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  • Writer's pictureLabdhi Vora

Hidden Gems of Mumbai

Updated: Oct 9, 2019

Mumbai is mysterious and how. Thanks to the history, culture and a happening geographic location. The reason why I say so is because there's so much that the city has, that we're absolutely unaware of and I really wonder, how?


The city has hidden gems that are worth your attention and time. Some of these places have a rich backstory whereas some have beautiful views that you wouldn't want to miss out on. So now when you're planning your weekend, here are some stunning places that you can think of visiting. Kid you not, they're amazeee.

1. Kwan Kung Chinese Temple

Hidden behind the Dockyard Road Railway station, Kwan Kung is the one and only Chinese temple present in Mumbai. It is tucked away in what was once Chinatown. The temple was built in the year 1919 at Mazgaon where the chinese inhabitants lived. It pays homage to the Chinese god of protection, justice, and courage, Guan Gong.

This temple is not that easy to find. The shrine is located in a two storey building in some smaller bylane in Mazgaon and by the first look of it, nobody would guess it to be a Chinese temple. The little Chinese like decor and the wooden red gates make it easy for everybody to spot the temple.

Taking you back to history, Early 1900’s Mazagaon was home to Mumbai’s thriving See Yup Koon community. Originally from Canton in Southern China, these people moved to India when they were working for the East India Company. They settled in Mumbai as merchants, traders and sailors. In 1962, when the Sino-Indian War broke out, many of the city’s Chinese residents migrated back to China. However, a few families decided to stay back in Mumbai in Chinatown which in present day is said to be Dockyard in Mazgaon. Supposedly, the best way to get a glimpse of Chinese culture in Mumbai is to visit Kwan Kung Temple and it’s even beautiful when visited during the Chinese New Year which is in the month of February or Moon Festival.

Quick trivia - The few remaining Chinese families staying in the lane of this temple share the same name/surname - See Yup Koon.

Things to know before you visit - If you're planning to visit the Chinese temple, there are are chances that it may not be open. In that case, one can request the family for the keys to the temple who are staying in the same building.

Where? Dockyard, Wadi Bandar, Mazgaon, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400010

2. Nipponzan Myohoji - A Japanese Buddhist Temple

Right in heart of the city and it's traffic lies a little bit of Japan that goes absolutely unnoticed.

The Nipponzan Myohoji temple which earlier was a buddhist monastery was founded by a Japanese Monk Nichidatsu Fuji Guruji in the year 1931. He was a travelling monk who came to India with some of his disciples to follow the prophecy of a 13th century monk of Japan called Maha Bodhisattva Nichiren who believed that the ultimate salvation of humanity lies in India, the land where Buddhism as a religion was founded.

During his visit to India, Nichidatsu Fuji and Gandhiji became great friends. In between 1931 and 1938 Fuji also actively contributed to India’s non-violent freedom struggle that Gandhiji started. Gandhiji was greatly influenced and inspired by Nichidatsu Fuji's thoughts and hence he use to refer to him as guruji. As a gesture to guruji and his thoughts, Birla family, in the year 1956, renovated this monastery into a present-day temple. It is since then that they have been running and maintaining the Nipponzan Myohoji temple.

Prayer timings - 6 am to 7 am and 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. The sound of drums beating along with chants of ‘Na mu myo ho ren ge kyo’ is something that you should experience even if you're not a spiritual being. It feels surreal and powerful on the inside.

Temple timings - 5:30 am to 12:30 pm and 3:30 pm to 8 pm

Where? Nipponzan Myohoji Japanese Buddhist Temple, Opposite Poddar Hospital, Dr Annie Besant Road, Worli

3. The Afghan Church

Among the heritage and historically relevant Buildings, that make Colaba beautiful and even more culturally rich, is this strikingly beautiful gothic structure dating back to 1865 - The Afghan Church. Also known as The Church of St. John the Evangelist, this church was made to honour thousands of soldiers who died at the first Anglo-Afghan war and the subsequent retreat from Kabul in 1842. With distinct impressive windows, huge entry doors, gothic arches and a 60-meter high tower, this magnificent church stands tall today in Navy Nagar towards the southern tip of Mumbai and is owned and managed by Indian Navy. Silent, peaceful, beautiful and lesser-known but even a popular architectural landmark, this church is an attraction which goes unnoticed. Things to know before you visit - - There’s no certainty to visit the church from inside. Many times it remains shut. If you’re lucky enough and convincing, the caretaker might just open the church especially for you. - Sundays are the best days to visit the church. It’s stays open but however might be crowded. - Go with a lot of time. Good vibes attract longer stay.

Where? Duxbury Lane, Near Navy Nagar, S.B.S Road, Colaba, Mumbai - 400005

4. Khotachiwadi

In-between all the hustle and bustle of the city, lies this small village in South Mumbai that will remind you of Goa.

