A 1919 relic of Chinese culture lives on in Mumbai, a quaint temple whose ruby red doors open up the almost forgotten memory of Mumbai’s vibrant Chinese community. Welcome to Kwan Kung Temple.
In the early 19th century Mumbai was home to tens of thousands of Chinese, most of the population associated with the East India Company one way or another. Throughout the following years Mumbai’s Chinese population gradually decreased to an estimated 15,000 in the early 1960s, afterwhich the Sino-Indo war in 1962 marked the mass exodus of Chinese from Mumbai and Kolkata. Currently, there are an estimated 3,500 Chinese residing in Mumbai.
Now the only testament to the once bustling Mazagon Dockyard streets filled with Chinese carpenters, sailors and engineers is the Kwan Kung Temple on Nawab Tank Road, along with a few families still gracing the old street with their presence. Many of the remaining Chinese in Mumbai were born in India and consider themselves Indian first, whilst still revering the Chinese culture they were raised on. Supposedly, the best way to get a glimpse of Chinese culture in Mumbai is to visit Kwan Kung Temple during the Chinese New Year and Moon Festival.
On the second floor of the Seeyup Koon Building lies a room cluttered with decorative ornaments and the figure of Kwan Kung, an ancient Chinese warrior General who is believed by the pious Chinese to be a sort of demi-God with the ability to grant wishes. Although the temple is small in stature, the inner ambiance is as captivating as the strong scent of incense that permeates throughout the room. If you’re a history buff or are just looking for a quiet place to pray, here is the location of this small, yet monumental part of Mumbai history.