THE AVERAGE Mumbaikar, quizzed about a temple in Prabhadevi, will name the famous Siddhivinayak temple. But this part of central Mumbai, tucked between Parel and Worli, actually gets its name from the Prabhavati Devi temple in the vicinity. While the temple itself turned 300 years old recently, its main deity, whose name is now also the new name of Elphinstone Road railway station on the Western Railway, reportedly dates back to the 12th Century.Ramsevak, who runs a shop selling flowers and other items of worship down the street from the temple for the last 15 years, agrees that the number of followers who visit the Prabhadevi Mandir has dwindled over the years.
“Fewer people come to the temple now as compared to earlier times. We don’t see huge lines that are seen outside Siddhivinayak but people who do come here have great faith in this temple. With the government’s decision to rename Elphinstone Road station as Prabhadevi, there might be more curiosity among people regarding the temple that gives this area its identity,” he said.
Some of the area’s history is already lost. A heritage milestone on the pavement opposite the Prabhadevi temple, stating ‘VI Miles’ as the distance from the temple to St Thomas Cathedral in Fort, one of a series of heritage milestones dotting central Mumbai since the mid-1800s, has already been lost to hurried road and pavement repairs.
According to historians, the temple’s main deity, earlier referred to as Shakambaridevi, was the famous goddess of Bimba Raja of Gujarat.
The temple is now managed by a trust. According to local folklore, Prabhavati Devi appeared in the dreams of a devotee from the Pathare Prabhu community, who went on to build the temple. The trust running the temple continues to be peopled by descendants of the Pathare Prabhus, one of Mumbai’s earliest native communities.
Shekhar Kakkani, owner of a tailoring shop in the area, agrees more people go to Siddhivinayak but feels the renaming of the nearest railway station may revive interest in the history of the temple and in its annual festival.
“There is a mela here in the first week of January, which sees a lot of crowds. The renaming of the station will definitely pique the curiosity of people about this temple. It might be quiet outside the temple but people who have faith come to offer their prayers from everywhere,” he said.