The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, September 14, 2003

Worshipping Durga in Goa
Ervell E. Menezes

Shree Mangesh Temple, Goa
Shree Mangesh Temple, Goa

IF Goa has been given the epithet of the "Rome of the East" because of its imposing churches, old Goa is also known for its temples, especially Shantadurga and Mangeesh in the Ponda district of North Goa. Many of the Hindus who left Goa during the Portuguese Inquisition and now live in neighbouring states are known to return to these family deities at least once a year.

But if the Portuguese imposed religion on its subjects and put up crosses and chapels in every nook and cranny, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is doing the same with its temples varying in size and stature. It is the commercialisation and politicisation of religion which has gone on for centuries. But religion apart, these temples have a historic importance and one has to experience the solace and calm that comes from visiting these holy places (temples or churches). There is an aura of peace and solitude and is probably the reason why tourists flock to these sites.

Shree Shantadurga in Kavlem and Shree Mangeesh in Mangeshi are believed to be the most revered patron deities of the Gaur Saraswat Brahmin (GSB) community. There are a number of theories about the original home of the GSBs but they say the word Saraswat is derived from the river Saraswati, an ancient river whose origin is in the Himalayas and which also finds mention in the Rig Veda.


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Shree Shantadurga is one of the forms of goddess Adimaya Durga. It is believed that once there was a fierce war between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu which distressed the entire world. So Lord Brahmadeva prayed and implored Adimaya Durga to intervene and stop the war. The goddess held Lord Shiva by one hand and Lord Vishnu by the other hand and brought about a reconciliation between them.

Shree Shantadurga Temple attracts devotees from all over
Shree Shantadurga Temple attracts devotees from all over

This form of the goddess Adimaya Durga is known as Shree Shantadurga. That is why the garbhagriha (sanctum sanctorum) of the temple has a beautiful murti (idol) of Shree Shantadurga with four hands flanked by two small six-inch idols of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.

Shree Shantadurga Devi is both the wife and ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. Hence it is imperative to worship them together. The original murti (idol) of the Devi was stolen by Pathans from the temple in 1898 and the new murti sculpted by Laxman Krishnaji Gaitonde, was installed on March 19, 1902. It remains there to date. The original location of Shree Shantadurga Devi was at Keloshi but from there it was shifted to Kavlem during the Portuguese rule.

The history of Shree Mangireesh or Shree Mangesh dates back to the Puranas. The Sahyadri Khandor Skanda Purana says that Parshuram invited 66 Panch Gaud Brahmins belonging to 10 gotras from Trihotra (said to be Tirhut in Bihar) to Kushasthal (known as Kutthal, Goa) for performing the Yajnya after wiping out the Kshatriyas. Each group had brought with it the idol they used to worship and installed them in the village donated to them by Parshuram, out of the land reclaimed from the sea.

Those belonging to the Vatsa and Kaundinya gotra received Kushasthal as gram daan and installed the family deity Shree Mangesh in the village. The Purana explains that Brahma had established the shivalinga at Monghir in Trihotra and it became known as Mangireesh or Mangeesh. There are other details of how the shivalingas of these temples, especially Shantadurga, were replaced and immersed in the sea and other details linked with the history of these two temples.

They were in Goa much before the advent of the Portuguese and had their regular stream of devotees. The stream of devotees was interrupted during the Portuguese occupation but was restored with renewed vigour after the Liberation. Today, streams of tourists visit these two temples and appreciate both its architecture maintenance and feeling of peace and tranquillity that one experiences on such visits. But there are also regular devotees who come from far and wide to offer prayers and sacrifice to these revered deities.