Architecture & History Page
Now over a century old, Nar Narayan Temple has emerged as one of Mumbai’s historic landmarks. While devotees are aware of its uniqueness, being among the few Hindu temples in the world with Arjuna (Nar) and Lord Krishna (Narayan) in its sanctum, the temple is now gaining recognition for its magnificent architecture.
Made primarily of stone, the temple’s architecture draws on the structure of the haveli that originally stood here.
Among the several striking features of the temple’s design is its ceiling. The intricate carvings overhead depict Lord Vishnu’s dashavatar (10 avatars). The ceiling also reveals stories of Lord Krishna’s life from his birth to the raas leela (celebratory dance) and highlights moments from the Bhagavad Gita painted in breathtaking colour. Beautiful, delicate carvings adorn the pillars lining the sides of the temple.
Situated in the midst of the bustling neighbourhood of Kalbadevi, Nar Narayan Temple offers passers by a moment of much-needed calm and solace. While the temple itself exudes an ethereal air, the temple complex encloses a large open courtyard used to perform havans and yagnas (fire sacrifices), a quaint old kadam (kadamba) tree, a feeding well for pigeons, a hall used to host weddings and other special occasions, and a gau shaala (cow shelter) that houses Gir cows, supposedly descendants of kamadhenu (mother of all cows).
Built over a century ago by noted philanthropist, Sheth Manmohandas in accordance with his father Kahandas Naraindas’ last wish, Nar Narayan Temple is more than just a place of worship. It is a hub of cultural activity where devotional & classical music concerts, spiritual discourses and social outreach programmes are hosted regularly.
Constructed at the turn of the 19th century for what was then a princely sum of ₹100,000, Nar Narayan Temple played a pivotal role in the evolution of outdated customs. For example, under the guidance of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, lower castes who had until then been refused entry, were allowed into the temple for worship – a significant step at the time.
Over the years, the heirs of Sheth Kahandas Narandas have carried forward his philanthropic traditions through the temple’s activities. Today, Nar Narayan Temple is managed by the Shethna family under the Sheth Kahandas Narandas Charities Trust. The Trust generates funds for the maintenance and upkeep of the temple from tenant rentals and occasional donations from benefactors.