Over the years the seven islands ‘gifted as dowry’ got fused to become one of the biggest ports in the east and the metropolis it is today. It was not only maharajahs or people with money and power who moved, but those that had traded for centuries across the waters migrated to find better facilities.
The inhabitants of the western coast had established trade with the Arab world since prehistoric times. The middle Harappan Phase (2600-1900BCE) saw development of major maritime trade network with ‘merchants from Dilmun’ (modern Bahrain). These long routes were feasible by development of plank-built watercraft, equipped with a central single mast supporting a sail of woven rushes or cloth. These ‘dhows’ plied the Indian Ocean with spices, textiles, silks etc. These migrants too carried their gods with them and built small shrines. Hindus near the holi waters of the ‘Banganga’, the Parsees near the Grant Road Station, the Bohrasfrom Suratand the Bene-Israelis, Jews who had settled in 200 villages for 2000 years. All came in peace and lived in harmony with each other.
The Khandoba Temple on Malabar Hill is located at Teen-batti, at the top of one of stairways leading down to the Banganga Tank. The cult of this folk deity has a multi-racial congregation. The followers are Hindus, Jains & Muslims.
Vaishyas are traditionally landowners, traders, merchants and moneylenders who occupied Konkanand Goa regions.
Agris were tradionally salt-makers, who settled in Mumbai for Business and Real Estates.
Bhandaris were always sea-farers from ancient and medieval times.
Konkani Muslims are descendents of Arab traders and some Hindu converts. They are involved in shipbuilding and textile industry.
The God of these three communities is ‘Khandoba’, also known as ‘MartandaBhairava’, a most popular avatarof Shiva in Maharashtra. The cult of Khandoba has linkages with Vaishnavaand Jain traditions, and also assimilates all castes including Muslims, who refer to him as Ajmat Khan.
Khandoba originated as a mountain-top god, a solar deity and guardian of various regions & communities. According to historian John M. Stanley, Khandobainherits traits from the sun-god Surya as well as Shiva, who is identified with the moon. The main temple of this cult is on the mountain top at Jejuri, near Pune. The temple here received royal patronage from the Marathas, and the chariot horses are looked after by a Muslim family.
The Zoroastrians had fled from persecution by the Muslim conquest of Persia, their homeland, between 8th to 10th Centuries – ‘Two Centuries of Silence’. Their main objective was to preserve their religious identity. They landed first in Diu, Kathiwar and then moved south to Gujerath. Here they were granted permission to stay by the local ruler, Jadi Rama, on acceptance of three conditions – to adopt local language (Gujerathi)& dress (sari), follow local marriage customs, and not carry any arms. They accepted these conditions and established themselves as a small community to be known thereafter as ‘Parsis’. The word ‘Parsi’ literally means ‘Persian’.
In Gujerath they remained for nearly 800 years as a small agricultural community, and saw great opportunity to migrate to the New City of Bombay in early 18th century, in search of gainful employment. Most settled around the Grant Road Station so that the railways could be their best communication to the port and Fort areas.
Being a god-fearing community,they followed the teachings of Zoroaster in their holy book called Avestha. There are only two forces – good or evil, and one must choose between the two. Good is represented by Ahura Mazda and evil by AngraMainyu. To maintain their religious identity they donated for the establishment of Fire Temples for their community.
Balaram Street and Sleater Road are considered the ancestral roots of Parsis in Mumbai and thus there are 4 Fire Temples here. The main one is Seth PallonjiKhursedjiCama (CamaBaug), which is used for weddings and other ceremonies.
Some of the others are Bai Sunabai Hirji Jivanji Readymoney, Gowalia Tank; Mobed Dorabji Edulji Jamsina or Mithaiwala, Grant Road; Seth Cawasji Manekji Ashburner, Grant Road; Seth Ashaji Bhikaji, Grant Road; Ervad Sohrabji Hormusji Ranji (Ranji), Grant Road; and Seth Merwanji Manekji Patel (Mahella Patel), Grant Road.