On the day we left Mumbai, we decided to visit one of the city’s most famous and popular temples: The Mahalaxmi Temple. This temple was built around 1800 and is dedicated to the goddess Mahalaxmi (or Mahalakshmi), wife Vishnu and goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Our first temple experience was different than we both expected. Walking toward the temple, the road was flanked on both sides with vendors selling baskets and wreaths of flowers, lotus blooms (Mahalaxmi is often depicted with two blooming lotus flowers), candies, and other offerings. There were also many people you could pay to watch your shoes for you, as you cannot enter a temple in India with shoes on.
There were two long lines to enter the temple: one for men, and other for women. Once inside the complex, we had to get in another Disney-style line (also divided by sex). Maren and I were the only white people there and we got a lot of stares. It seemed like the women’s line never moved, but the men’s line had basically gone from full to empty. We soon realized that they let a large group of men into the main temple area all at once. Then they switched over to the women’s line and it was our turn to enter the holy space. Once out of the partitioned line, it was a free-for-all with all the women sort of pushing and shoving to get to the front. I was expecting a more tranquil and somber experience, but there was nothing like that here. It was more of a cluster-f*** really. But even in the midst of all the chaos, there was an unmistakable air of sentimentality and holy reverence that brought tears to my eyes.
We were shuffled through the main temple in less than 1 minute and back out into the open space where we were free to roam around and look at the rest of the temple, which really wasn’t much aside from several paintings of Mahalaxmi and two other goddesses. However, there was a wall where people were praying and then sticking rupees to a painted cement wall. The belief is that if your coin sticks to the wall, your prayer will be answered. Maren and I each said a prayer and stuck a rupee to the wall. It took several tries, but they eventually did stick. I’m not sure how it works (magnets, sticky paint, magic, or the power of the goddess?), but everyone was doing it and, to be certain, the temple keepers must receive at least 500 rupees per day from all those coins. (The ones that don’t stick fall into a grated shelf where you cannot get them back).
I’m interested to visit another temple and see how it compares to the Mahalaxmi experience.