India: Banganga Tank- a little slice of Varanasi in the heart of Bombay

What?
A holy pond surrounded by even holier temples- all smack in the middle of Bombay.

Why visit?
Bombay is not known for its spirituality and temples. It's India's business capital- money talks. 

Yet just a short distance from Bombay's financial and colonial district lies a holy pond, magically fed by the holy Ganges river, courtesy of Hindu god Rama (or so they say...) 

Banganga tank and its temples give you a taste of the variety and diversity of Hinduism, without having to schlepp it all the way to Varanasi.

Where?
At the tip of South Bombay's Malabar Hills peninsula, hidden behind Maximum City's most expensive real estate. Map


WHAT'S IN A name? 'Banganga' is said to derive from the Sanskrit word for 'arrow', 'baan', and 'Ganga', the Sanskrit name for the Ganges, Hinduism's super-holy River. 

According to Hindu legend, Lord Rama, the protagonist of Hinduism's classical soap opera, the Ramayana, stopped here at the tip of the peninsula on his way to Lanka. (He had set off from Ayodhya, close to Nepal-a massive detour that would have taken him several years of steady walking- but hey, he was a god, so anything goes.)

Finding himself on the tip of the a peninsula surrounded by the salty waters of the Arabian Sea, Rama was rather thirsty after all that walking. Not to worry- he (or his brother Lakshmana, accounts differ) shot an arrow into the ground, creating a direct connection to the Ganges, whose waters started spouting up from the ground, transported by either teleportation or a divine underground pipeline.
Your direct link to the Ganges.
So here we are, 1500 km from Varanasi, yet with the same holy water that offers instant karma points to whomever bathes in it. Pilgrims have been coming here for almost 1000 years, when the first tank was supposedly built. 
After a religious head shaving, the newly minted skinheads wash their scalps with holy water. 
Geese need good karma, too.
Wherever there's pilgrims, you need temples, and accommodation. So around Banganga tank a large number of shrines and dharamshalas (religious guesthouses) has sprouted. 
Temples...
...and shrines. 

















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The most important of these temples is the Walkeshwar temple. Again, you can thank Lord Rama for the name. Needing a morale booster, he wanted to do some worshipping and since the religious infrastructure at that point in time was sorely lacking, he built a Shiva lingam out of sand. 'Walkeshwar' basically means 'idol of sand', and if you know what a lingam is, you'll come to the conclusion that this temple is named after a sandy dildo. Stranger things have happened in India...
One of the priests in the Sandy Dildo temple. 
The inside of Walkeshwar temple features a copper cobra and a dripping jar...
Flash forward to 2016. Surrounded on all sides by fancy apartment blocks (the Malabar Hills peninsula is home to Bombay's most expensive real estate), Banganga Tank remains a little oasis of spirituality, where one can wander in relative peace (no cars or rickshaws!) and observe the religious rituals, or worship at any of the small temples. 
The skyscrapers are looming...
Instant karma for sale: this lady lets you feed her Holy Cow, instantly improving your chances of a better next life. 
The area is busiest around full moon and new moon, but most temples are open every day. You'll find the usual religious market segmentation, with each temple dedicated to a different deity, purpose, or directed at a different target audience. 
Holy cow! Shiva's bull Nandi definitely has some cojones!
Whereas this is a miniature Nandi at an outdoor shrine. 



Friendly folk abound. 


Getting there: 
If you're staying in South Bombay, a taxi is probably the easiest way of getting here. note that you will be dropped off on Walkeshwar Rd, and you will have to walk the last few hundred meters, as the steps are too steep for cars. 

If you're coming from the 'burbs, the nearest trains station is Charni Road near Girgaon Chowpatty, but you're still best off taking a cab from there. 


Keep in mind that most temples and shops in the area take a leisurely siesta between roughly 1and 4 pm. It's best to visit in the morning or the end of the afternoon. 

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