Mumbai/ Colonial Culture Impact: Hindu Temples Built during British Colonization

The colonial influences over erstwhile Bombay were so strong, that the city acquired a distinctly Western flavour. With its grand Victorian structures, Bombay came to represent the urbane life with its urbanization transformation. Contrary to the common belief, it is interesting to discover that most of prominent Hindu temples survived and popular in these days are actually constructed during the period of British colonization. Rather than western force became prevalent and about to erase local culture, in Mumbai the Hindus through under political threats seems being strengthened and secured, took into more concretized cultural form and social meaning.


Famous Hindu Temples of Mumbai

Mumba Devi Temple

The city of Mumbai was named after Mumba Devi, who is considered to be the patron Goddess of Mumbai. Mumba Devi is none other than Goddess Parvati in the form of Shakti. The 3 centuries old temple was built in the year 1737 at Bori Bunder. Later it was rebuilt at Bhuleshwar in the central where Victoria Terminus is located. It is one of the oldest temples in Mumbai.

Siddhi Vinayak Temple

Siddhi Vinayak temple is located in Prabhadevi and is one of the most visited temples in Mumbai. This temple enshrines the grand deity of Siddhi Vinayak or Lord Ganesha along with his consorts Riddhi and Siddhi. Devbai Patil and Laxman Vithu founded the temple in the year 1801. The temple is designed with innovative architecture and style of its time.

Walkeshwar Temple

Walkeshwar Temple is one of the oldest temples in Mumbai. It was constructed around 1050 years back by the Silharas on Malabar hill. It is famous for its exquisite design and structure and profound style. The name Walkeshwar temple came from Valuka Ishwar, which means the Lord of Sand. After the attack of the Portugese during 16th century, it was remodeled in the year 1715 by the Mumbai businessman and philanthropist, Rama Kamath.

Babulnath Temple

Located at the end of Marine Drive, towards the southern top of Malabar Hills, the Babulnath Temple stands dedicated to Lord Shiva, built in the 1780 year. Flooded with large group of visitors and devotees all around the year, the architecture of this ancient Shiva temple reminds one of the most distinguished in Kailash Mountain.

Mahalakshmi Temple

Located at the seacoast on the northern part of Malabar hills, Mahalakshmi temple is one of the eminent and the oldest temples of Mumbai, built around 1785,by Dhakji Dadaji, a Hindu merchant. With the exquisitely adorned idols of Mahalakshmi, Mahasaraswathi and Mahakali presiding in the temple and with millions of visitors and devotees thronging the temple all around the year, this fascinating architecture arouse reverence attachment among believers.


Hindu Temple Construction Date Location
Mumba Devi Temple 1737 Bori Bunder
Siddhi Vinayak Temple 1801 Prabhadevi
Walkeshwar Temple 1715 Malabar hills
Babulnath Temple 1780 Malabar hills
Mahalakshmi Temple 1785 Malabar hills

The list of Hindu temples with their construction date and location

Among temples constructed during the period, some are privately built as personal religious pursuits that dedicate to the Hindu community, others are renovation or reconstruction of historical temples being destroyed during Portuguese colonial period, the fund is raised among wealthy and eminent Indian merchants.

During this early stage of British rule over Mumbai in late 18th century, it is also the period that Hornby Vellard Project commenced, which is initiated by the Governor of Bombay William Hornby in 1782 to build a causeway uniting all seven islands of Bombay into a single island with a deep natural harbor. Hornby Vellard Project is still regarded as one of the biggest and most influential city planning in transforming Mumbai’s urban form. For the Hindu temples constructed during this time which listed above, their locations remained stayed on the former islands before merged, which resulted from the fact that the reclaimed regions are still in construction and under developed. This provides an answer of the coincidence for locations of major historic Hindu temples with the ancient islands.

In conclusion, the British colonial history which transformed Mumbai into a prominent harbor city, at the same time, helped to push its cultural development. Wealthy Indian merchants who benefited from the transformation of economy structure, gained social power and funded the construction of Mumbai’s major Hindu religious places at this unique historical period. This layer of history is solidified in time and space as a critical constituent for Mumbai’s ongoing urban formation.



Vaz, Urmi.An Exploration of Old Temple Structures. Ancient Indian History, Culture & Archaeology, St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai 2014-2015


1 Comment on “Mumbai/ Colonial Culture Impact: Hindu Temples Built during British Colonization

  1. I remember I was attracted into this blog by the amounts of images you attached, but I cannot find those images now.
    From the first half of this blog I can draw an outline of Mumbai’s cultural and local region. With the photos of these temples or people’s lives around temples, the image of Mumbai will be more vivid.
    I am also curious about how the colonial history could push Mumbai’s cultural development. Was it bringing new cultural elements into this island city? Was there any cultural conflict during the colonial history? Colonial history always contains a snarled cultural transformation, which must be an exciting story.

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