Shrines and Deities of Worli Koliwada


Humans have been perpetually battling hardships, disasters and challenges brought about by natural forces and an ever-developing lifestyle. Continuously grappling with threats beyond their control, they attributed these threats and calamities to divine wrath. Humans began worshipping nature to appease its various forms like the sun, moon, trees, plants, fire, water, earth, and animals. Fear lay at the root of this worship. As human burial customs came about, people started worshipping ancestral relics. The practice of appeasing ancestors gradually evolved, with people believing that pleasing the ancestral spirits would help them protect their settlements from disasters. Over time, ancestors transformed into deities, and stories about gods, goddesses and divine incarnations emerged. Human existence, environment, and culture are inextricably linked, with each playing an important role in developing faith, communities, and values. Faiths and belief systems have been the guiding forces of humankind for ages. They contribute to shaping an individual’s perspective of the world and often provide a support system and a sense of belonging.

A village is a form of human settlement, often located in a rural area, which comes with its share of problems like uncultivable lands, uncertain, untimely and inadequate rains, as well as outbreaks of diseases affecting animals and humans, leading to a loss of life. Villagers have traditionally resorted to rituals and rites to either control or appease the powers which they believed had sway over these phenomena. Gramadevata (literally grama meaning village and devata meaning God) or a local tutelary deity are invoked in villages for protection. Having diverse origins, gramadevatas, when worshipped, are thought to shield the village and villagers from natural calamities, diseases, and untoward events. The Goddess has been the primary deity worshipped by the majority of rural Indian communities for generations.[1]

Situated at the tip of a plush locality of Worli in Mumbai is a gaothan or an urban village, known as the Worli Koliwada, which is home to the indigenous fishing community of Mumbai, the Kolis and the East Indians. The Worli Koliwada is rich with cultural, historical, and social significance. This essay aims to explore some of the places of worship based in the Worli Koliwada. An important point to note while visiting the temples or looking at the pictures of the temples is that, at most places, especially on stone plaques, the years for construction, renovation or donations have been inscribed in accordance with the Shaka/Saka Samvat calendar. A Georgian equivalent is also provided on the same plaque, and the dates need not be confused with each other. The Saka Samvat runs 78 years behind the Georgian Calendar, except in the months from January to March when it is behind by 79 years.

Chede Dev Temple

The Chede Dev Temple greets visitors right at the entrance of the Worli village. Chede Dev is a guardian deity believed to ward off evil powers from entering the village, thus protecting it from calamities. The temple has been renovated and given a new look with the help of donations from several firms and individuals. A plaque on the wall of the prayer hall of the temple showcases a list of the mentioned donors. Two plain, simple, and modified versions of stone deep malas (rows of oil lamps) flank the entrance of the temple. The wooden door and windows of the temple have been ornately carved with floral motifs. The door consists of sculpted dwarapalas (guardian deities) and a metal relief of a lion head with a ring in its mouth that acts as the door knocker. Stylized peacocks made of metal bars comprise the upper half of the door. The roof of the temple has latina (creeper) carvings, with two small lanterns hanging down from the ceiling. The temple has a small shikhara (spire) with a golden kalash (pitcher) on top. The design of the temple can be best described as ‘minimalist and modern.’ The sanctum sanctorum houses four stone idols smeared with shendur (vermillion). They are placed on a platform and a brass lamp (samai) is positioned near the idols. A plaque at the base of the platform mentions the name of the person who initiated the renovation process. Two lamps are mounted on the wall behind the idols. The same wall has minimalistic flower depictions enhancing its aesthetic value.

