One of the most revered Shiva temples in Mumbai, Babulnath sits on a small rise adjacent to Malabar Hill in the city’s south. Hindu pilgrims flock here by the thousands each year to pay their respects. Its religious significance and its grand and elaborately carved interiors have seen Babulnath become an essential stop on every visitor’s itinerary.
As one story goes, the temple’s name comes from the young cowherd Shri Babul, who discovered a ‘shivling’ – a symbol of Lord Shiva – carved into a black stone under the shade of a babul tree. It’s on this sacred site that the temple first took shape more than 200 years ago. The initial structure was built in 1780 and then added to in phases, which included a major expansion in 1836 and, in 1900, the construction of the temple’s imposing spire.
You can reach Babulnath, which stands 305 metres above sea level, by taking the 100 or so stairs. Or, if you’d prefer to avoid the climb, you can go by lift. The exterior is impressive enough, but once inside, you’ll find an array of ornate pillars and ceilings featuring symbols of Hindu mythology carved into the marble and limestone. Flower-adorned shrines dot the spacious interior, and if you’d like to make an offering, hawkers outside the temple will be only too happy to relieve you of your loose change in exchange for a temple-visit kit.
The temple is open from 5am to 10:30pm Tuesday to Sunday and from 4:30am to 11:30pm on Mondays – the day of Shiva. You can easily reach it by public transport and roughly a 15-minute walk from either Charni Road or Grant Road railway station.
Devotees are particularly drawn here during the month of Shravan (July/August) and for the night-time festival of Mahashivaratri (February/March), when scores of worshippers arrive carrying milk and water to pour over the shivling – believed to be the head of Lord Shiva – amid melodic cries of “Om Namah Shivaya”, meaning ‘adoration to Shiva’.