When DS Pai from Pune traveled to Goa four years ago for an official conference, he took some time early one morning to visit his family deity Kuldev, the Ramnathi temple in Bandivade.
“My colleagues were interested and came with me. They said they didn’t even know there was such a beautiful temple,” said Pai, director of the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD), Long-Range Forecast. IANS on the phone.
Pai’s family emigrated to Kerala in the 17th century when the Portuguese recaptured Goa. Like him, several others have chosen to make Kerala their home, but nearly all have retained ties to the family deity even now. Travel has increased since being posted to Pune, he said.
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Pai is not the only example. Not all visitors to this sunny state go to the beach first, but most of them are actually temple enthusiasts. In fact, even for the majority of tourists visiting Goa, the equation is simple: “Goa Sun, Sand & Sea”, more than a dozen major temples and several smaller ones draw regular and annual crowds which contribute significantly. to Goa’s economy.
According to India Tourism Statistics 2019, a publication of the Indian government, in 2017 Goa had 68 95 234 domestic tourists and 8 42 220 foreign tourists while in 2018 the respective number of 70 81 559 and 9 33 841 showed a growth rate by 2.70 percent and 10.88 percent, respectively. Of course, the pandemic has been a game-changer and the tourism industry has been hit the hardest. In 2021, even when the domestic sector has slowly recovered, the number of foreign tourists does not measure up.
But even before the pandemic and the lockdown, tourists in general were unaware of the rich tradition of several Goa temples for centuries, and it would only be niche tourists who opted for it or those like Pai, who came for their deities.
Among the fifty or so main temples in Goa, a dozen stand out for various reasons, with their distinct architecture being one of them. Brick and mortar structures, most of these large temples are 400 years old, have unique, sloping tiled roofs and almost all have a ‘deep maal’, a decorative vertical pillar with niches for storing earthen oil lamps . Each temple must have a reservoir / body of water next to it.
Mangeshi Temple is among the most famous, but there are dozens more. Shantadurga in Kawale, Mhalsa Narayani in Mhardol, Lakshmi Nrusinha in Veling, Ramnathi and Mahalakshmi in Bandivade, Kamakashi in Shiroda, Santeri in Kelshi are among the largest temples. Many of them are listed on the official website of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC).
And then there are temples with an even older vintage. The 1000 year old Mahadev temple in Tambdi Surla near the border with Maharashtra and the approximately 700 year old Rudreshwar temple in Harale are the stone temples. When the Portuguese conquered Goa, devotees of several temples bordering the coastal areas took the deities either deep into the forests and hilly landscape of the territory of Goa, which now includes the area between Panaji and Fonda, or further towards the Karnataka coast.
Along with him, many members of the community – all speakers of Konkani – also migrated to almost the entire coastal belt from southern Gujarat to Kerala. The Konkani speaking Brahmins Gaud Saraswat (GSB), dozens of Marathi speaking families from all over Maharashtra and of course, many Goa itself, all have their family deities in Goa.
Shanta Durga in Amone is the family deity, the Kuldevi, from the family of senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, originally from Madagascar. Not much in religious rituals – “God resides in my heart” – Sardesai said, “but I regularly visit Goa for family functions”.
Sardesai agreed that foreigners do not know about the rich traditions of the temple. “Goa lives by the river, not by the sea. Once you start to experience the river, you experience the real Goa. There is nothing wrong with promoting beaches but there is more to Goa than beaches, ”he said.
Over the decades, especially after independence, the diaspora has spread to other states and even abroad. Many families make it a point to visit their family deities every year, many visit when there is a special occasion such as a family wedding and the like.
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“The temples of Goa are unique in that the deities are identified not only as Brahminics, but also as belonging to all types of communities. The temples had their own land, they supported the economy of the region around them.” , said Padmashree. Vinayak Khedikar, author who documented the folk arts and literary traditions of Goa.
The families and villages of “thal”, a local term meaning the watershed of this temple, depended on the temple as a central institution and in turn, they donated to the temple. “Each of the temples is an independent Sansthan institution. Until a few decades ago, anyone in the thal who married received a temple sari and dhoti. In addition, some minor repairs or such tasks to be done on the people were taken care of near the temple, ”said Khedikar, author of a book Goa Dev Mandal: Unnayan aani Sthalantar (Goa temple tips: upgrade and migration).
“With the exception of law and order, temples ruled over their respective thal even in Portuguese times. There was a Mahajan system – which led to a Mahajani law at the end of the 18th century – which was responsible for the upkeep of temples and all of its real estate. There were separate families identified for the daily puja. Much of it changed later, ”he said. But he did not pledge the popularity of these temples. Sardesai said, “The temples should be promoted by the local community.”
“Over the past 6-8 years, a lot of people who read my blogs plan a day or two for temples and notify me or contact me or ask me for information. Sometimes they also post a discussion thread on the networks. social and tag me to say, it was because of my blog, ”said Anuradha Goyal, author, columnist and blogger based in Goa and who has written extensively on the temples of Goa.
There has also been no active promotion of temples by the state. In the past 10 years, the BJP government has not had any promotional programs to popularize the temples to domestic tourists. However, given the political mileage of the “pilgrimage” – the Delhi Chief Minister announced trains to the pilgrimage sites from Goa; West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Trinamool Congress represented the temple, mosque and church; Congress seems to have slowly woken up on occasion.
Former Deputy Chief Minister Ramakant Khalap agreed that temple tourism has been overlooked and also recognized the contribution of temples to Goa’s economy. “Prior to the Assembly elections, we are preparing the Congress manifesto. It will highlight the promotion of dev ghar (temple) and the planning of the celebration of Goa as ‘God’s own abode’,” Khalap said.
However, his idea of places of worship was not limited to Hindu temples. “We plan to promote all places of worship. The Puranas tell us that it is a place reclaimed by Parshuram. Parvati did her penance here, we have Shanta Durga. here the Muslims were here and the last were the Portuguese. Goa is a good example of how all religions have a syncretic existence. Temples, churches and mosques, we all have them, ”he said.
“Our manifesto will demand to have designated state festivals for each religion,” Khalap added.
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