July 15, 2024

Banganga & Walkeshwar

Walkeshwar, Banganga, Siri Road, Ridge Road – All familiar names, but have we paused to think how and why they got those names and how they are linked together? Have we wondered about the era’s gone bye,that have left us these heritage sites?

Legend has it that Lord Rama, on his way to free his beloved wife Sita from the clutches of Ravana, stopped on the islands of Mumbai. His followers were all worshippers of Shiva, and for their daily ‘bhakti’ they fashioned a ‘Shivalinga’ out of the sand, ‘walu’ around them. They needed fresh water for their ‘pujas’, but they were surrounded by salt water of the seas. ‘Oh Lord’, they said, ‘how can we perform pujas and offer our prayers without fresh water?’ The Lord, in answer to their pleas is believed to have shot a ‘Bana’ (Arrow) into the ground and released the underground stream of the holy Ganga. Thus were born the ‘Walu-ka-Ishwar’(Walkeshwar) and the ‘Bana-Ganga’.

Another legend says that Lord Rama was thirsty and asked his brother, Lakshmana to fetch him some drinking water. This was not to be found, and so the beloved brother shot an arrow and released the holy waters.

Believing the release of the holy waters, man from all over western India travelled in their seaf-faring boats, up the coast to perform various religious rites. They moored their boats at ‘Lakdi Bunder’, todays Chowpatty, climbed the ‘Sidi Road’ (stepped pathway), today’s Siri Road, and walked along the ridge of the Hill, down towards the pool of collected water from the ‘Banaganga’. Today this road is still known as ‘Ridge Road’, even though it is officially B.G. Kher Marg.

Over the ages, men came to settle along the banks of the pool, and like all men around the world, carried their gods with them. They built shrines or temples in their homes for their families. They offered daily prayers and took water from the holy Ganga for their pujas.

The Shilhara dynastywere kings of Thane and ruled the islands from the 8th to the 13th century. In 1127 AD, Lakshman Prabhu, a minister then, built a tank to collect the waters, and in 1715 AD it was rebuilt out of a donation fromRama Kamath to the Walkeshwar Temple. Thus the rectangular Tank, the Walkeshwar Temple and the Parshuram Temple belong to the Goud Saraswat Temple Trust.

Even today, despite modern technology, the source of the underground stream is unknown and the ‘Bhogawati’ continues to feed the huge tank with sweet fresh water. Allowing devout Hindus to believe it is an underground stream of the Ganga, and thus lending itself for absolution and peace.

Mumbai had five big tanks and even today the localities are known as “Dhobi Talao’, ‘Gowalia Tank’, ‘C.P.Tank’, ‘Mahalakshmi Tank’ and ‘Banganga’. Only Banganga had fresh water, while as the others were reservoirs for collection of rain water. Four were destroyed and in 1991 there was a plan to fill-in this one too, and give rise to some more high-rises. Concerned citizens woke up to the heritage value of this Tank and a Committee was formed under the Chairmanship of the then Municipal Commissioner to save it.

Anita Garware , Chairperson, INDIAN HERITAGE SOCIETY MUMBAI, Resident of Malabar Hill