Shree Padmavati Devi Temple- Geetanjali Dhulekar
"The temple is about 1000 years old", remarked the head priest when I enquired about the Padmavati Temple located in the IIT Bombay campus. As various thoughts crossed my mind, the priest settled down for a chat with me. And the next hour or so, it was a travel back to almost 10 centuries.
The present location of the Powai Lake was originally the Powai Valley and had many clusters of houses around a central village that housed many people. The name Powai itself is derived from Pavaisvari which in Sanskrit means 'Padma' a shortened version of the Goddess Padmavati. This fact is mentioned in the Goddess' prayers, the Devi Chalisa.
According to the Archaeological Survey of India, the temple dedicated to Goddess Padmavati dates back to the 10th century. Stone inscriptions verifying this were found in the dry bed of Powai Lake along with 3 idols - Mother Deity, Shivling and Hanuman.They also found 'shilas' or stones depicting devotees carrying milk to offer to Lord Shiva, here in the form of Nagajeswara Swami.
These idols were installed in temples, therefore there are 3 temples, but the largest one is dedicated to the goddess. Before you reach the main temple of the goddess, make sure you seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha at the start of the temple complex.
Many of the stones have inscriptions in Sanskrit and Marathi. Experts studied and ascertained that these belonged to the Yadav period about 700 years back. Under Chhatrapati Shivaji's reign, the goddess' idol was re-installed in this temple.
The deity has a striking resemblance to Mumbadevi at Bhuleshwar after which our city is named Mumbai, and seems to be of the same vintage. Both idols do not have a mouth and are covered with vermilion. Padmavati Devi is supposed to be an incarnation of Goddess Lakshmi, it is probably just another name for Mother Shakti whether it be Lakshmi, Parvati or Saraswati.
The temple as well as the idol of the goddess faces the lake. While talking to the priest, I found that for 2 days in a year when the temple doors open towards the east, the morning rays of the sun illuminate the idol of the goddess.
It's believed to be a reunion of the Sun God and Goddess Padmavati. Then thanks to the Earth's rotation, the sun rises in a spot a little away from the one exactly opposite the goddess. This process continues till the sun returns once again to touch the idol with its rays.
The temple is set amidst a mango grove but exudes much tranquillity, and one feels calm and at peace in its precincts. It is a scenic spot surrounded by low hills and the waterfront.
People come here to offer prayers in this serene temple and stay back for a bit because the place invites them to relax and shed their worries, rejuvenate themselves before they get back into the hustle bustle of daily living.