Mumbai: While the offerings in most temples are flowers, garlands, coconuts and donations in the form of cash or jewellery, Baba Bhairon Nath, the presiding deity of a small shrine in suburban Chembur, has a rather different taste.
Devotees wait all year for ‘Kartik Ekadashi’, when they can offer bottles of whisky, rum, vodka and other varieties of liquor to the deity.
The temple, built some four decades back away in a corner of a crematorium, witnessed a steady stream of devotees earlier this week, on the day of Kartik Ekadashi as per the Hindu calendar. The booze offered to the deity was later drunk as ‘prasad’ by the devotees.
Bhairon Nath is considered an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
Ramesh Lohana, the temple’s care-taker, said, “Kartik Ekadashi is the holiest day for us, we wait for this day the whole year. Thousands of devotees from all faiths throng the temple that day to offer liquor. We are carrying on this tradition for the last forty years.”
“My mama (maternal uncle), who was displaced from (present-day) Pakistan during partition, settled in Chembur with his family and set up this temple,” Lohana said.
According to Lohana, offering liquor to propitiate gods is not a very unique phenomenon in India.
“We find several references in our mythology about it,” he said.
Local MLA Prakash Phaterpekar, a devotee of Bhairon Nath, said, “I am a staunch follower of Baba Bhairon Nath. Whenever I have come to his doorstep, he has been kind enough to fulfil my wishes. That’s why I have taken a keen interest in the makeover of the temple out of my own pocket.”