our ill thought actions and initiatives and help us to reach our goal?
I believe that He cares for each one of us who stand before Him and cry out from heart. He reads what we write with our blood inside our hearts and bare it to him. He has to care. If not, whom do we go to?
The crowd will push you in different directions. I moved slowly towards the exit without averting my eyes from the Lord’s eyes. I flipped through my Power Point Slides and requesting him to save it in His hard disk and read it at leisure. I beseeched him to be not like some of our bosses, who do not read most of what we send them.
After a tryst with Lord Hanuman, Padma and I went and sat beside the railing outside the sanctum door along with many others. The Aarti (Deeparadhana) starts at 7.30 p.m. and goes on till 8.00 p.m. It is a daily event which is telecast in some religious Television channel. The Sanctum doors are closed for a brief while. The immediate space outside is cleaned up and emptied of crowd. Then the doors open and the Aarti starts. A long chant for Lord is sung by the priests. This chant is in Marathi language and is quite popular. There is a big drum which a uniformed employee was playing in rhythm. The Deity was seen on the Television monitor. Padma and I were standing in the front and could see the deity with some yoga type neck stretching.
The volunteers allowed those standing in queue outside to come in and stand behind to watch the Aarti. The devotees who had come with very young babies were allowed to stand in a less crowded place. Few influential VIPs were allowed inside the sanctum (wish I had some “pull” in the right place).
The atmosphere was that of around 700 devotees standing and silently listening to the Aarti Chant with few singing along. I felt that Lord Ganesha was giving His undivided attention to those present. The prayer sung by the priests and the devotees drove away almost everything away from our mind.
The last portion of the prayers were some more well-known Sanskrit Slokas invoking the blessing of Lord for all devotees.
The prayers ended. We bowed our head to Lord thanking him for listening to us and perhaps guiding us in the right direction.
We came out of the Temple, took the prasad –which are coconut pieces. The return journey took less than an hour.
There is one question whose answer would defiy logic. Why should we visit a temple which 25 kms away when we have temple for the same deity few minutes away from our residence? One answer which I have heard (and to some extent experienced) is that when thousands of devotees throng a temple and offer prayers, the vibrations arising therefrom create an invisible strength from which a devotee can draw on. Second is the atmosphere surrounding the Deity and the temple which attune your mind in the right direction?
Perhaps the right answer is that we should regularly visit the temple close to our residence with visits to the more prominent temple when we have time and opportunity.
We felt that the experience needs to be repeated as it gave some repose to our restless mind and thoughts.