China Town in Mumbai?
A town habited by Chinese?
How is that possible?
Yes, this was my first reaction when I heard about a Chinese temple in Mumbai. Honestly, I was totally unaware of the Chinese religions and Gods. Hours of research about the same lured my curious mind to barge into this offbeat place or hidden jewel on a Sunday morning.
The three storied building with a red balcony is beautified by hanging Chinese lamps and dragon carvings. It is aligned with the residential apartments and looks much like any other one but certainly with a charming aura. ‘Am I entering a temple?’, a question ringed in my mind but the resonating Chinese mantras from the top floor seemed to be answering my question.
I entered the temple and saw a huge idol of a sturdy and vigorous Chinese man. All around him were the items of worshipping and the essence that was enchanting. The colourful paper on the wall declared that the God worshipped here is Confucius. The wise man of the Chinese history, who has been a great teacher, politician and a philosopher, is worshipped here as Kuan Kung.
Learning about Confucianism in the thick boring History textbook never seemed so fascinating to me as this temple. His morals as narrated casually by Tham Than Voon (known as Albert) was surprisingly interesting.
Albert is now the sole family member taking care of this temple that was built by his ancestors in the year 1919. He recalls visiting this temple and taking care of it along with his mother during his childhood. The temple looks stunning with the bright shades of crimson that is the colour of prosperity as per the Chinese belief.
The deity here is compared to Lord Shiva by his devotee Albert. He says,
“ Lord Kwan Kung is an innocent deity who fulfills the wishes of all, be it good or bad. He is just like Lord Shiva who treats all his devotees equally and blesses them with the desired boons. He grants the wishes of a gangster as much as he grants the wishes of a saint. He is venerated by all for his bravery, his principles and teachings.”
Albert takes a puff of his cigarette as he continues, “I like this God as I have chosen him to be the one. “
As per him, they select their faith in a great person after learning the best about the deity and his adorable or impressive qualities.
“I don’t believe in him just because I am forced to do so. I have learned a lot about him. I respect his morals values and teachings that do not emphasise much on any rituals but helps you lead a life of balanced personal and social ethics. He is more like a friend and a guide to me. I frequently spend time with him and discuss the things that bother me.”
He is also much impressed by the valiance and the courage of Lord Kwan as he is known for fighting for the sake of the Shung dynasty during the time of the Romance of the Three Kingdom’s Era. Indeed, Lord Kwan is the perfect deity to be followed by the current generation that is least interested in the religious beliefs and inexplicable rituals. But this doesn’t mean that the people following Lord Kwan do not believe in any rituals. They do worship the lord and please him with sweets and aromatic incenses. Albert proudly stated that the Lord would guide you for any important decision of your life through the oracles written in Mandarin on the bamboo sheets. They light up the candles and then pick up the wooden sticks kept on the table as a part of offerings to the lord. Then they refer to the sheet containing the suggested number on the stick. The bamboo sheets contain the fortune written in the Chinese Script and are referred by the followers of the faith once in a year.”
The moment I was elated to try getting some answers from Lord Kuan, who by now had become a very familiar personality for me, Albert laughed and sighed. He wished he knew how to read Mandarin so that he could read it for me. He also recalled his sister teaching Chinese in a nearby school that has shutdown now. But to feed my curious mind he brought the Jiaobei (the moon blocks) which represents yin and yang the balancing energy of the ancient Chinese belief. The blocks are embossed on a side and flat on the other.
“Pray to the Lord with the blocks in your hand and ask if your wishes would come true. Move your hands in circular motion thrice while holding the same. Bow down and drop the blocks on the floor.” He instructed me.
When I dropped the blocks, one of them fell flat whereas the other one fell upside down. This shows the uncertainty in the fulfilment of the desired aim. If both the blocks fall upside down it means the negative reply from the Lord and if both fall flat then yay!! Your wish would surely be fulfilled. (That’s what we call faith) As mentioned earlier the Lord is innocent and you can repeat the process thrice in order to get a positive answer. Such a cool God I must say.
Kuan Kung is also the deity followed in Buddhism. He is a Bodhisattva Sangharama, the Lord of Marital Happiness, as per the Buddhist belief.
Albert has also extended the temple by placing the female counterpart, ‘Kuan Yin’, at the ground floor of the temple. She was a Chen Dynasty Empress, Miao Shan and is well known as the ‘Goddess of Mercy’. According to a Buddhist belief when the soul departs the earthly world, it is placed in the heart of the lotus and sent to the Supreme World by Kuan Yin.
The ceiling in her abode is painted as the azure sky that represents the Spiritual World. And the amazing story of her spiritual origin has been handwritten on the charts put up on the wall by Albert Tham.
Just sitting in the tranquil ambience of the temple gives you an immense spiritual happiness and the peace of mind.
You may also like to read: 10 Places to Explore Mumbai like a Local
- Kuan Kung is also known as Kwan Kung or Guan Gong.
- Reach by 12 pm on Sundays if you wish to meet Albert Tham and know more about Kuan Kung
- It is the best place to find some serenity in the heart of the bustling city.
- Removing your shoes unlike other temples is not compulsory.
- Must be visited on Chinese New Year to witness the rituals and meet the Chinese origin community living in Mumbai. (15th February, 2018). The date differs every year as it follows the Chinese calendar.
- Only 1500 Chinese origin followers of Taoism live in Mumbai and are
How to Reach:
Get down at the Dockyard Road Station and get down the adjoining bridge to reach the Navy dockyard across the Nawab Tank Bridge. Once you face the dockyard at the dead end, take your left and then again take your immediate left. You would see the tall building with a red door marked with ‘ No 12 Seeyup Koon’. That’s your destination.