IMAGINE, a sacred place, a fairly large waterbody and concrete stairways (ghats) surrounding the waterbody in an overcrowded Mumbai city?
Rituals and Mythology make way for what is today called “Banganga”, unbelievably located in the heart of Mumbai.
If history is to be believed, Lord Rama and his brother Lakshman took rest here while on their quest to search for Lord Rama’s wife, Sita. Rama was thirsty and asked his brother Lakshman to bring him some water. Lakshman then shot an arrow into the ground from where fresh water rose forth. This fresh water is said to symbolize the Ganges River and hence the place gets the name Banganga, meaning Baan (Arrow) – Ganga (Ganges).
The 25 ft. rectangular waterbody is surrounded by concrete stairways (ghats) on all 4 sides. On entrance and around Banganga you bump into many ancient stone carved statues of local God’s, some of which are in an unkempt manner.
You will have to walk your way right until the footstep of Banganga as the place is hidden in the midst of some slums on one side and urban buildings on the other. The drop off point for buses and taxi’s is hence, a few metres away from the spot. However, your walk down the ghat and towards Banganga will not disappoint you a bit as you will see Chai/Tea stalls, hand carts, colourful homes, temples, stairways and small shops cum houses. If you happen to be among those who have seen Banaras (doesn’t matter on TV), you will agree that the experience is fairly similar.
For slum dwellers in the vicinity, the Banganga makes for their own version of lake view houses. Plenty of ducks and pigeons also make up for the crowd at Banganga which works, more than creating any hindrance. In fact, go ahead and feed these birds; The joyful feeling you get in return is unrivalled.
It needs to be mentioned here that Banganga is also primarily a place to immerse the ashes of the dead according to Hindu tradition. Often families of the deceased visit this place to perform rituals for the dead. And so, you can skip your bathing or having fun in the water plan as Banganga is highly contaminated. You will see garlands, puffed rice, ash and clay pots floating in the water. Besides, the locals also use this waterbody for their daily chores like bathing and washing clothes.
Banganga is meant to be a free for all visit. Photography lovers can expect to get some stunning shots here. Some Bollywood films like Chandni Bar have also been picturized here. There are only a few small general stores and the only edible items on sale are chips and biscuits. Avoid the scorching heat and sun tan by visiting this place in the evenings. However, if you are the type of person who prefers silence and uncrowded places, afternoon in fact is a better time to visit. Nocturnal humans can venture in the night for the same effect.
Banganga is located in South Mumbai, Malabar Hill to be precise. The nearest station is either Charni road or Grant road on the Western railways; and Dadar on the Central railways. Taxi’s are easily available to visit this place. Be aware that the taxi will drop you off a few metres away from Banganga. The rest of the journey has to be covered walking. Walkeshwar bus depot is the nearest stop for buses. From there, Banganga is a 10 min walk.
Is it recommended?
Yes! Everyday noise and stress can take a backseat at Banganga. The place has a certain calm about itself which one should not be deprived of. Besides, wouldn’t Banganga be an amazing sight to view, considering most of us are living in a concrete jungle.