From the Varanasi of Mumbai

Few places in Mumbai are as spiritual and as peaceful as the holy place of Banganga- a place that has the power to show you glimpse of the bathing ghats of the charismatic and the colorful -Varanasi without even, moving out from the belly of the bustling city.

The tolling of bells, toiling of sadhus, fragrance of marigolds mixing with the aroma of agarbattis, and the rhymes of mantras chanted along the bank of the 300 year old swimming pool sets a perfect morning for people residing at the place.

Banganga is situated in the heart of Malabar Hill and is a 15 minute walk from the nearest location, Teen Batti. It opens with a huge green water tank claded by the wide mossy stone steps and temples by its sides. Quaint architecture, monolithic stones, old paintings and sculptures that have frozen in time are picturesque and takes you back in time till you look up to discover high rise buildings and glass towers surrounding you. Budding photographers are usually, captivated to capture the site- nestled in a layer of ancient and modern architecture, civilization, customs and beliefs.

Banganga derives its name from a famous story. Legend has it that while looking for his wife Sita, Ram was overcome by thirst and told his brother Laxman to bring him some water. Laxman shot an arrow into the ground and water gushed out: They believe this water as an underground offshoot of the Ganges, hence the name Banganga -baan meaning arrow, and water being from the Ganges. Ironically, Banganga is a fresh water tank situated besides a salt water ocean on its side.

On the eve of Pitru Paksha, Banganga illuminates to life. Hundreds of pilgrims take their holy dip into the tank. Pujaas, flowers and diyaas are offered to Lord Ram. It’s a delight to watch diyaas and garlands dancing on water. The Banganga Music Festival, another 2 day note-worthy event attracts legendary music artist to it. Legends offer their excellence to the Lord.

It’s a heavenly confluence to watch living gods turning devotees of the non-existent. The tank achieves its sanctity on that day. Not because of the bountiful offerings, but, it’s cleansed from within. And, like all good things, cleansing too is a rare phenomea – once a year. Other times, withered flowers and bird droppings dominate the place.

Come to the place for a quick escape from the chaos and rest ambly in its lap- a lap filled with silence and calmness that will make you go lazy lying on its bank. Immerse yourself in its ambience and soak the letharginess of the place one by one- the 11.30 am ablution, the sluggishness of shopkeepers, long drags of biddis, slow chants ofmantras, the gentle whisper of water and ducks swimming leisurely in it.

Banganga is a perfect place to escape from the city’s cacophonies to assimilate the sounds of customs and traditions that it has bounded for centuries. It does not offer larger than life pictures like hordes of people bathing in the Ganges of Varanasi, but it shows shades of it in a miniscule that is enough to announce the property as a part of Mumbai’s heritage, specially, for the traditions it has wrapped protectively in its sheath. It’s time for the government to look at this property discerningly and announce it as a monument of pride before it disappears in the onslaught of the real estate wolves.

Ninad Gawhankar