A slice of ancient India at Banganga
God with wives from many castes, a temple aided by Muslims, burial ground of Hindu ascetics and other tales and truths that unfold on a walk around Banganga Tank
As the heat and humidity recede, leaving the city with slight, occasional bites of chilly air, it becomes incumbent not to waste the sparkling mornings. Possibly aimed at utilising such a day to the hilt, travel group Khaki Tours organised a walk around Banganga at 8.30 am last week.
The idea, as mentioned on their social media page, was to discover the oldest (estimated to go back over a thousand years) continuously inhabited settlement in Mumbai that has temples, monasteries, bathing ghat, burial grounds, samadhis and a dhobi ghat.
Banganga Tank at Walkeshwar is a drop of comfort in a concrete jungle. Pic/ Sameer Markande
In pursuit of the ancient in the ever-changing city, a group of 50 people assembled at Walkeshwar bus depot. Architects, students, a retired couple, NGO workers — one of whom said she had never visited this part despite living in the city for over three decades — came to know about the walk from the Facebook page.
The view from Parshurama temple. Siddi Rasul Yakut Khan helped build the temple in 1700. Pics/Bipin Kokade
The group progressed to enter the lane that eventually leads to Raj Bhavan. Bharat Gothoskar, who was conducting the walk, pointed out that this parikrama (the walk), though dense with Hindu shrines and temples, goes beyond religion in ways people don’t understand – whether it is the dome shaped (Islamic style) roof of temples, Buddhist symbols or myths that find common space in religions. The hills that mark this area, he informed, are not known as Malabar Hills because they have anything to do with Kerala. Devotees from the south of Konkan would visit them and in those days anyone coming from the south was known as a Malabari.
Also read: Look what has been found inside the Banganga
Shree Venkatesh Balaji temple has a dome common in Islamic architecture
The first structure we were introduced to was the temple of Khandoba, the pastoral god of the Deccan plateau, who had wives from different castes and religion. The next halt was the Jabareshwar Mahadev temple. Going by the name we thought the deity of Mahadev here is considered very powerful but actually it is named this way as the space was forcibly taken over by a trader, Nathubai Ramdas in 1840. Well, that would amount to some honesty if he named it himself.
The Punjabi Dharmashala (abandoned now) used to be the destination where stars of Hindi cinema in the 1930s and 40s celebrated Holi.
Time and tide
We passed through snaky lanes, walking along one temple after the other, some inside residences, some pointing to history of several centuries from their walls and myths surrounding them. We passed the Walkeshwar temple, saw Ram Kund, the Banganga tank and little old stones carved as heroes on its stairs — all witness to the Sultans of Gujarat, the cannons of the Portuguese, the British and the time when the space was a village inhabited by a few families.
A duck offers temporary amusement to the group as they rest on the steps of the tank
Eventually, the day was not pleasant anymore. It was 12.30 and the sun was at its peak. The crowd, though still intrigued, was a bit listless.
Bhagwandas Akhada is where sadhus are buried in the Padmasana position here after death.
Perhaps, handouts could have been distributed to share information on some of the temples to make the walk shorter and there could be a limit to the number of people in a single walk to make it faster, intense and enjoyable. Although free, the organisers did not expect a huge turnout to explore a bit of the city that real estate sharks and negligence of authorities is eating into slowly.
Tour organiser, Bharat Gothoskar, speaks to the 50-odd participants at Walkeshwar bus depot
For updates, Log on to: www.facebook.com/Khaki.Tours
>> Wear easily removable footwear
>> Don’t go on an empty stomach because it is a long walk
>> Read up a little before you go to make better sense of the area
>> Ensure you are early since delays drags the walk longer into the day