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05 February 2016

TEMPLE RUN

This post is so named because this is what a typical day dedicated to temple-hopping in Goa looks like!


Every time during our stay in Goa, we spend half a day visiting temples. Most of the temples we go to are located in close proximity to each other, in Ponda/Fonda. Hence if planned properly, covering most of them won’t take very long, and we usually are back at the resort for a late lunch. Here I shall briefly outline the schema that we've been following from the last many years on every such visit; I'll put up detailed posts on each temple later. We usually set off after a heavy breakfast. That helps us save time as we don’t have to stop anywhere else for a mid-day snack. Also, the average time spent at each temple is about 10-15 minutes (excluding parking, time to walk to the temple, etc.), as the sole intention of a visit is to pray; we don’t engage in elaborate Poojas and rituals either.

I personally like going to these temples for two basic reasons. One- there is this sense of belonging which I can’t quite explain, and even to this day I wonder what it would be like if my forefathers never had to leave this beautiful land. Two- there is absolutely no interference by the priests here, and one can pay respects however he/she likes to. No one follows you around asking for donations. If one wishes to, they can do so; whatever is given is graciously accepted.

If we consider Panjim as the base, Ponda is roughly about a half hour drive away, but to get to the temples you don't need to go all the way to Ponda town, which is quite noisy and chaotic. From Panjim, one has the option of taking the bypass road (of the highway) or the older road, that for the first few minutes runs right by the river. Even after that, the drive is beautiful and pleasant. Mind you, the roads are very narrow in certain places. We also pass by pretty old houses, some of whose doorsteps open right onto the road! There is a ferry crossing at Ribandar too, for anyone interested.

Background: Most of these temples were located at different places across the land; however, the Portuguese invasion and the subsequent atrocities forced people to relocate. The enterprising people that they were, this they did; they carried along their deities, and their culture, including the Konkani language which has survived even today without a script! Some came down the coast to as far as Cochin (a stone slab at Fort Cochin dates it back to 1522 AD), and this is the story behind temples at Ankola, Shirali, etc. as well. The others shifted to Ponda which was then under the Marathas, and hence were given shelter. In the process however, many idols and other valuable artefacts were either destroyed or lost. And gradually they gelled in well into their new homes, adopting new cultures in the process (for example, Spirit worship in coastal Canara), but still very much retaining the old. 

However, these temples are still the Kuldevatas (family deity) for their respective clans, and most of them visit their Kuldev at-least on an annual basis. Architecture-wise, there is nothing spectacular if one were to compare with other marvels that dot our country. But the way these temples are maintained (every year the paint looks as fresh as ever), the surroundings spic and span, the temple tank spruced up every now and then, and the deep-stambh (a small tower to place diyas within), are indeed worth mentioning.

Mangueshi Temple
The first temple we stop at is Mangueshi temple at Priol, about 22 km from Panjim. Try to reach here by 8:30 AM. This is one of those temples frequented by tourists, and hence it’s better to be there before hordes of them start entering, in the trademark flowery shirts and straw hats! The walk to the temple from the parking area takes about 5-10 minutes. There is a straight walkers’ path too, devoid of stalls and vendors and leads straight to the temple from the main road. Dedicated to Manguesh (an incarnation of Shivji), the surroundings are very pretty. During the right season, you can find vendors selling fresh Kala Jamun (Konkani: Jambul) here.
Mahalasa Temple
Next stop is Mahalasa temple at Mardol, 1.2 km away from Mangueshi temple. The road is very narrow, and parking can be a problem. This temple is dedicated to Mohini avatar assumed by Lord Vishnu. Recently here, the entry of foreign tourists has been restricted.
Navadurga Temple
Strictly off the tourist radar, this temple is located at Madkai, about 4 km from Mardol. It is quite interiorly located, and it's best to ask around for directions as following Google maps can make you hopelessly lost (personal experience). The head of the deity is bent sideways, behind which there's an interesting story which I forget now. This is family temple to my maternal grandmother, and hence we make it a point to come here whenever possible. 
(We usually come back here on our way back from Shantadurga of Kavalem, instead of taking a detour from the main road in the beginning itself- we noticed it saves time.)
Shantadurga Temple
Don't confuse this with the more famous temple by the same name at Kavalem. Totally devoid of tourists, this is a small and pretty temple located less than 2 km away from Mahalasa temple. One has to take the same road from Mahalasa temple that joins the highway, but just before it does, take a right. At this junction, an old bus stand has the faded words Velinga written on it. From there it is less than one km. 
Shri Lakshminarasimha Temple
This lies along the same way as that to the previous temple, at Velinga. This one stands out for being set amidst lush green surroundings. Even in peak summer, this place feels quite cool. One usually will not find any tourists at all here. The entrance is usually not identified clearly; it lies opposite the Vetaleshwar temple by the road, where there is a large open area, a shed with wooden articles, and a replica of a large bull.

Next, just take the main road to join the highway. At Farmagudi, take the right which passes by a Ganpati Mandir, and is a steep slope down. At Farmagudi junction, on the left is a small garden in the form of fort, dedicated to Shivaji Maharaj.

Nagueshi Temple
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this is located at Dhonshiwado. The temple tank is very nice here. Again, you would find only Kulavis here (those who have this temple as their family deity), and no tourists. There is a small all-purpose-shop opposite the temple run by a lady, and we usually go there to stock up on water, local kokum-based drinks, and bananas.
Mahalakshmi Temple
A little away is located this temple, and can also be reached via a walking track that starts after crossing over to the other side of the tank at Nagueshi temple. There is a huge parking area built adjoining the temple. We generally spend a little more time here, and at Nagueshi.
Ramnathi Temple
In the same area at Bandoda is the Ramnath(i) temple; Ramnath represents the unity of Hari and Hara. The temple complex compound is quite spacious and well maintained. 
(I'd put up a picture earlier from here too, with a design of animals joined at the head with two bodies.)
Shantadurga Temple
Located at a walkable distance from Ramnath at Kavalem village, this place is almost always filled with tourists. It can get a little irritating at times, especially when people tend to forget that they are in a place of worship. If you plan the day in such a way so as to reach here in time for the afternoon pooja at about 1:00 PM, it would be worth it. Watching the aarti is a magical experience- using a mirror the sunlight is directly focused onto the deity, with the bells clanging continuously. We once even witnessed a woman go into a trance-like state all of a sudden (quite scary)! 

TOTAL DURATION: About 5 hours ex-Panjim.

TIPS
*Photography isn't permitted inside the temples
*Many of the temples now have a dress code (about time too). Just because Goa is a tourist destination, one cannot wear the same thing that he/she would wear to the beach to a place of worship, be it a temple or a church!
*Avoid shopping for trinkets outside Mangueshi, and Shantadurga temples, unless you know to talk in Konkani- else it is way too expensive.
*Many of the temples close after the aarti at noon, hence plan your day accordingly.
*The canteen at Ramnath and Shantadurga temples is supposed to be decent.
*Tilve Bhojanalay, a place that serves typical Goan fish curry and rice and the like, is just down the road from Ramnath temple. However, the quality over the years has deteriorated.

NOTE: Please click on the pictures to enlarge. Since these are from different visits, the seasons and hence the backgrounds are different! :)

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