This spectacular tour allows you to delve deeper into the varied religions that are represented in Bombay. This is accomplished through visits to a special selection of places of worship which epitomize the unique social scene found here.
Leaving from the pier, your first stop is in the popular middle class settlement of Dadar at the venerated Guruvayur and Ram temple complex. Teeming with activity and ritual, the presiding deity is of charismatic Hindu god Ram, seventh incarnation of Vishnu of the holy trinity. Ram is also referred to as Maryada Purushottam, literally the perfect man or lord of self control. The temple constructed in South Indian style has a majestic upper complex containing five sacred gold plated urns. This makes it convenient for devotees who have little time to worship, but may look at the urns while passing by for an absolvement of all their sins.
Opposite Dadar railway station is the impressive three spired Swaminarayan mandir (or temple) erected out of pink sandstone in traditional architectural style with intricate carving. This popular sect founded in 1801 by Bhagwan Swaminarayan is believed by its adherents to represent the purest form of Hinduism, focusing its faith on salvation by means of total devotion to righteousness, knowledge and detachment.
Following your Hindu exposure, you'll make your way downtown along the coastline, passing Haji Ali mosque and tomb. The city's most recognized landmark, it is located on an islet in the sea. Accessibility to the mosque is only during low tide as the causeway gets submerged when the tide is high. A splendid example of Indo Islamic architecture, Haji Ali dargah was built in 1431 in memory of this wealthy Muslim merchant who renounced worldly possession. More than half a million from all faiths gather at the mosque each Thursday and Friday, seeking the blessing of this legendry Sufi saint.
Your tour next focuses on the Parsee Zoroastrians, followers of prophet Spitaman Zarathushtra, circa 1500 BC. These followers who were of Iranian origin, fled to India from persecution in the tenth century AD, and soon became successful and wealthy entrepreneurs in the flourishing trade with Europe, China and the Americas. The closely knit community fulfills their ritual obligations in the presence of a perpetual fire in a consecrated building known as the `Fire Temple'. Along with Bombay, the Parsi community also flourished and many fire temples were endowed as a triumphant proclamation of new-found success and prosperity. Today there are close to fifty fire temples in and around the city. The oldest sacred fire in Bombay was installed in 1709 and is housed in the Bomanji Wadia Fire Temple in Princess Street. The building is a fusion of Indo-Iranian architecture, its façade representing Parsi sentiments as a reminder of their ancient Iranian heritage. The fluted columns, crenellated verandahs and bull capitals which adorn the building are clearly Achaemenian in design and style. The concourse, where external ablutions take place has eight dressed stone pillars surmounted by bull capitals, reminiscent of those found in the audience hall of Darius the Great at Persepolis. You'll be able to view the temple from the outside as only worshippers are permitted in.
Mid-day, you'll stop for lunch at the impressive Trident hotel, located by the sea at the end of Marine Drive. Then, the tours focus turns to the Jewish influence that has helped shape the historical and commercial success of Bombay. It is a true testimony of the acceptance Jews have traditionally enjoyed in this cosmopolitan and maximum city. Bombay's original Jews known as the Bene Israel community, are believed to be descendants of seven Jewish families, shipwrecked on India's shore who were fleeing persecution in Galilee around the second century B.C. While maintaining many Jewish practices, synagogue worship and Jewish texts were not central to their identity. The arrival of the Baghdadi Jews brought synagogue life to its prominence.
Sailing from Iraq, Syria and other middle east countries, Jewish merchant families touched the shores of `British' Bombay in the late 18th century and soon assimilated into its commerce, tapping the international trading and textile manufacturing business this port city was famous for. Referred to as `Baghdadi Jews', only about 200 remain, the rest having migrated to Israel, Britain and the U.S., leaving behind an enduring legacy of Synagogues, libraries, schools and several city landmarks such as Flora Fountain and Sassoon Docks. David Sassoon, like his father, was once the Chief Treasurer of the Pasha rulers of Baghdad. Following persecution, the wealthy Sassoon family moved to Bombay, becoming leading businessmen in textile manufacturing, real estate and the lucrative trade of opium and cotton with China. Jacob Sassoon, grandson of David, built the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in the "Fort" area, an elite and fashionable district and a key location for business minded Jews. The synagogue with its white wooden staircase, decorative floor tiles and fine stained-glass is patronized by both Baghdadi and Bene Israel communities.
While Roman Catholicism continued to thrive in the Bombay region even after the departure of the Portuguese, the Anglican church made its presence felt with the coming of the British in 1661. Commissioned in 1715, St. Thomas' Cathedral, the first in the city, is a mixture of sequential styles culminating in a Gothic tower and clock added in 1838, in addition to a chancel and elegant fountain designed in England by the eminent architect Sir George Gilbert Scott. The Cathedral containing fine stained-glass windows and choice objects of worship was selected for the UNESCO Asia Pacific Conservation award. Following your visit, it's a short transfer back to the cruise ship pier.
Please note: This tour includes a significant amount of walking - at times on uneven ground. There are also steps to be negotiated and it may not be considered suitable for wheelchair guests or those with mobility concerns. Conservative, weather appropriate clothing; sun cap, sunglasses; and flat, comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Shoes must be removed before entering temples and women must wear skirts or dresses that reach below the knee. The order of the sights viewed or visited may vary.