TEMPLES IN GOA

The Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Temple

Crouched on the side of a steep, densely wooded hill, the secluded Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Mandir at Velinga, 3 K.M southwest of Mardol, is one of the more picturesque temple around Ponda. To the west of Farmagudi about 1.5 K.M to Velinga Village.

Transferred here from Salcete in 1567, the Lakshmi-Narasimha devta housed inside this temple, a conventional eighteenth-century structure surrounded by neat lawns and pilgrim's hostels, is Vishnu's in his fourth incarnation as the man-lion Narashima, aka Narayan fed by an eternal spring, this is fringed by lush curtain of coconut palms.

The Shri Nagesh Temple

At Farmagudi, dominated by a statue of the Maharatha leader Shivaji, in the valley, carpeted with cashew trees and dense thickets of palms, is Shri Nagesh temple at Bandora, 4K.M northwest of Ponda.

Established at the beginning of fifteenth century and later renovated by Maharathas, Shri Nagesh is older than most of its neighbors, although stylistically very much in the same mould, with the usual domed shikhara, or terracotta-tiled roofs and gaudy goan Decor. In the entrance porch is a stately black Nandi bull, vehicle of the temple's chief deity, Shiva, here known as Naguesh. The multicolored wood carvings run in a continues frieze along the tops of the pillars. These depict scenes from the Hindu epic Ramayana, in which the God Rama (Vishnu's seventh incarnation) with the help of Hanuman's monkey army, rescues his wife Sita from the clutches of arch demon Ravana. After the great battle, the couple are reunited back home in Ayodhya, as shown in one of the last panels. The silver-doored sanctum (garbhagriha), flanked by subsidiary shrines dedicated to Lakshmi-Narayan and the elephant-headed Ganesh, houses a Shiva devta. The lingam carved with the face of Shiva the God known as Mukhaling. The temple tank, whose murky green waters are teeming with fish. The foundation of this Temple was laid in 1413.

The Shri Shantadurga Temple

Standing with its back to a wall of thick forest and its front Facing a flat expanse of open rice field, Shri Shantadurga is Goa's largest and most famous temple, and the principal port of call on the region's Hindu pilgrimage circuit. 4K.M from northwest of Ponda.

The steps lead to Shri Shantadurga's main entrance and courtyard, enclosed by office and blocks of modern pilgrim's hostels, and dominated by a brilliant-white six storey deepmal. The russet and cream-coloured temple, crowned with a huge domed sanctuary tower, was erected by the Maharatha Chief Shivaji's grandson, Shahu Raja, in 1738, some two centuries after its presiding deity had been brought here from Quelossim in Marmugao taluka, a short way inland from the north end of Colva Beach.

The interior of the building, dripping with marble and glass chandelier, is dominated by an exquisitely worked silver screen, sits the garlanded Shantadurga devi, flanked by images of Vishnu and Shiva. According to Hindu mythology, Durga, another name for Shiva's consort, Parvati, the goddess of Peace, resolved a violent dispute between her husband and rival God Vishnu, hence her position between them in the shrine, and the prefix Shanta, meaning "peace", that was henceforth added to her name.

Along the passage leading left to the subsidiary shrine where Shantadurga sleeps. The Devi's colossal raths; during the annual February Zatra Festival held here, these elaborately carved wooden chariots are pulled around the precinct by teams of honoured devotees.

The Shri Ramnath Temple

The entrance hall tacked into it in 1905, the Shri Ramnath temple, 500m north from Shri Shantadurga is one of Ponda's Monuments. The opulently decorated silver screen in front of the main shrine, the most extravagant of its kind in Goa. Brought from Lutolim in Salcete taluka in the sixteenth century, the lingam housed behind it is worshipped by devotees of the Shaivite and Vaishnavite sects of Hinduism, Shri Ramnath being the form of Shiva propitiated by Lord Rama before he embarked on his mission to save Sita from the clutches of the evil Ravana.

Khandepar

Hidden deep in dense woodland near the village of Khandepar, 5K.M northeast of Ponda on the NH4, is a group of four tiny freestanding rock-cut cave temples, gouged out of solid laterite some time between the ninth and tenth centuries AD. They are among Goa's oldest historical monuments but are also virtually impossible to find without the help of guide or knowledgeable local. The way from the Khandepar crossroads, where the buses from Ponda pull in.

