The middle aged Maharashtrian lady asked the priest – “Aaichya chehra utharle ahe na, mala asey vatthe?” (Mother’s face looks pale, isn’t it).The priest nodded his head in affirmation.
Mumbai 2007,Goregaon. The mother in question is AmbaDevi more popularly known as Amba Mata.
Amba Mata temple has existed for more than 100 years in Goregaon; Mumbai. It was the last day of Ganesh Chaturthi, popularly called as “Anant Chaturdashi” in Maharashtra. (the day when offices in Mumbai wind up early considering that roads get blocked with the crowds thronging the beaches of Mumbai for immersion of the Ganesha idol). The lady in question, a devout Maharashtrian, asked the above question barely a few minutes after Lord Ganesha bade goodbye from the temple premises. “Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudchya varshi lawkar ya”. (O, Ganapti Bappa, please come early next year).
As I was bowing my head in front of Mother, I was so impressed with the lady. How committed her devotion to amba matha …. For her to notice the sadness in Amba Matha’s face on seeing her son Ganesha being taken for immersion...!
The temple is located a stone’s throw from Goregaon West railway station in Mumbai. Flower sellers line up the compound wall. They also double up as people who keep an eye on your footwear. Mumbai is notorious for chappal chors (footwear thieves). Ask anyone in Mumbai and they would always a keep an old, spare footwear while visiting the temples. No wonder that Bata showroom is strategically located close to the Amba Mata temple.
My father has been visiting this temple from the late 60’s. As far as I can remember, I am a regular visitor to the temple right from the 70’s. The fame of Amba Matha has indeed spread far and wide over the years.The one thing that I vividly remember is the typical Maharashtrian ambience in the temple. There would be a dolki (drum) that was hung inside the temple – as a young boy, I used to be tempted to touch it and would invariably succeed in my attempt. Believe me, years have passed but the Maharashtrian ambience continues to enthral us. The positive energy that radiates around this temple has to be experienced to be believed.
Inside the temple, you have a mini-Hanuman temple a few yards away from the main gate. Immensely popular, you can see huge crowds thronging him to seek his favours on Saturdays with oil and black sesame seeds in tow. Diagonally opposite to the Hanuman temple is the sanctum sanctorum of Amba Matha.She gets attired in sarees of different hues and colours on different days. Yellow, red and green are more popular colours. People who want something from Amba Mata pray to her they would buy her a saree and lo! You can rest assured that your wishes get fulfilled.
Abhishekams are done for Amba Matha early morning. When Amba Matha is decked up in full glory – with flowers, saree, blouse …. It appears as if a married Maharashtrian lady is seated there to bless us. As I have been visiting this shrine from my childhood, the thought of Amba Matha has entered my subconscious. Every time I visit the shrine, nostalgia chokes me.
Where there is Shakti, can Shiva be far behind? Adjacent to Mother, the next structure has a fairly spacious sanctum sanctorum and houses Lord Shiva along with Matangi Devi and Gayatri Maa. On the entrance of this sanctum sanctorum, we have Lord Krishna on the left and on the right, we have Shitala Devi (Shitala matha is popular in Maharashtra, there is a separate temple dedicated to Shitladevi temple in Mahim). (Shitala means cool, Shitala devi is offered vegetables, fruits, flowers especially when children are not well, you offer a prayer to Shitala devi). There is a Nandi in front of the idol of Lord Shiva and as is the practice, you cannot resist asking Nandi for help by whispering your wishes in his ears.
My father has been performing abhishekam of Lord Shiva for the last so many years now that till today, his day is incomplete without a visit to this holy shrine of Amba Matha. During Navratri, crowds throng the temple from as far as Charni Road on western railway and Dombivili on the central railway. The chief priest of the temple – Mr. Vishnu (an erudite man) is very close to us.
I have lost count of the number of times Amba Matha has come to our rescue. During 2007-08 I suffered a personal crisis – the support from my family and Amba Matha helped me tide over the crisis. During this time, my father’s advice to me was – “Visit the temple while coming back home from office”. I followed this advice religiously and benefited immensely. My friends and colleagues were amazed at my equanimity. In reality, it was Amba Matha who gave me the mental strength to face the crisis.
Amba Mata makes you addictive. Once you visit the temple, you will feel like visiting again. Again. Again. Of late, the place has become extremely congested what with auto rickshaws outnumbering the humans on the road. Fortunately, most people in Mumbai use the best means of transport in the world – their legs…! , so the situation is still manageable. No matter what the constraints, for me, a visit to the temple is a must on my yearly visit to Mumbai. Amba Matha has been kind to my father and our family at all times. She has never disappointed us. When I left Mumbai for good, the pain of not being able to meet Amba Matha regularly was unbearable.
If you are in Mumbai, please do take out time to visit this holy shrine. It is one of the most ancient temples in Mumbai. It is a place where you can soak in spiritual fervour in totality. It is a place where your prayers never go unanswered. While praying to Amba Matha, we need to remember that Mother will invariably test our patience. You should never give up. Never. In the end, what matters is faith.
“Sarva Mangalya Mangalye; Sive sarvartha sadike…
Sharanye Trymbike Devi, Narayani Namosthuthe.”