Pic: Mangeshi temple
I and my family had decided to visit Mangesh Mahalaxmi temples.
These are the temples of our Kuladaivats (family deities). We had planned to perform our annual ‘Abhisheks’ (an Hindu ritual where one pours milk and other offerings on the idol of the deity, along with pooja and chanting of sacred hymns) there.Our Kuladaivats (family deities) are located in Goa.
Goa is not just a place to see scenic beaches but also beautiful temples.
Both the Mangeshi and Mahalaxmi temples lie near Taluka place of Phonda (old name Atrunja).
We had started our journey from Belgaum in the wee ours of morning. We took the Khanapur road and passed through the Anmod Ghat to reach Ponda. The distance is around 110 kms and takes about three hours to reach by car. We intended to cover both the temples in one day.
The Goa climate was very hot and humid in the summer time.
The ideal time to visit Goa would be the winters and in the monsoons if you want to enjoy Goa’s lush greenery amidst the downpouring showers.
We had Mangeshi first on our itenary.
Mangeshi is a very old temple belonging to the 18th century. The Shiva (Mangesh) idol had its origins in Kushasthali (later renamed by the Portuguese as Cortalim a village in Salcete, now known as Kutthal). Salcete was captured by the Portuguese in 1543. Sometime during the Portuguese inquisition days in 1557/67, the temple was vandalised by the Portuguese soldiers. But anticipating an Portuguese attack, the idol had already been shifted to a nearby village that came to be known as Mangeshi. During the days of the Portuguese persecution, any construction or repairs of temples was banned. Hence initially, the idol had a very humble dwelling. Later Marathas captured large tracts of Goa. In 1739, the Peshwas donated village Mangeshi for the relocation of temple, at the request of their Sardar, Ramchandra Malhar Sukhtankar who was an ardent devotee of Lord Mangesh. Thus started the initial construction of a spacious temple in the village. In 1764, Mangeshi too came under the Portuguese rule. By this time the religious zeal of the Portuguese had reduced considerably and the temple was allowed to function without further hinderance. In 1866, a progressive religious legislation came into being in Goa, whereby Hindus were assured that their religious rights would be protected under the Portuguese government of Goa. In 1885, a plan was conceived for the renovation of the Mangeshi temple. Large funds from devotees poured in and the construction commenced in 1885 and reached its completion in 1888.
Pic: Mangesh idol, courtesy shrimangesh.org
There is an interesting legend behind the Mangeshi (also known as Mangareesh) temple. According to the Sahyadri Khanda of Skanda Purana,the Ascetic warrior Parshurama (said to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) had sworn to wipe off the Kshatriyas from the face of the earth, after an Kshatriya king had murdered Parshurams father, Sage Jamadagni. The furious Parshuram’s sacred axe (gifted by lord Shiva) then severed several Kshatriya heads before his anger subsided. Afterwards Parshurama invited sixty six Pancha Gaud (Bengal) Brahmanas from ten Gotras of Trihotra pura (believed to be Tirhut in present day Bihar) to perform a ‘Yagna’ or the sacred ritual fire. Each group had brought with them their own idol [Shri Magirish Mahadev (popularly known as Shri Mangesh), Shri Mahalakshmi, Shri Mahalasa, Shri Shantadurga, Shri Nagesh and Shri Saptakotishwar],for worship and installed it in the villages, alloted by Sage Parshuram (supposedly out of the land reclaimed by him from the sea).
Those belonging to the Vatsa and Kaundinya gotra received Kushasthal as gram daan (village as a gift) and installed in the village as their family deity, Shri Mangireesh. The Purana has also stated that Lord Bramha himself had earlier installed the Shivalinga at Monghir in Trihotra and thereby it came to be known as Mangireesh or Mangeesh and later Mangesh.
Note: Gaud Saraswat brahmins are today found mainly in the coastal regions of south-western India. They were initially the Aryan inhabitants of Saraswati river region ( Afghanistan,Pakistan,Punjab,Kashmir). But after the Saraswati river started drying, they took to eating fish, which is unusual for other brahmins. Later these tribes migrated south to present day UP,Rajasthan and some eastwards to Bihar,Bengal (Ganga bassin). Bengal then was known as Gauda, so the brahmins of Saraswati river acquired the name Gauda Saraswat Brahmins. Later these tribes in the east migrated down south and settled in the coastal regions of Goa,Uttar Karnataka,Mumbai etc.
