South Mumbai’s upscale locality, Malabar Hill, home to the city’s who’s who like the Governor, Chief Minister and cabinet ministers, is also known for an ancient water body, the Banganga Tank, whose origin dates back to the 12th Century.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee (MHCC) are now mulling the beautification of the tank premises. Soon, civic officials will organise a joint visit to the tank with MHCC members and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
“We have planned some basic level beautification along Banganga Tank. Roads surrounding the tank will be beautified with stones. During the visit of the heritage committee members we will see what more can be done,” said the Assistant Municipal Commissioner, D ward (Grant Road, Malabar Hill), Vishwas Mote.
Known as the Varanasi of Mumbai, Banganga Tank attracts worshippers and tourists and its two-day music and cultural festival is also popular.
According to experts, the tank and Walkeshwar temple complex in Malabar Hill were constructed in 1127 AD during the Silhara Dynasty. But during the Portuguese rule, both the tank and the temple were destroyed. They were rebuilt around 1715 AD with donations from Mumbai-based philanthropist Rama Kamath. Currently, the tank property is looked after by Gaud Sarswat Brhamin Temple Trust.
For many years, no major efforts have been made for the beautification and restoration of the tank premises. There are 28 temples along the bank of the tank. According to local activist Rocky Crasto, the last time the tank was cleaned was in 1989, when it was emptied of water and the muck inside was cleaned. In 2007, restoration helped to bring back some of its old glory.
An official from the MHCC said: “The roads along the tank will be paved with stone. We are thinking of painting the walls with some art on the lines of the slums at Asalpha in Ghatkopar. We will try to connect with the group that had painted the shanties in Asalpha. There are walls around Banganga Tank and those can be painted. Soon, we will visit the tank and decide what more can be done in terms of preserving the historical site.”
A BMC official said: “The Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation organises Banganga festivals. We are also thinking of developing and utilising the place as an art and cultural performance centre under the civic body’s Mumbai Urban Arts Commission.”
Legend behind the tank
When Lord Rama and Lakshman were on their way to Lanka to rescue Sita, they rested here. When Rama was thirsty, he asked his brother to fetch water. Lakshman shot an arrow to the ground and water oozed out of the spot. It was believed that waterbody is a subsidiary of the Ganga. The name Banganga is derived from baan (arrow) and Ganga (the river).
Speaking to The Indian Express, Crasto said: “As per my research, Parashurama had shot an arrow to the ground and water came out. Parashurama was here to establish one of the 14 jyotirlingas of shiva. The source of the water in the tank is deep down below the earth’s surface. It is very fresh and in the past 73 years, I have never seen it dry up.”
In 2015, the civic body had made provision of Rs 5 crore for revamp and beautification of the Banganga Tank. But the plan was not implemented.