Set back in the forest behind a slowly meandering tributary of the Mandovi river, the four caves each consist of two simple cells hewn from a single hillock. Their tiered roofs, now a jumble of wee choked blocks,m are thought to have been added in the tenth or eleventh centuries, probable by the Kadambas, who converted them into Hindu temples. Prior to that, they wee almost certainly Buddhist sanctuaries, occupied by a small community of monks. The inside of the caves with the torch can be scanned and one can make out the carved pegs used for hanging robes and cooking utensils. The niches in the walls were for oil lamps. The outer cell of cave one also has lotus medallions carved into its ceiling, a typically Kadamban motif that was added at roughly the same time as the stepped roofs.

Chandranath Temple

Southeast of Margao, Salcete, perched on top of a hill, dating to the fifth century. The sanctuary and linga are carved out on the hill.

Parvath

In the southeastern corner of Salcete taluka, a semicircular ride of hills blister out of the coastal plain, cloaked with deep green forest and crowned by a solitary temple spire. The cream-and red-painted Shri Chandeshwar (or Bhutnath) temple at Parvath, 12 K.M southeast of Margao on the main Quepem road, sits on the top of Chandranath Hill with spellbinding views from its 370 metre summit. Increasingly grandiose glimpses of the Goan hinterland were revealed through the cashew trees, while the boulder-strewn clearing at the top affords a sweeping vista of sand-fringed toddi forest, sprinkled with all village. This panorama is at its most serene around dusk, when the sun sinks into the sea behind a haze of wood-smoke, produced by the cooking fires below on the plain.

According to an ancient Sanskrit inscription, a temple has stood on this magical spot for nearly 2500 years. However, the present building, dedicated to Shiva, is comparatively modern, dating from the late 1600s. The only part of the shrine that is definitely a vestige of the Vedic age is its cavernous inner sanctum, hollowed from a hug back bolder, around which the site's seventeenth-century custodians erected a typically Goan-style structure, capped with a red-tile room and domed sanctuary tower.

Chandranath Hill peters out at a small car park just below Parvath, from where a long flight of steps fashioned from discarded slabs of twelfth-century building leads steeply up to the temple. Pilgrims arrive the main entrance for darshan, or the ritual viewing of the God. A wild-eyed golden Chandreshwar deity, Shiva as "Lord of Moon", stares out from an ornately decorated sanctum, wrapped in brocaded silk. His accessory deities, or pariwar devtas-medieval images of Shiva's consort and son, Parvathi and elephant-headed Ganesh respectively, sculpted in stone - are housed in small niches to rear of the shrine. This circumambulatory passage, which has to be walked around in clockwise direction, hugs the base of the boulder that forms the temple's heart A small Nandi Bull lies among the from which the view west out to sea and south across the Assolna estuary to the Cabo Da Rama headland.

Rock-cut Temple

At Arvalem, Bicholim, date to the third and sixth centuries AD and were possibly Buddhist in origin, Within are Shiva Lingas.

Shri Bhagavati Temple

In Parcem, Pernerm, is a rare temple where Brahma is worshipped. Two five-storey lamp towers flank the facade.

Sri Datta Mandir

Near Saquelim Bridge, Bicholim, is a small temple, with a blue multi-tiered tower, surrounded by peepul and kadamba trees.

Sri Mahalasa Temple

In Mardol, is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The deity was from an older temple in Mormugao taluka. In the courtyard is an impressive brass pillar set on a turtle's back and surmounted by Garuda, Vishnu's vehicle. The turtle represents Kurma, Vishnu's second avatar (incarnation)

Sri Mahalakshmi Temple

At Bandora, was founded in the 15th century and dedicated to Lakshmi, Vishnu's consort. The deity was brought here from Colva in 1565.

Sri Mangesh Temple

In Priol, is Goa's richest and most important temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva. The symbolic linga in the sanctum sanctum, was rescued before the original temple in Cortalim was destroyed and brought here by ferry. The temple is built around a huge water tank, the largest in Goa. A seven-storey lamp tower stands before the main entrance to the temple.

