Tucked away from mainstream tourism in Mumbai, Banganga Tank chronicles the tales of an epic legend & the city's ancient past.
The city of Mumbai has glaring contrasts and if one pays attention, they will be exposed to several scenarios that reiterate the many ironies, quintessential to the city. Juxtaposed in a ceremonious harmony, the 'City of Dreams' never sleeps, quite literally. A place where the sea ebbs in swells as its people in local trains, Mumbai houses the contrast of still waters at Banganga Tank at the tip of the Malabar Hill, where tranquillity soars to its maximum potential.
The divinity of legends
Amid the high-rise buildings of Mumbai's concrete jungle, stands the enigma of Banganag Tank, a stepped pool whose water casts a reflection of the city's ancient past. This place lies at the northern end of Back Bay, tucked away from tourism and popularity, so it is safe to say that its existence is often a discovery for locals as well. Touted to be the oldest continually habituated place in Mumbai, Banaganga Tank is a symbol of heritage, culture, history and architectural splendour which truly deserves your attention.
As the legend flows, the pool water is said to be a tributary of the River Ganges, which actually streams at a distance of five thousand miles from this place. The epic story spins around the incident when Lord Rama shot an arrow, or as it is called in Hindi- ban, at this spot which resulted in a spring of water. The confluence of the two words, ban and Ganga come together to form its name- 'Banganga'.
The story also narrates the origin of the Walkeshwar temple too, in the vicinity of the Tank. It is believed that the Shiva Linga here was installed by Lord Rama, who went to the holy city of Banaras to bring the lingam. As a result, those who know about this place also refer to it as Mini-Banaras. The name 'Walkeshwar' literally translates to 'idol made of sand' because the initial idol made by Lord Ram here was moulded in sand, as the stories state.
The tale of Mumbai's past
The metropolis of Mumbai has a starry present and promising future but little is known about its past. However, the steps of Banganga witnessed Mumbai's past and today recount how the original Walkeshwar temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century, when they gained control of the Bombay islands and began spreading Christianity.
Before this, the 7 islands of Mumbai city were under the control of the British who allowed migrants to practice their own religion, as it attracted locals and encouraged them to help the city grow and the culture conflict arose only in the 16th century. The temple was rebuilt in 1715 and has been reconstructed a number of times since then, most recently in the 1950s.
The Structure of the Banganga Tank
Today, Banganga stands as a rectangle-shaped pool with leading steps on all sides. There are two pillars at the entrance of the tank that bears oil lamps. Earlier, they were used to alight diyas and were called 'Deepstambhas'. A sacred oasis of divinity, Banganga is famed as a pilgrimage spot for devotees who flock to this place to take a dip in the holy water and offer flowers at the temple.
So if you want to beat the city blues and discover the long-forgotten past of the glittering city, you must visit the Banganga Tank in Mumbai. Visitors can access Banganga Tank by reaching Teen Batti on Malabar Hill in Mumbai or you can take a cab from Charni Road or Mahalaxmi.