Famous exponents of music like the Mangeshkars, Jitendra Abhisheki etc hail from this village, Mangeshi.
The temple since the eighteenth century has undergone a gradual metamorphosis.
Today what one sees is a spacious temple structure located on a sprawling premise. The temple premises are clean and well maintained.
There is a large artificial pond or houdh/ kunda adjoining the temple premises, where one can take his holy bath before commencement of a ritual.In the centre of the pond lies a white coloured stepped pyramid with sculptures of deities carved on all its sides.The entrance to the houdh is from the temple premises.
After climbing a few stairs , one enters the main temple premise which is proteced by huge walls.The main doors of the temple are closed in the night time. Inside the temple walls, one can see an open courtyard in which lie the main temple facing a tall Deepasthamba (pillar of lights). The surrounding area has been converted into shops selling Goan delicasies and artefacts,the temple office, a small restaurant, guest rooms for the tourists and the staying accomodations for the Pujaris (priests) and their families. Alongside the temple, we also find some traditional Tulsi Vrindavans (which hold the sacred Tulsi plant).
The main temple is a blend of modern and traditional temple architecture with changes and renovations made over a period of time. The main entrance to the sabha mandapa is decorated with engraved silver foils and some old silver and copper coins nailed in the doorstep.
The sabha mandapa is huge with traditional pillars and some antique chandeliers hanging from the ceiling.
From the sabha mandapa , one can enter the ‘antarala’ or the vestibule where we see the Nandi maharaj idol made from black stone laced with brass and silver. The inner room is the garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum, which houses a beautiful idol of Lord Mangesh adorned with silver,gold and jewels donated by the devotees.
The Shikara is built in the traditional Nagara style and has a pot shaped finial.
We also saw a huge wooden Ratha (chariot)placed alongside, which is used to take around the idols in a religious procession.
After experiencing the splendour of this beautiful temple and the completion of the Abhisheka, we had our lunch at the nearby restaurant.
We then proceeded towards the Mahalaxmi temple. It is located around four kilometer from Ponda in the village of Bandora.
The entrance is through an huge arch which bears the name Shri Sansthan Mahalaxmi.
Godess Mahalaxmi was also the main deity of the Shilhara and the Kadamba kings of eighth and the tenth century. The principal Mahalxmi temple is situated in Kolhapur (Maharashtra state), around 150 kms from Goa.
There are two Mahalaxmi idols, one made from black granite and the other one which is smaller is size is made from the Panchadhatus (five metals). The Panchadhatu idol was transferred in around 1557 (along with idols of other deities, which were later installed in different temples) from Kolva,Salcete (where there was another Mahalaxmi temple, as per an inscription dated 1413 AD) to its existing location Bhandivade (old name Bhanda vatika) by two brahmins by the names Sapta and Phato, who feared the destruction of the idol by the Portuguese soldiers.The Bhandivade temple finds mention even in the Puranas during the time of Sage Parshurama.
The temple has a modern structure. The façade is an beautifully decorated arch and entrance with sculptures of two elephants around the outer spire. Facing the façade is a black stone deepasthamba next to another deepasthamba bearing the temple colour. Alongside is a Tulsi Vrindavan.
The sabha mandapa is columned with some arched pillars decorated with motifs and the aisle leads one to the antarala and the garbhagriha. The outer walls of which are decorated by a intricately engraved silver foil. Inside the garbhagriha is an exquisite idol of Godess Mahalaxmi. Its unique feature is that it wears the Linga on its head.
The sabha mandapa has beautiful antique chandeliers attached to the ceiling.Its walls are adorned with paintings engravings of Lord Hanumana (monkey God), Lord Garuda (eagle God) and Lord Ganesha (elephant God).The inner walls are covered with paintings, engravings depicting stories of the puranas (ancient brahmin holy texts).
By late afternoon, we finished our rituals at the temple .
We then entertained ourselves to some refreshments at a small hotel outside the temple premises and headed back for Belgaum, enjoying on the way back the scenic beauty of the coconut and rice fields all around the Goa roads.
Text and Photographs (besides the ones with the mentioned credits) by Abhijit Rajadhyaksha