Mumbai's Historical Churches, Mumbai

Mumbai's Historical Churches (Self Guided), Mumbai

The seven islands making up Mumbai were originally home to the communities of the Marathi language-speaking Koli people whose main religion is Hindu. Under the Mughal Imperial rule, Mumbai adopted Islam, so today roughly 20% of the local population are Muslims.

When the Portuguese took over the city in 1534, they actively enforced the Roman Catholic order, later followed by the British who continued to spread Christianity throughout the region. In 1832, the Jews fleeing from prosecution in Baghdad came to settle in the city, introducing Judaism. As a result, nowadays you can find different religions co-existing peacefully in Mumbai side by side.

The ancient Mumba Devi Temple, dedicated to the patron goddess of Mumbai, after whom the city gets its name, has been a focal point of worship for centuries, attracting devotees seeking blessings and protection.

The Jumma Masjid, situated amid the bustling Crawford Market area, is one of Mumbai's oldest mosques. Its impressive Mughal architecture and serene ambiance make it a significant religious landmark for the local Muslim community.

Meanwhile, Saint Thomas' Cathedral, situated in the Colaba area, is one of Mumbai's oldest English buildings and serves as the seat of the Diocese of Mumbai. This Neo-Gothic-style cathedral is a symbol of Mumbai's colonial past and offers a peaceful retreat from the city's bustling streets.

Nestled in the heart of Kala Ghoda, the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue is a magnificent example of Jewish architecture in Mumbai. With its grand facade and beautifully adorned interiors, it stands as a testament to the Jewish community's historical presence in the city.

On the other hand, the Holy Name Cathedral, located in Colaba, is a stunning Catholic church that reflects the influence of Portuguese architecture. It is a place of solace and spirituality for the city's Catholic population, with its beautifully adorned interiors and serene atmosphere.

These sacred sites invite you to learn, appreciate, and respect the various faiths that coexist harmoniously in this dynamic Indian metropolis. Mumbai's history and spirituality are intricately intertwined in these hallowed grounds, and your visit here will undoubtedly leave you with a deeper appreciation for the city's vibrant tapestry of faiths and traditions.
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Mumbai's Historical Churches Map

Guide Name: Mumbai's Historical Churches
Guide Location: India » Mumbai (See other walking tours in Mumbai)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: naomi
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Mumba Devi Temple
  • Jumma Masjid
  • Saint Thomas' Cathedral
  • Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue
  • Holy Name Cathedral
Mumba Devi Temple

1) Mumba Devi Temple

The city of Bombay only recently was rechristened Mumbai. The name Mumbai comes from the goddess Mumba Devi, the patron goddess of the city. Her temple is visited daily by many devotees as well as tourists who are interested in the city’s history.

At first glance, the temple does not strike as extraordinary. However, it is the history and tales attached to the place that makes this temple very special. Mumba Devi, is believed to be the chief patron of the Koli tribe, the first inhabitants of the island of Bombay. The Temple initially stood at the place where the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (previously known as Victoria Terminus) now stands but was ordered to be shifted to Bhuleshwar, the heart of city’s clothing and steel market.

Apart from the history of the place, it is the tall tales associated with the place that makes this temple one of a kind. Legend has it, that the people living in the area were tormented by a giant demon Mumbaraka, who constantly plundered the city. The inhabitants prayed to Lord Brahma, the Creator as per Hindu mythology, who blessed the village with an eight armed goddess who vanquished the demon. Since then a temple has stood in Mumba Devi’s honor. The current building of the temple is believed to have been constructed in the early 17th century.
Jumma Masjid

2) Jumma Masjid (must see)

The perfect way to explore any city is on foot and Mumbai is no exception. South Mumbai, especially, is scattered with historical monuments and museums that help better understand the origins and the complex history and culture of the city. But for several reasons, only a selected few of them have achieved the status and are treated like historical monuments. The rest have managed to get absorbed into the background, have lost their identity and as a result have blended in with their surroundings.

