In grief, Mumbai seeks solace in religion

Mumbai, India - Neetu Natu's husband, Siddharath, was at work in Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel last week when armed militants stormed the building. That he survived when hundreds didn't was down to fate, she said.

As the firing started, Siddharath, a food and beverages manager at the luxury seafront hotel, closed the doors to the restaurant where guests were dining and escorted scores of people to safety.

"He wouldn't have been alive today had it not been for God. Incidents like these only make my faith in God stronger," said Neetu, a regular at the Hindu Bhid Bhanjan Mahadev temple, a short walk from the Taj.

Human suffering often shakes the faith of the religious. In Mumbai, at least 188 people were killed and more than 300 injured in shooting and grenade attacks by 10 militants who terrorised the city for 60 hours.

Even in spiritual India -- home to Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, Jews, Jains, Christians and Zoroastrians -- attendance at religious places dipped in the wake of the attacks, according to faith leaders.

But as the city returned to normal under a cloud of grief and loss, the faithful were back in temples, mosques, churches and on the streets, lighting candles and praying for the victims and injured survivors.

Candles have been placed at each of the sites targeted alongside floral tributes and messages of condolence.

"The other day, there was this family who came here. They were all crying. Later I found out that they had lost three siblings in the attack," said Dilipbhai Thakar, the main priest at the popular Babulnath Hindu temple.

"They had come here to pray so that the souls of the dead can rest in peace."

Schoolteacher Sheela Sinha said she lit an oil lamp at her home for the first time after such an attack. Oil lamps in Hinduism are traditionally offered to one of the religion's many deities as a sign of reverence.

"It was like Thanksgiving for me. We live next to the Oberoi hotel. My husband has official dinners every other day there. Worse could have happened to us," she said, referring to the other luxury hotel attacked by the militants.

At the local mosque in the south Mumbai district of Colaba -- the area where a Jewish religious centre was hit and its occupants killed -- Muslims said they prayed for peace in the country.

"As it is, we are suspected of being terrorists because of our caps and beards. These attacks make things worse for us," said Mohammed Baksh, who works for the Indian navy.

"That's why we pray that everything should be fine and that these attacks do not happen again."

Religious leaders said people turn to them for guidance at such times.

"People in India are generally very emotional, whether they are Hindus or Muslims. They listen to us whatever their leaders say," said Syed Noori, general secretary of the religious and social Muslim body, the Raza Academy.

At the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, members of Mumbai's tiny Jewish community turned up in large numbers to mourn a rabbi and his wife who were killed in the assault on the Chabad House Jewish cultural centre.

"After this incident, people's faith was down a bit but the Chabad people have so much faith that they are not afraid. They say they know what God is doing," said Diana Iny, who attended the memorial.