Image 1: Chede dev Temple, Worli Village
Image 3: Door – Chede dev Temple

A common tradition across temples in India is offering a shrifal (coconut) before the start of something new or important. The Kolis from the Worli Koliwada offer a coconut at the Chede Dev Temple before travelling long distances and commencing auspicious functions. The practice of kaul lavane (invoking divine intervention) is followed at the temple. A kaul is a ritual wherein flower buds, flowers or leaves are placed usually by the priest of the temple to the upper right and left side of the deity; depending on which one of the items falls first, it is interpreted as a sign of favour or disfavour from the deity to the question asked. The exact date of construction or installation of the shrine for Chede Dev is uncertain. Mr Vilas Worlikar, (henceforth referred to as Mr Vilas), a resident of the Worli Koliwada and chairman of the Goilfa devi Mandir (Dharmadaya Trust), informs that the temple was established by the ancestors of the village. The renovation process of the temple was completed a few years ago.

Image 2: Sanctum sanctorum of the Chede dev temple, Worli Village

Papvimochneshwar Temple

The Paapvimochneshwar Temple was built on August 18, 1904. Several religious and cultural festivals like Kojagiri Pornima, Naag Panchami, Krishna Janmashtami, and Ram Navami are celebrated at the temple. Of these, the most important are Maha Shivrati and the celebrations during the month of Shravan. Shravan is the fifth month according to the Hindu calendar, falling around July-August months of the Georgian calendar. On Maha Shivratri, programs like kirtan (devotional singing) and haripath are arranged. Haripath involves reciting abhangas, chanting and praising God’s name. A samudayik (communal) abhisheka also takes place. Abhisheka is the practice of pouring water or milk over the image or idol of the deity. The palkhi (palanquin) procession on Maha Shivrati starts around five in the evening, covers the distance of the entire village, and returns to the temple around three at night. In the month of Shravan, kirtan, haripath, and bhajan (devotional songs) are organized.

A devotee donated a nagara (drum) to the temple on March 22, 1908. The drum was played during the morning and evening poojas in the temple and on important occasions. Mr Vilas says that owing to the dwindling numbers and lack of crafts persons who repair and make traditional nagaras of leather, the practice of playing the drum has now been discontinued. A tulsi vrindavan (an altar housing the sacred tulsi plant) and two deep malas stand outside the temple. The steps leading to the prayer hall of the temple bear a plaque mentioning the name of the donor who sponsored the building of the steps. The metal doors and railings of the temple bearing Swastika and Aum symbols are later additions to the structure. The temple has a sloping roof made of Mangalore tiles. A steep multi-coloured shikara with a kalash crowns the temple. Several bells are placed hanging down from a horizontally placed wooden pillar in the prayer hall. The sanctum sanctorum which comprises the Shivling, lies at a lower level compared to the prayer hall.

Image 4: Paapvimochneshwar Temple, Worli Village

Maruti Temple

The Maruti temple was established on April 18, 1954, by Narayan Kalokh Bhajan Mandali. The idol of the deity is crafted according to the description given by Saint Dnyaneshwar in one of his Ovi.[2] The idol of the deity has been meticulously carved out of a single white marble stone. A stone plaque on one of the walls of the prayer hall of the temple displays the list of donors that contributed to the construction of the Maruti Mandir. Hanuman Jayanti, celebrating the birth of Hanuman (also known as Maruti), is observed at the temple every year.

Golfa Devi Temple

Golfa Devi is the grama devata (local tutelary deity) of the Worli village. The temple, situated on a tekdi (hill) is believed to have been installed in the village in the 12th century by King Bhimdev, alternatively known as Bimbdev and Bimbshah. The temple houses idols of Sakhba Devi, Golfa Devi and Harba Devi carved in stone, all covered in vermillion.

For the Koli community residing in the Worli Koliwada, Golfa Devi and her temple hold prime importance. Golfa Devi is famous as the ‘talking Goddess’ of Worli. The Goddess communicates with her devotees through the kaul ritual. The temple has fixed timings for seeking answers from the Goddess through kaul. A kaul can be requested from the deity from sunrise until just before sunset, but in emergencies, it may be sought even at midnight, though this is reserved for exceptional situations. The kaul is exclusively asked from Golfa Devi and Harba Devi.

