Babulnath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is one of the most iconic temples in Mumbai. Located in South Mumbai, it sits nearly 1000ft above the sea level, and overlooks the Arabian sea. A staircase of approximately 100 steps leads up to the temple, although there is an elevator service for just Re. 1 that can be used by the aged or less than able. Its beautiful structure (made from limestone and marble mostly procured from Rajasthan), as well as its intricately carved interiors (the pillars and the ceiling of the temple feature elements from Hindu mythology) make Babulnath an architectural delight.
The Shivalinga and other idols of the Babulnath temple were consecrated by Raja Bhimdev, the Hindu king of the region, in the 12th century. Over a period of time, the temple was buried and lost, before the idols were rediscovered sometime between 1700 to 1780, which is when the first temple was built. Five idols were unearthed: the main Shivalinga, and idols of Ganesh, Hanuman, Parvati, and one more. Out of these, the first four are in the temple while the fifth one was immersed in the sea since it was broken when it was dug out. Hindus do not worship broken idols and it is common practice to immerse them in a river, a pond, or the sea.
According to legend, about two centuries ago, the temple surroundings comprised of pasturelands that belonged to Pandurang, a wealthy goldsmith and landowner. He used the pastures for his cattle to graze on. Pandurang soon discovered that one of his cows, Kapila, was pouring out her milk on a particular spot, as abhishek (offering) before returning to the sheds everyday. When they dug the spot, it unearthed a ‘Swayambhu’ – a natural Shivalinga or Shiva lingam in black stone, around which the current temple was then built.
The faithful come in large numbers to this quaint and quiet temple on Mondays (believed to be Lord Shiva’s day), Mahashivratri (a Hindu festival celebrated in honour of Lord Shiva) and the month of Shravan (a holy month in the Hindu calendar). We recommend visiting the temple early in the morning, as the pristine atmosphere brings about an immense peace of mind.
Fun fact: Some key scenes of the famous Hindi film Parinda starring Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit were shot here.