By Somali K Chakrabarti
One of the benefits of being a part of the blogosphere is that you readily come across a wealth of information shared by people from their own experiences.
During my entire stay in Mumbai, though I have been to a number of Chinese restaurants, I had never heard about any Chinese temple in Mumbai, till I came across this post in We Travel Solo about the only Chinese temple in Mumbai.
So off we went to explore the temple on the weekend.
Close to the Dockyard Station, on Nawab Tank Road, nestled in a quaint lane in a two storeyed house in Mazagaon is the old Chinese temple. Except for a small wooden gate painted in red, nothing about the two storeyed building suggests from outside that there is a temple inside.
A small wooden staircase leads to the temple on the second floor. As we climb up a picture of three Chinese gods Fuk, Luk, Sau (gods of wealth, Prosperity, and Longevity) painted on the wall and small statues on the sides of the stairs greet us.
The Kwan Tai Shek temple is supposed to be dedicated to an army Nobel Kwan Tai Kwon.
On finding the temple closed, I approach the family that stays on the first floor (as suggested in the post). The lady is gracious enough to give me the keys. With that I open the temple door.
Inside the sanctum, on a beautifully decorated red altar, is an idol of Nobel Kwan Tai, dressed in silk robe and ornaments,
The temple is well maintained and is decorated with Chinese fresco and motifs. Incense sticks, paper money, dragons and other decorative pieces are neatly placed on a table. The red painted doors of the temple, décor, and the traditional Chinese hangings are redolent of an old era. We find Chinese scriptures clipped on the wall. These are used for telling fortune. There is an air of silence around the place.
The temple is nearly a hundred years old. Very few people visit the temple except during the Chinese New Year. The caretaker had left for the day and would be back next day.
Chinese community in Mumbai
The visit to the temple, gave me a peep into the history and culture of the small Chinese community in Mumbai, who came to India with the East India Company and made Mumbai their home around 200 years back.
It seems that there were thousands of Chinese in Mumbai by the early 1900s, with most of them living in and around the dock areas. But, when the relations between India and China deteriorated during the Indo-Chinese war, the Chinese community was looked upon with suspicion. Many of these families were repatriated to China and some chose to migrate to Canada. The number of Chinese who stayed back in Mumbai dwindled drastically.
The Kwan Tai Shek temple, representative of Chinese spirituality in Mumbai, is definitely worth a visit, for all those who are interested in exploring the multi- cultural aspects of different communities living in the Maximum city.
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