The devotee can pose their question to the Goddess either aloud or silently in their mind. The priest then places two chanderi supari (silver balls) to the right and left of the Goddess. The right indicates a ‘yes’, while the left indicates a ‘no’. Depending on which side the ball falls first, the answer is interpreted as a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. The Kolis seek permission from the Goddess before embarking on any endeavour, whether personal or communal. They won't proceed with any auspicious activity without receiving an affirmation from the Goddess through the process of kaul lavane. Before venturing into the sea, the fishermen visit the temple to pray for a good catch.

The idols of the three sister goddesses in the temple are adorned with jewellery, garlands and colourful embroidered clothes. A crown and a festoon of flowers rests on the head of the idols. To the right of Golfa Devi is the sun, while the moon is to her left. Lions are sculpted near the pillars at the entrance of the temple, with a bell hanging between the two pillars. The dwar-shakhas (different layers of the door frame) are decorated with floral motifs. The innermost layer is decorated with padma shakha (lotus petal motifs), and the outer layer has latina shakha (rows of creepers). A kirtimukha (face of glory) rests on the central part of the lintel. The temple is still under construction, and the renovation process of the temple is underway. Mr Vilas mentioned that the stones for the construction of the structure have been sourced from the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Everyday rituals performed in the temple include snana archana (bathing the Goddess) and abhisheka using panchamrut (a mixture made of milk, curd, ghee, honey, and sugar). Kapur (camphor) is used for puja. The smoke released from the camphor and the use of panchamrut gradually dull the shine and colour of the vermillion, detracting from the glossy and clean appearance of the idols. Therefore, the vermillion is reapplied twice a year, once during the Navratra Utsav (Navratri festival) and later during the Shakambari pornima utsav, a festival in veneration of Goddess Shakambari.

The Shakambari Pournima falls in the Paush month of the Hindu calendar (January). It is a major event celebrated at the Golfa Devi Temple. The Golfa Devi yatra (fair) is organized on this day. Mr Vilas informs that the preparations for the Golfa Devi yatra begin a month in advance, with the temple and its premises being cleaned. Before the yatra, vermillion is reapplied to the idols, a process that takes ten days. During these ten days, the temple is not open to visitors or devotees. Instead, a symbolic idol of the Golfa Devi is installed and that is venerated for those ten days. A day before the Golfa Devi yatra, a samudayik abhisheka and haripath are organized. Once the saree and ornaments are placed on the goddesses, a puja is performed. After the puja, the temple is opened to devotees to seek blessings of the Goddess.

Image 5: Golfa devi Temple, Worli Village

A navas is a vow that is made to a God, involving a promise in which the devotee offers something in return for a request that is granted. People make offerings to the Goddess on Shakambari Pournima on account of their navas being completed. It is believed that sincere prayers result in the fulfillment of requests by the Goddess. Offerings are also made at the Chede Dev and Vetal Temple on Shakambari Pournima. Naivedya (food offering) of shaak (leafy vegetables) is prepared for the Goddess, placed to the right of the idol as it is believed that she should accept the food with her right hand.

The temple has been undergoing renovation for quite some time. During this process, on October 6, 2005, workers placed the stones for the wall behind the Goddess, ensuring the sculptures were not displaced. On November 6, 2005, the vermillion from Sakbadevi’s feet came off, revealing her sculpted feet. After seeking permission from the Goddess through kaul, it was decided to remove the vermillion from all three idols, revealing their original stone-sculpted forms. This attracted devotees to the temple, affecting the renovation process of the temple for a few days. After this incident, it was decided that vermillion would not be applied to the idols. However, as of 2024, the practice of applying vermillion on the idols has been restarted.

Image 6: Sanctum Sanctorum of the Golfa devi Temple, Worli Village

Vetal Temple

Located near the sea at the edge of the village is the Vetal Temple. The practice of kaul lavne is followed at this temple for the idols of Panyatla Vetal and Aagya Vetal, which are smeared with vermillion. Additionally, idols of the deities Sakhba Devi, Golfa Devi, and Harba Devi are also housed in the temple. A designated priest conducts the morning and evening puja at the temple.