Khotachiwadi is a small area in Charni Road that is quite known for its old Portuguese style houses and colourful bungalows. The orange walls, the bright yellow exteriors, the mint green entry doors and windows and the turquoise blue houses will take you back into the nostalgia of the times that you've spent in Goa. Not just that, the surrounding is equally responsible for making you feel so. You may be able to spot a man playing the guitar, if you're lucky, which we think is pretty cool and a rare sight in Mumbai. The residents who are predominantly Christians, maharashtrians and east Indians are super joville and helpful and wouldn't mind sharing a piece of information with you about this place. Maharashtrians

Going back to a little bit of history, Khotachiwadi was founded in the 18th century by a local khot named Pathare Prabhu who then sold plots of land to east indian families mostly from goa and now you know why this place has got a vibe like goa. Initially there were 65 houses but now because of rapid urbanization there are just about 28 that are left and believe us, they have a story and identity of their own which you may want to experience.

Where? Khotachiwadi, Girgaon, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400004.

How about challenging your climbing skills? Arun Samant Wall Climbing is a space where an artificial wall is built up for all those interested in learning a little bit of Rock climbing for a nominal fee of Rs. 100. So if you're keen on some adventure, this is the closest you can get in the city of Mumbai for some fun.

Also, this place has an interesting story behind it. It is constructed in the memory of Arun Samant, a mountaineer, who lost his life in one of the expeditions in Himalayas.

Please note - This place has a challenge for a 10 year old and even 50. Willingness is what you need to help yourself with and you're good to go.

Cost - Rs 100/- approximately

Where? Nandadeep High School, Jayprakash Nagar, Road No. 4, Goregaon East.

Amidst the concrete city and one of the most populated areas; Dharavi is a forest park that most of us are unaware of and we can't believe, how ignorant the city is about its existence.

The 37-acre land which earlier was Mumbai's largest dumping ground near Mithi River is now a beautiful forest park with diverse flora and fauna. It is many years of efforts that turned this dumping ground into a blanket of greens and we really can't get ourselves to believe this. Sounds magical and how.

The Maharashtra Nature Park earlier known as Mahim Nature park has a large ecosystem. It houses over 13,000 trees and about 300 types of plats. It is a paradise for all the bird watchers and home to 40 different species of butterflies. Can you believe it? The migratory birds that one may be able to see here are Eurasian Wryneck, Laughing Dove, Great Egret, Black kite, Greater Coucal, Shikara, Purple Sunbird, Little Green Bee Eater, Mahratta Woodpeckers etc. The park also has many cobras residing there.

There is also an education centre, an aquarium, a bird observation platform and a section demonstrating vermicomposting in this nature park.

There are several paid tours, photo walks and nature Walks etc., that are organized by the Maharashtra Nature Park Society or the third party. There is a nursery inside the Park where people can also purchase reasonably priced saplings.

Now we believe, that's a lot of things to experience for dirt cheap, right in the heart of the city.

Entry Fee to the park - Rs. 10/- approximately.

Where? Sion Bandra Link Road, Opp. Bus Depot, Mahim Nature Park, Dharavi, Mumbai

Built-in the year 1870, David Sassoon Library is one of the city's oldest library placed in the heart of the town - Kala Ghoda, Fort. It is named after a Jewish Banker, David Sassoon, who contributed a decent amount for the construction of the library. We can't help but conclude that Mumbai is indeed a city of a lot of contrasts.

Right in between the bustling city is this space which is absolutely gothic, calm and unknown to many. The giant arches offer the views of a busy and ever happening Kala Ghoda Square. The garden which is in the library premises allows all the readers to have a beautiful reading experience in open. The members can, sit back in the garden and enjoy their snacks while reading their favorite book. Readers can also reserve a spot in the reading room's balcony or the reading room itself. It sure will take one, in an old-time setting because of the vintage furniture that is spread throughout the library. Along with this beautiful vibe, the library also offers free wifi to all it's members, making it easy to work on presentations or projects.

The library boasts more than 70,000 books which include the collection of some rare books from the days of history.

Wow! Now, doesn't that sound like a perfect date with yourself and your favourite book?

Annual Fees - Rs. 5600. (The deposit amount which is Rs. 1000, is included and is refundable.)

Time - 8 AM to 9 PM

Want to visit the library before enrolling? Call and request them to grant you permission to tour the library before enrolling in for the membership.

Where? 152, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Off David Sassoon Library Marg, Opposite Jehangir Art Gallery, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001

8. Gilbert Hill in Andheri

India has one of its oldest gem in the city of Mumbai that has witnessed the evolution of mankind. We're talking about the very old Gilbert Hill.

A 10-minute walk from Andheri West station, is 225 feet, columnar hill made of basalt rock which is 66 million years old. It is said that there are only 3 structures with similar basalt rock composition in the entire world. Two of them being in the United States of America (Devils Postpile National Monument’ in California and ‘Devil’s Tower National Monument’ in Wyoming) and one in the Indian State of Maharashtra and that is in Mumbai (Gilbert Hill).