One such place is the Jumma Masjid. This antique monument has been around since the 18th century. It is said that the Masjid was initially located near the Crawford Market but was destroyed and constructed at Esplanade only to be destroyed once again upon orders from Governor William Hornby, who did not want any building within 600 yards of the Fort area. The venue of the Masjid was then shifted to its present location and construction started in 1775. It took nearly 25 years before the mosque was completed.

Also known as the Friday Masjid, the mosque is under the administration of the Kokni Muslim community of Mumbai. A definite visit when you are in the city of Mumbai.
Saint Thomas' Cathedral

3) Saint Thomas' Cathedral

Saint Thomas Cathedral, located in Mumbai, is a cathedral church that has been standing for 300 years. It serves as the main church for the Diocese of Mumbai within the Church of North India. The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Thomas the Apostle, who is traditionally believed to have introduced Christianity to India. Situated in Horniman Circle, which is historically significant in Mumbai, it is closely situated to renowned landmarks like Flora Fountain and Bombay House. This cathedral holds the distinction of being the oldest church in Mumbai and is affiliated with the Cathedral and John Connon School.

The church's foundation stone was initially laid in 1676, although it wasn't officially consecrated for divine service until 1718. Saint Thomas Cathedral holds the distinction of being the first Anglican church in Mumbai, which was then known as Bombay, located within the fortified British settlement. It stands as a notable landmark in South Mumbai and ranks among the oldest churches in India. The Cathedral and John Connon School, established in 1860, was primarily created to provide choristers for the church. The school uses the cathedral for various events, including its Founder's Day Service held on 14th November each year, the Carol Service preceding the Christmas vacation, and other special occasions.
Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue

4) Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue

The Knesset Eliyahoo, also known as Knesset Eliyahu, is a synagogue in downtown Mumbai with ties to Orthodox Judaism. It holds the distinction of being the second oldest Sephardic synagogue in the city. The synagogue's history dates back to 1884 when it was established by Jacob Elias Sassoon. He was the son of Eliyahoo David Sassoon and the grandson of David Sassoon, who had fled religious persecution in Baghdad in 1832 and settled in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). The synagogue is maintained by the Jacob Sassoon Trust, blending Jewish heritage with Indian and English colonial architectural influences.

The synagogue's architectural plan was created by the British firm Gostling & Morris of Bombay. The structure features a stone masonry base and a superstructure made of brick masonry. The exterior facade of the synagogue is painted in a striking turquoise color, leading it to be colloquially known as the "Blue Synagogue of Mumbai." Interestingly, it wasn't originally blue; the transformation back to its original white color with vibrant indigo borders took place during a restoration project in 2018-19, overseen by conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah.

Inside the synagogue, you'll find intricately ornamented pillars, and the sanctuary is oriented westward towards Jerusalem. The bimah, where readings and ceremonies take place, is flanked by beautifully carved marble structures. Above it, there's a tall stained-glass arch that extends to the ceiling. The female worshippers have their seating in an upstairs gallery. The synagogue contains Torah scrolls, religious books in silver cases owned by the Sassoon family, meeting and school rooms, and a mikveh (ritual immersion pool) on the ground floor. The building requires restoration for its staircase, windows, timber balconies, ceiling, walls, and roof.
Holy Name Cathedral

5) Holy Name Cathedral

Holy Name Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Name, is the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bombay. It is also the seat of the Archbishop of Bombay.

The Gothic-Revival style cathedral was completed in 1905 after three years of construction. The interior of the cathedral is adorned with a main altar made of marble with a life-sized statue of Jesus. The altar also has an image of the Virgin Mary.

The walls and ceiling in the Holy Name Cathedral are decorated in frescoes. Numerous stained-glass windows can be seen both inside and out. The cathedral offers a bell tower with 130-foot tall octagonal spires. Holy Name Cathedral was declared as a heritage building in 1998.

The church can be visited at any time regardless of the visitor's religious faith. The church office is open from 9:30 AM through 1 PM and from 4 PM through 6 PM on weekdays.

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