It has been conclusively established that the village Powai has been in existence for more than a thousand years. Its ancient name was Poumvi and the shores of the lake turn along the old horse route joining this area with Sahyadri range (western ghats). The word "Powai" is Portuguese maltransformation of the original name.
Initially, soon after the renaissance period in the history of Mumbai, a group of several islands was colonized by Portuguese. In 1642, the handover of the state to the British was carried over in the vicinity of Powai.
In order to reach Powai from the east direction one has to climb over a hill and cross the holy trinity church, the first land mark. Hence, the oldest church of Mumbai is in Powai. It is also said that once upon a time prior to the existence of the church, this was the most sacred place not only for Christians but also for all other communities. There used to be a huge bell in the church. Its sound would cover a circular area of radius of 50 kms. In addition, this location served as a strategic point where from reconnaissance of an invader alighting from a ship landing at the creek could be easily made at the earliest.
Noted film maker Khwaja Ahmed Abbas contributed an article, "Powai,
The Face of India’s Future" (Illustrated Weekly, 1964). The article ran as follows:
When I went on a pilgrimage to this "Temple" of modern science and technology, situated on the eastern shore of Powai lake, I found the idyllic surrounding, strangely familiar. A few years ago this place was thickly wooded where foxes, jackals and panthers prowled at night. These are phenomenally observed even today.
`It was there we had shot certain scenes of the Indo-Soviet co-production film, "Pardesi". One of the shots showed Afnasi riding through the jungle and pausing on the edge of the lake to have a sip of water. This was of course re-creation of the reality for the purpose of cinema. But even otherwise it was not very far from here that five hundred years ago, Afnasi Nikitin landed at the port Chaul. He was the first European to set foot on the Indian soil. It is quite conceivable that the intrepid Russian traveller did pass through the location where today a vast sloping land cleared out of jungle stand a complex of buildings, and workshops, namely the Indian Institute of Technology.
Thus, the route by a "Fellow" traveller was even established through the make believe celluloid world. Powai, which had flourished in the past underwent a forlorn time phase with life and activity in all dimensions. The sprawling IIT campus on the eastern side of the Powai lake overlooking Powai park with its Boat club and Sandeepany Sadhanalaya withits towering Jagdeeshawara temple (with a lingam at shikham) on the other side, thus there is an aroma of asceticism along with scientific knowledge and learning at Powai’.
Far from the maddening crowd, the tiny temple with hoary past, Shree Devi Padmavati temple retains its quaint atmosphere of reclusion, piety and sanctity. The Powai lake enveloping the region on three sides is also endowed with other rich scenic assets which lends the spot a very vitalizing ambience and thus exerting a wholesome and purifying influence over the surroundings.
In the early morning when the temple doors open towards the east direction, one observes the sun beams down the first rays over the HOLY MOTHER’S FEET. It is easy to realise this, the moment anyone sets feet in the temple premises his/her turbulent mind of worries and ailments starts calming down. Set in the mango grove with tall trees and waterfront with surrounding low lying hills in the secluded corner of the campus, the place is ideal for meditation. The history of Mahim records refer to the temples and lakes situated in the Powai village. The other temples dilapidated with time. The most ancient temple in Mumbai is that of Mumba Devi at Bhuleshwar. This temple is atleast four to five centuries old. It is stated that the island (rather a group of islands combined) of Bombay (whose original name is Mumbai) is named after the deity. Not so well known is the shrine of Shree Devi Padmavati which surprisingly lies in point of antiquity with the temple of Mumbai Devi.
One day in the year 1925, when Shri S.N. Paranjape walking along the dry bed of the Powai lake, happened to see stones covered with moss lying along side. Out of sheer curiosity, he cleaned one of them and was astonished to see the deity of shree Hanuman. So he brought it along with other stones to his house by bullock-cart. On these stones collected by SNP had an image of SHIVLING and a devotee carrying milk in buckets over his shoulder for doing abhishek, pooja. Some lines were also inscribed below this picture. On cleaning it revealed a six line inscription in Sanskrit and one more line at the bottom in marathi. Experts deciphered the lines and later it was further ascertained that the stone was shila-lekh of yadav period, of 700 years old shiv temple (Ref. The Times of India, Sunday edition, dated 13th Dec. 1964).
A stone inscription found in dry bed of Powai lake in 1965 record the gift of agriculture land for the maintenance of the Shiva temple and as an addendum warn us that one who fails to perform his duty will be born as donkey in the next birth. The donor is Mahasamant Simhappa and the diety is named as Nagajeshwar. The stone inscription was handed over to Archaelogical Department., the photograph of which exist in Devi Temple.
The writings transliterated as "Swasti shree Pounmi grame – Mahasamant shri Simhappa – shri Bagujeshwar deva pavithane unite the wawa devika joha wawa shaesasalijo helope toswaan gard-chandal mabran loss pooshmajamalli praiala."
It is believed that Simhappa was a Mahasamant under Shilahars of Thane in the 16th Century AD. There are references as to this ancient settlement in the old marathi narrative history of the mahikavati (of Mahim) belonging to 15th century AD. The Marathi historical prose record MAHIKAVATI BAKHAR, in history of Mahim (1449 AD), mentioned one Rakhmajirao, as an officer of Powai and surrounding villages. It also refers to the tanks and the shiva, durga temples.
After independence (1947) Shri C.B. Sharma took over the Powai estate on two leases for 99 years and 20 years from Sir Mohammed Yusuf and family trust. It was his daily routine to visit Padmavati temple. He raconteurs that way back during Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaja’s rule people used to come to Powai to seek peace. The said idol of Padmavati was subsequently installed by him in the temple. Earlier Powai had a king’s palace which maintained the temples of Padmavati & Lord Shiva, Maruti etc., the Palace had a secret tunnel opening out at the present Powai lake bed. The tunnel size was big enough for horse driven carriages to pass through it. It was used by Portuguese to ship the valuable ancient relics out from this country