Sri Saptakoteshwar Temple

In Naroa, Bicholim, is dedicated to the Kadamba's favourite deity. This temple was moved here from Divar Island and sponsored by the Great Maratha, Shivaji in 1668. The Shiva linga has rope marks as it was used by the Portuguese to draw water.

Tambdi Surla Temple

Beyond Sancordem, Sanguem, is one of goa's oldest temples dating to the 13th century. The small, beautifully carved and perfectly proportioned black basalt temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, is reminiscent of Aihole's temples in neighbouring Karnataka.

Hindu Gods and Goddesses

Vishnu

The chief function of this God is to protect and restore the world. With four arms holding a conch, discus, lotus and Mace. Vishnu is blue skinned and often shaded by a serpent, or resting on its coils, afloat on the ocean. He is often seen alongside his half-man-half-eagle vehicle, Garuda.

Vaishnavites

Often distinguishable by two vertical lines on their forehead, recognize Vishnu as supreme lord and hold that he has manifested himself on earth nine times. These incarnations, or (kuma) boar (Varaha) man - lion (narsingh), dwarf (Varmana), axe-wielding brahmin (Parsuram), Rama, Krishna and Balaram to earth as Kalki, the saviour that will come to restore purity and destroy the wicked, is eagerly awaited.

Krishna

The Most important avatars are Krishna and rama. Krishna is the hero of the Bhagavad Gita, in which he proposes three routes to salvation (moksha): selfless action (Karmayoga), knowledge (jnana) and devotion to God (bhakti) and explains that moksha is the attainable in this life, even without asceticism and reunciation. This appealed to all caste, as it denied the necessity of ritual and officiating Brahmin priests, and evolved into the popular bhakti cult that legitimised love of God as a means to moksha, and found expression in emotional songs of the quest for union with God. Through bhakti, Krishna's role was extended, and he assumed different faces; most popular he is cowherd who seduces and dances with cowgirls (gopis) giving each the illusion that she is his only lover. He is also pictured as a small, chubby, mischievous baby, known for his butter - stealing exploits, who inspires tender motherly love in women. Like Vishnu, Krishna is blue, and often shown dancing and playing the flute. Popular legend has it that Krishna was born in Mathura, today a major pilgrimage centre, and sported with his gopis in nearby Vrindavan He also established a kingdom on the far western coast of Gujarat, at Dwarka.

Rama

Is the Chief Character in the Ramayana born a prince in Ayodhya, he was denied succession to the throne by one of his father's wives and was exiled for fourteen years, together with his wife Sita. The Ramayana details his exploits during these years, and his defeat of the demon King of Lanka, Ravana. When Rama was reinstated as king in Ayodhya, he put Sita through "trial by fire" to prove that she had remained pure while in the clasps of Ravana. Sita passed the trial unharmed and is held up as the paradigm of women - faithful, pure and honest.

Shiva

Shaivism the cult of Shiva was also inspired by bhakti, requiring selfless love from devotees in a quest for divine communion, but Shiva has never been incarnate on earth. He is presented in many different aspects, such as Nataraja Lord of dance, Mahadev, great God, and Maheshvar Divine lore, source of all knowledge. Though he does have several terrible forms, his role extends beyond that of the destroyer, and he is revered as the source of the whole universe. Shiva is often depicted with four or five faces, holding a trident, draped with serpents and bearing a third eye in his forehead. In temples, he is identified with the lingam, or female sexuality. Whether as statue or lingam, Shiva is guarded by his bull-mount, Nandi, and often accompanied by a consort, who also assumes various forms, and is looked upon as the vital energy, Shiva, the empowers him. The erotic exploits were a favorite sculptural between the ninth and twelfth centuries, most unashamedly in carvings on the temples of Khajuraho,, in Madhya Pradesh. While Shiva is the object of popular devotion all over India, as the terrible Bhairav he is also the God of the Shaivite ascetics, who renounce family and caste ties and perform extreme meditative and yogic practices. Many, though not all, smoke ganja, Dhiva's favorite her: all see renunciation and realisation of God as the key to moksha. Some ascetic practices enter the realm of tantrism, in which confrontation with all that's impure, such as alcohol, death and sex, is used to merge the sacred and the profane, and bring about the profound realisation that Shiva is omnipresent.

