Bombaywala Dil Mumbai Meri Jaan: Banganga Parikrama 

18274960_10212800490477090_4166666827537292684_nBombay…or as we know it now, Mumbai is as much a city of contrasts as it is a city of dreams. A city housing those where who born and bred here to those who’ve made it their home now and can never imagine themselves anywhere else. A mix of all cultures and communities giving it a cuisine and taste of it’s own. A city where white collared professionals rub shoulders with dabbawalas 18342069_10212806821635365_6140906405523617930_non the local trains. Swanky and shiny cars jostle with autorickshaws on the roads, and heritage buildings cling on for space and relevance amid the vast expanding sea of modern skyscrapers.And while there is no dearth of places here that strongly reinforce the 18341754_10212801903872424_5686831849502328143_nmany ironies quintessential to the city, there’s one in particular that elicits a kind of rustic, spiritual calm as it does so. We’re talking about the Bangagna Tank, a little piece of history and culture ensconced by a string of high-rise luxury apartments, in Mumbai’s exclusive Malabar Hill area. Not unknown to me but this time, I discovered it with a whole new perspective with Khaki Tours, who tell us the untold stories of Mumbai. Bharat the host, amazed with little trinkets and jewels of this city and his love could be felt in his aura, keeping us both glued and curious to what was coming next.

The oldest living living areas of the city that never sleeps, and often called the mini-18342135_10212800494037179_6784834356252025838_nBenaras of Mumbai, this freshwater tank, along with the neighboring Walkeshwar temple, was built in AD 1127 by Lakshman Prabhu, a Goud Saraswat Brahmin minister in the court of Silhara dynasty of Thane.  An ancient place has the habit of collecting stories, myths & legends around it.
How can Banganga be without stories then? 18301910_10212806822475386_612199715441726109_nLegend is that when Ram and Lakshman were on their way to find Sita, they stopped here at the ashram of Rishi Gautam. To quench their thirst, Rama shot an arrow on the earth releasing Bhogawati or the underground Ganga. To perform his daily Puja Lakshman used to go every day to Kashi to fetch Shivalinga that Ram used to worship for his daily Puja. One day Lakshman did not return in time and Ram using the sand available here created a Linga and worshiped it.18341882_10212800491517116_1198757846722884658_n

The Shivalinga came to be known as Valu-ka-Ishwar meaning God made of Sand and the word over a period of time got distorted to Walkeshwar. The Walkeshwar temple still stands on the eastern edge of the Banganga Lake and lends its name to this area. Over a period of time, other temples came up. And this place gained the status of a Teerthakshetra or a place of pilgrimage.

Centuries since it was first built, Banganga and its vicinity — with its unique sights, 18342794_10212800495757222_1249666760482797739_nsounds and aromas — still harken back to a simpler, quieter time and remains a great spot to escape the city’s usual cacophony. As you make your way down one of the many narrow alleys branching out from the main road and leading to the tank, 18342240_10212800495477215_797516967806544149_nyou are
surrounded by a motley crew of temples and old houses bathed in vibrant hues of red, yellow, orange, pink and other colors. Old wizened women perched comfortably, almost permanently outside their houses to kids running around as playful and eager monkeys, who might have been residents here at some time.18403005_10212801868111530_2258217973725794987_n

The walls on either side of the alley are in different states of disrepair, but still look quite alluring, thanks to the 18275115_10212800494437189_4870907457329184315_ncolorful murals that adorn them, depicting scenes from mythology, history and folklore. The peeling wood columns and beams badly in state of repair now only seen in our Neo night clubs and lounges where it is much
admired. Most common being the Socials chain. Due to its proximity to the shore, the air here is humid and thick with the smell of the sea, but often you catch a hint of scents emanating from incense sticks and flowers, or those of food being cooked from residential kitchens. Most of the property here, including the Banganga tank and the Walkeshwar temple, belongs to the Goud Saraswat Temple Trust.

In fact, after the Portuguese destroyed the temple in the 16th century, it was rebuilt from a generous donation made by businessman and philanthropist Rama Kamath, also from the same community. Many Goud Saraswat Brahmin families still reside within the temple complex.18301328_10212800498477290_4763215947060132121_nThe surroundings of the tank are relatively free of crowds, save for a smattering of people on the steps performing religious rituals or simply relaxing. The atmosphere is abuzz with the sounds of aarti, religious chants, the ringing of temple bells and the quacking of ducks,
which far outnumber the 18402791_10212800497837274_2702447747132489450_npeople you find here. Mostly seen lounging by the water or wading in the tank, they seem to be in a Zen-like state, as if they too have been touched by the peace and calm of the place. As you sit on the steps and watch the activities unfold in front of you, you find yourself far removed from the realities of this city that never sleeps. The most unique and disarming spot I found here was is the Dashnami Goswami Akhada, or the Banganga Goswami cemetery, as it is more popularly known. This is no ordinary cemetery where all and sundry are cremated (as is the case with all Hindu deaths), 18274970_10212800497397263_7474274339889609431_nbut this is a special area reserved for those who have taken the vows of Sanyas (renunciation) – Sanyasis as we know them. Of course, the more popular Sanyasis are those who are the pontiffs of the various mutts in India, but there are others who have lived the life of normal householders, but have taken the path of renunciation later in life. Where one would expect fear or dread to envelope the air, you are surprised by the inherent calmness and still of the sanctified spot. 18301983_10212806827155503_8244667994009135394_nA quaint sweet workshop makes it presence known by its fragrance where Ghevar and Laddoos were being prepared with utmost patience and skill by the masters of the art, while the owner sweetly pitched his wares by nudging us to taste them. The dhobhi ghat filled with rows and rows of clothes drying spoke of an era gone by where huge Victorian style bathtubs lined the ares and men continued their daily chores of washing and drying in the windy afternoon.
18275164_10212800496437239_5558296337142523921_nA smattering of snack shops dotted the premises as people continued their normal lives in a world that seemed almost surreal and alien to those of us who’ve grown up in much more synthetic and modern environments. An interesting afternoon which has opened up the curious cat in me leaving me yearning for more stories and will definitely find me in the Khaki Tours list with Khaki Wallah filling up my hungry mind with fodder of Bombay’s rich culture and secrets that it hides bravely in it’s folds, open only to those

who are willing to caress and love this amazing place for what it was, how it has evolved while still maintaining the backbone as it keeps embracing and welcoming all those who’s hearts find their way here. As for me, I have a Bombaywala Dil Mumbai meri jaan.

Getting there: The closest railway station to Banganga is Charni Road (about 3-5 km away) from where you can easily find a taxi or a bus.

Best time to visit: The calming beauty of Banganga is best enjoyed during the early hours of morning or evening when the sun isn’t too harsh and a gentle breeze keeps the surroundings cool.

Do catch up with Khaki Tours: +91 88281 00111, http://www.khakitours.com, or visit them on Khaki Tours on Facebook and catch all their up comings walks and more.

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