Image 7: Devkathi and bell near Vetal Temple
Image 8: Vetal Temple, Worli Koliwada

Before embarking on fishing trips, the Kolis offer prayers to Veta, seeking a bountiful catch and a safe return. Upon their return, they express gratitude to the deity for their safe journey. Outside the temple, there stands a dev kaathi, a wooden pillar painted in saffron, where a flag is hoisted on occasions like Narali Pournima and Paush Pournima. An inscription below the dev kaathi indicates its initial installation on July 26, 1993, and subsequent reinstallation on August 16, 2012. Beside the dev kaathi, rests a bell on a rod supported by two pillars, its exterior covered in vermillion. While women are not allowed to enter the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple, they may offer prayers from outside. The outer walls of the temple are covered with tiles.

Image 9: Sanctum Sanctorum of Vetal Temple, Worli Koliwada

Image 9

Pir Dargah

The Dargah is the sole Islamic shrine situated in the village. Two female saints are worshipped at the shrine, due to which women are permitted access to the central shrine within the dargah.


The chapel, located near the Vetal Temple at the village's edge features an idol of Jesus Christ placed atop a small fishing boat. The chapel serves as a testament to the intersection of Koli culture with Christianity. To mark the beginning of the fishing season, a mass is held in the Chapel by the Christian Kolis residing in the Worli Koliwada. The Worli Koliwada is home to the East Indian Koli Community, evident in the narrow lanes of the Koliwada which are dotted with several grottos and crosses. Many of these grottos depict Mother Mary draped in a saree, adorned with flowers and garlands, and revered by the locals.

The Chede Dev Temple and the Vetal Temple, situated at the two extremities of the village, serve as guardians of the Koliwada, housing the shrines of the village’s guardian deities. Along with the temple of Golpha Devi, these form a triangular geographical system of protection for the village. Additionally, there is a Hanuman Temple located at the Worli Fort near the gymnasium. The worship of Hanuman is linked with gaining physical prowess and protection.

Change is an inevitable part of life. The advent of modernization and new technologies has significantly impacted the lives of the fishermen and their occupations. Fishing, being a labour-intensive job, struggles to keep up with the escalating prices of diesel, labour wages, and increasing demands for produce, particularly when the catch is considerably less than in the past. [3] Consequently, some Kolis have transitioned to other occupations. [4]

As mentioned before, traditionally, the Kolis sought the blessings of Golfa Devi before venturing out to the sea for fishing, with the deity being central to the Worli fishing community. However, with younger generations pursuing diverse occupations unrelated to fishing, the worship of Golfa devi has waned.[5] New faiths and religious affiliations have emerged,t and the Kolis have adapted to accommodate them. In recent decades, temples venerating Lord Ram, Ganesha, Krishna, Datta, Sai Baba, and Santoshi Mata have been established in the village.

The Worli Koliwada exemplifies diversity, coexistence, and syncretism by transcending religious barriers. People from all communities visit the religious shrines within the Koliwada, irrespective of their religion, to seek blessings from the deity. This inclusive practice reflects the harmonious coexistence of different religious beliefs within the community.


[1] Elgood, ‘Exploring the roots of Village Hinduism in South Asia,’ 328.

[2] Personal Interview of Mr Vilas Worlikar

[3] Ranade, ‘The Kolis of Mumbai at Crossroads: Religion, Business and Urbanisation in Cosmopolitan Bombay today.’

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid


Personal Interview of Vilas Anant Worlikar, in conversation with the author, February, 2024.

Elgood, Heather. ‘Exploring the roots of village Hinduism in South Asia.’ World Archaeology 36, no. 3 (September 2004): 326-342.

Ranade, Sanjay Vasant. ‘The Kolis of Mumbai at crossroads: religion, business and urbanisation in cosmopolitan Bombay today.’ Paper presented at the ’Biennial Conference of the Asian Studies Association of Australia’, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, July 1-3, 2008.

Worlikar, Vilas Anant. Worli Koliwadyachi Gramdevata Shree Golfa Devi, Shree Golfa Devi Prakashan, 2015