Meher Marfatia discovers a city merchant's vision become concrete reality in the Dwarkadhish Temple at Kalbadevi Road If stones could speak, each of the carved images here has a haunting story to tell.
Located near Ramwadi and Vitthalwadi on Kalbadevi Road, the Dwarkadhish or Sunderbagh Temple is the oldest haveli structure we have. The frontage of this landmark is strikingly decorated with sculpted fruits and animals. Among them, it's the rows of monkeys munching bananas which made the British rather dismissively dub it "Monkey Temple".
An inscription found on the main doorway, reveals: "This temple is built by Sunderdas, son of Thakar Mulji Jetha and dedicated to God Dwarkanathji in June 1875." Seth Mulji Jetha was an eminent city merchant, one of Bombay's biggest cloth traders of the time. What led his son to erect the temple makes quite a charming story.
Vision and hope
Mulji is supposed to have had a most vivid dream late one night. It turned out an interesting divine visitation. The merchant reported how God told him that his swaroop (idol) was hidden in their house. It had to be found. Being the devoted follower of the faith that he was, Mulji searched dedicatedly for the statue. He discovered it at last in a wooden box under the staircase.
This was when he decided to build a haveli in honour of "Dwarkadhish", as God referred to it in the dream. And just as Lord Krishna had been brought up in the chieftain Nandaraja's palatial home with life's choicest comforts, the Dwarkadhish Haveli too was appointed with gorgeous murals, chandeliers and paintings for Krishna's enjoyment.
Urban historian Sharada Dwivedi shares a helpful excerpt translated from Acharya and Shingne's 1889 work in the original Marathi, Mumbaicha Vruttant. It describes the main themes depicted in the temple.. "There are two doors leading to the temple, one to the west and the other to the north. On the western doorway are carved images of Riddhi-Siddhi with Ganesh, and above them a large clock.
"On the north and west facades are rishis, milkmaids, monkeys and other images. Some are shown with japmalas, others read pothis. Some have long jata (hair) which is being tidies, monkeys are shown playing games. The carvings are all very beautiful."
The same account also goes on to highlight how, facing the black crystal idol of Shri Dwarkanathji, surrounded by small takkyas or bolsters, is a little fountain playing only on assigned special occasions.
Dressed in garments of kinkhwab, with a turban in the style of headgear worn by the Vallabhacharya-sect maharajas, the deity presents a serene countenance. A picture of pure content, of an exceptional dream realised.