Ganesh

Chubby and smiling, elephant-headed Ganesh, the first son of Shiva and Parvati, is invoked before every undertaking (except funerals). Seated on a throne or lotus, his image is often placed above temple gateway, in shops and houses; in his four arms he holds a conch, discus, bowl of sweets (or club) and a water lily, and he's always attended by his vehicle, a rat. Credited with writing the Mahabharata as it was dictated by the sage Vyasa, Ganesh is regarded by many as the god of learning, the lord of success, prosperity and peace.

Durga

The fiercest of the female deities, is an aspect of Shiva's more conservative consort, Parvati (also known as Uma), who is remarkable only for her beauty and fidelity. In whatever form, Shiva's consort is shakti, the fundamental energy that spurs him into action. Among Durga's many aspects, each a terrifying goddess eager to slay demons, are Chamunda, Kali and Murktakeshi, but in all her forms she is Mahadevi (Great Goddess). Statues show her with ten arms, holding the head of a spear, and other weapons; she tramples demons underfoot, or dances upon Shiva's body. A garland of skulls drapes her neck, and her tongue hangs from her mouth, dripping with blood - a particularly gruesome sight on pictures of Kali. Durga is much venerated in Bengal; in all her temples, animal sacrifices are a crucial element of worship, to satisfy her thirst for blood and deter her ruthless anger.

Lakshmi

The comely goddess Lakshmi, usually shown sitting or standing on a lotus flower, and sometimes called Padma (lotus is the embodiment of loveliness, grace and charm, and the goddess of prosperity and wealth. Vishnu's consort, she appears in different aspects alongside each of his avatars, the most important are Sita, wife of Rama, and Radha, Krishna's favorite gopi. In many temples she is shown with Vishnu, in the form of Lakshmi Narayan.

Karttikeya

Though some legends claim that his mother was Ganga or even Agni, Karttikeya is popularly believed to be the second son of Shiva and Parvati. Primarily a god of war, he popular among the northern Guptas, who worshiped him as Skanda, and the southern Chaluukyas, for whom he was Subrahmanya. Usually shown with six faces, and standing upright with bow and arrow, Karttikeya is commonly petitioned for those wishing for male offspring.

Hanuman

India's great monkey God, Hanuman features in the Ramayana as Rama's chief aide in the fight against the demon-king of Lanka. Depicted as a giant monkey clasping a mace, Hanuman is the deity of acrobats and wrestlers but is also seen as Rama and Sita's greatest devote, and an author of Sanskrit grammar. As his representatives, monkeys find sanctuary in temples all over India.

Saraswati

The most beautiful Hindu goddess Saraswati the wife of Brahma with her flawless milk-white complexion, sits or stands on a water lily or peacock, playing a lute, sitar or vina. Associated with the river saraswati, mentioned in the rig veda she is seen as a goddess of purification and fertility, but is also revered as the inventor or writing, the queen of eloquence and goddess of music.

Sani

Closely linked with the planet Saturn, Sani is feared for his destructive powers. His image, black statue with protruding blood-red tongue, is often found on street corners; strings of green chilies, and lemon are hung in shops and houses each Saturday (saniwar) to war of his evil influences

Khamdenu

Mention must also be made of the sacred cow Khamdenu, who receives devotion through the respect shown to all cows, left to amble through streets and temples all over India. The origin of the cow's sanctity is uncertain, some myths record all over India. The origin of the cow's sanctity is uncertain, some myths record that Brahma created cows at the same time as Brahmins to provide ghee (clarified butter) for use in priestly ceremonies. To this day cow dung and urine are used to purify houses (in fact the urine keeps insects at bay) and the killing or harming by any Hindu is a grave offence. The cow is often referred to as mother of Gods. And each part of its body is significant; its horns symbolise the Gods, its face the sun and Moon, its shoulders Agni (God of fire) and its legs the Himalaya.