The Banganga tank, also known as the Mini Banaras of Bombay, is a special place with an intriguing religious legend attached to it. This location dates back to the time of the Ramayana, when Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana were searching for Sita Devi during their exile in the forest. Lord Rama shot an arrow into the ground when he arrived at the current location of Banganga Tank. As a result, a spring of water from Bhogawati, or underground Ganga, sprouted beneath the earth. Since the river was formed by the piercing of a ban (arrow), it was named Banganga.
The area around Banganga Tank gradually became a pilgrimage destination, with numerous temples and dharamshalas (religious rest houses) springing up. A narrow street lined with temples, homes, and dharamshalas flanks Banganga Tank.
Deep stambhas or pillars guard the entrance to Banganga Tank and other important temples in the area. Some locals believe that each pillar has a saint buried beneath. Many ancient stone-carved statues of local Gods can be found at the entrance and throughout Banganga. The tank is situated in South Mumbai at Walkeshwar, Malabar Hill. Within 10 minutes of descending from the main road, you are greeted by the Banganga — a 25-foot-deep rectangular water tank surrounded by steps on all four sides, its banks dotted with small temples, shrines, and huts. One can see a pole rising from the mossy waters, which marks the spot where Lakshman's arrow struck the ground.
The Banganga Tank steps serve many functions, including a play area for children, a social hub for residents, a place to dry laundry, and a place to perform puja. Despite its freshwater source, Banganga Tank is becoming increasingly polluted as a place of worship. The Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee has declared Banganga Tank to be a Grade-I heritage structure, meaning that it's of national or historical importance and no structural changes are allowed.
The water tank is not the only attraction in this area; the Walkeshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, also draws a large number of visitors. This location has become a mini-pilgrimage site for the city's devotees. Surrounding the temple complex are smaller shrines, including one dedicated to Sage Parashurama, and dharamshalas. Oblations and other Hindu rituals are performed to appease the gods and ancestors, and prasad is offered at temples.
Visitors can get to Banganga Tank by going to Teen Batti on Malabar Hill. If you're taking a local train in Mumbai, the nearest stations on the Western Line are Charni Road and Grant Road. You must take a taxi from the station. In February, the MTDC organises the Banganga music festival for Mumbai's religious and culturally inclined residents.
Banganga is open to the public. Photographers will find some stunning images here. Some Bollywood films, such as Chandni Bar, have also been filmed here. This secluded yet peaceful location is a stark contrast to the city's hectic pace. But If you're someone who often looks out for a place to unplug and find something good to do for a change, Banganga is your place to be! Very few people are familiar with the location, and it is only visited by those who know about it or live in the surrounding neighbourhoods making it a very rare and special place in Mumbai.
(If you have a story in and around Mumbai, you have our ears, be a citizen journalist and send us your story here. )