The hill was formed following a volcanic eruption back in the Mesozoic period. As the basaltic lava cooled, it formed vertical columns instead of horizontal layers. These rectangular and square structures are known as columnar basalt or laccolith.

In the year 2007, Gilbert Hill was declared a Grade II structure. A Grade II listing is usually given to a structure with the objective that it "deserves intelligent conservation". In the year 1952 Gilbert hill was declared as ‘National Park’ under the Forest Act. But despite of that, the hill has seen rapid destruction. The green canopy that once surrounded the hill has given a way to buildings and slums. The people who live around this area are barely concerned about this structure because of their own struggle for survival. The awareness about this hill is not only low amongst Indians but also the people who are living in this city and around Andheri. There has been no mention about this place in history as well as geography despite having some significance from the pre-historic period. In fact, the tour operators and guides do not consider this hill as that important to bring the tourists here. The people who visit the hill are mostly all the devotees since there are two temples, Hanuman Mandir and Gaondevi Durga Devi Mandir on the top of the hill. Both these temples can be accessed through the stairs. It is because of these shrines that the hill is still protected from complete destruction. Others who visit this geological wonder, are the scholars, historians and researchers etc.

It is tough to decide whether to feel lucky or not to have a geological marvel like this in our city, whose existence is older than humanity since it is fighting for its existence in the concrete jungle of Mumbai because of lack of knowledge and unrealized potential that this invaluable heritage has from the prehistoric period.

Where? Gilbert hill, Sagar City, Andheri West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400047

9. Watch Flamingos at Sewri Jetty, Thane Creek and Bhandup Pumping Station

PC - Hindustan Times

Mumbai is home to quite some migratory birds and of them all, Flamingos are the one stealing our hearts. And why not, it's a rare sight to see birds like these in Mumbai so might as well hop onto this opportunity and enjoy Bird Watching. Haha!

December to June is when one can spot the pink coloured tall birds in Mumbai and the ideal time to witness them is in the morning between 6 am and 10 am.

Thane Creek - A flock of Flamingos, usually in thousands are spotted at Thane Creek, every year. It is because of this reason, the Maharashtra government and the state mangrove cell has declared a large stretch of Mangroves as the country's very first Flamingo Sanctuary.

Bhandup Pumping Station - From this place, one can opt for Bird Watching tours at Thane Creek. You get to see not just flamingos but many other species of birds that are otherwise rare to find.

Sewri Jetty - This place is the most popular one amongst all, to witness the pink tribe however there are chances that you may not get to see many as compared to the earlier times because of the construction activities taking place around the Jetty. It is extremely sad to see the flamingos change their habitat because of the pollution and destruction of mangroves, in the name of development.

Banganga which is often called as the mini Banaras of Mumbai has a very interesting history. The significance of this place dates all the way back to Hindu epic, 'Ramyana'. They say, Lord Rama stopped by, at this place to rest while he was on his way to Sri Lanka to save his wife from the evil Ravana. To quench his thirst during this time, he shot an arrow on the ground because of which water started oozing out of this spot. The freshwater that sprung out of here is said to be a tributary of River Ganga and hence Ban (Arrow) Ganga (River Ganga).

Because of this mythological significance, the tank is regarded as one of the holiest sites in Mumbai.

The surrounding sure does add, whole together another vibe to this place, making it an attraction that you must visit in between the concrete jungle.

Quick trivia -

- The pole that stands straight in between the tank is where Lord Rama shot an arrow.

- Visiting Banganga during dev Diwali is going to be a treat to your eyes. It is nothing less than Banaras.

- Walk-in there and you're going to love to immerse yourself into oh! so holy vibes.

Where? Teen Batti, Malabar Hill, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400006

11. Mahakali Caves

In the fast-paced city like mumbai, lies this hidden gem, that is as good as a getaway in between a highly commercialised area. - The Mahakali Caves also known as Kondivite Caves in Andheri.

These caves that were made between 1st and 6th Century consists of 19 rock cuts, made out of solid basalt rock.

Throughout the cave, there is depiction of Buddha and figures from Buddha Monastery. Out of the 19 caves, most of them were viharas which indicated the dwelling of Buddhist Monks. The cave no. 9 which is the largest is a prayer hall that is called 'Chaitya'. What also cannot go unnoticed is that there are carvings from the times of the Ashokan Empire. And we can't help but just seep in some peace at this extremely ancient, historically relevant structure in between all the hustle and bustle of the city.

Where? Mahakali Caves Rd, Sunder Nagar, Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400093

So, do you still say that you know the city of Mumbai, very well? Coz every time we said that we drastically failed.

Mumbai has shown a face that we never thought, existed and we can't help but fall in love with this mysterious city, time and again.

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