Sri Laxmi Narayan Temple
On 22nd November 1926, the Laxmi Narayan temple was established by the then trustees of Lady Northcote Hindu Orphanage (LNHO), to ensure that the orphanage had a spiritual centre to its activities. The temple is famous for the frequent visits by Mahatma Gandhi, who lived nearby in Mani Bhavan and would recite his prayers here in the evenings. He often sang, “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram…” and “Vaishnav Jana to Tene…”, praising the Lord and His devotees.
Lord Narayan is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the Lord of the Vaikuntha planets, the spiritual abode. His divine consort is Sri Laxmi Devi. In 1995, the worship of the deities and the temple came under the care of ISKCON Sri Radha Gopinath Mandir. Today, complete offerings, gorgeous dresses and aratis are presented to Their Lordships promptly, and the temple itself has undergone renovations further beautifying this historical landmark. The courtyard of the temple is floored with marble and sandstone structures. Auspicious trees such as the Tamala, Banyan and Kadamba are to the found in the courtyard. Yearly, a grand festival is celebrated specifically for the appearance day of Lord Laxmi-Narayan. Countless devotees as well as supporters of Mahatma Gandhi gather for this festival which generally takes place a couple of days after Holi.
Very close to the Radhagopinath temple, where Radhanath Swami stays while in Mumbai, is Laxmi-Narayan temple, which has great historical significance. It was the place of worship of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi while he stayed at Mani Bhawan, downtown Mumbai. Once during his visit here, the priest, who heard of British police in the neighborhood, forcibly locked Gandhiji inside the temple. Later, when the police went away after searching for Gandhiji for a while, the priest unlocked him.
When Radhanath Swami first arrived in Mumbai, the Laxmi-Narayan temple was dilapidated and all around it was a dump yard. Radhanath Swami called me and said, “We should take proper care of this temple. Can you get the garbage in the surrounding removed?” That was the beginning of the renovation of this heritage structure.
When the entire structure was renovated, Radhanath Swami suggested, “Since it’s a very old temple, it should be maintained like a traditional temple. Hence we won’t use electricity inside. Only oil lamps.” And that’s how the temple still maintains its traditional looks.
Radhanath Swami’s congregation now maintains the temple with the donation from the pilgrims. This self-sustainability, I feel, is critical for the maintenance of any heritage structure in the long run. We have achieved it here by the expertise of Radhanath Swami.