Goa is primarily known for her beaches. But there are some revered temples and churches too in Goa. During our recent visit to Goa, we visited Shri Mangesh temple in village Mangeshi, around 21 km from the state capital, Panjim.
The present location of the temple is not the original place of the Mangesh temple. This temple had its origins in Kushasthali (presently known as, Cortalim), a village in Murmugao which fell to the invading Portuguese in 1543. In the year 1560, when the Portuguese started Christian conversions in Mormugao taluka, the Saraswats moved the Mangesh Linga from the original site at the Cortalim on the banks of river Aghanashini (Zuari) to its present location at Mangeshi in Priol village of Atrunja Taluka, which was then ruled by the Hindu kings of Sonde of Ponda, to be more secure. Ponda was also known as “Antruz Mahal” because of the presence of numerous famous temples and rich cultural heritage. It was ruled by the Sonde Rajas under the Vijayanagara Empire and the Bijapur Sultanate. In the 16th century, due to the absence of the Portuguese, Ponda was a safe haven for Hindus fleeing persecution by Jesuits and the Portuguese. In 1675, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj seized Ponda from the Bijapur Sultanate. It remained part of the Maratha Empire until 1763.
Since the time of the shifting, the temple has been rebuilt and renovated twice during the reign of the Marathas and again in the year 1890. The final renovation occurred in the year 1973 when a golden kalasha (holy vessel) was fitted atop the tallest dome of the temple. The original site was a very simple structure, and the current structure was only built under Maratha rule, some 150 years after it had been moved. The Peshwas donated the village of Mangeshi to the temple in 1739 on the suggestion of their Sardar, Shri Ramchandra Malhar Sukhtankar, who was a staunch follower of Shri Mangesh. Just a few years after it was built, this area too fell into Portuguese hands in 1763, but by then the Portuguese had become quite tolerant of other religions, and so, this structure remained untouched.
The 450-year-old Shri Mangesh temple dedicated to Lord Shiva stands out with its simple and yet exquisitely elegant structure. The temple architecture consists of several domes, pilasters, and balustrades. There are a prominent Nandi Bull and a beautiful seven-story deepstambha (lamp tower), which stands inside the temple complex. The temple also has a magnificent water tank, which is believed to be the oldest part of the temple.
There is also a small sixteenth-century shrine of Kalbhairav outside in the temple compound.
Saraswats claim their origins from the Punjab region which was where the mythical Saraswati river (which probably dried up) existed. When the river Saraswati began to dry up they migrated towards greener pastures like Kashmir, UP, Rajasthan. Some of their branches migrated eastwards viz towards Bengal (which was then known as Gauda). Hence they came to be known as Gauda Saraswat Brahmins. Later due to Islamic persecution, they again shifted location towards Bihar and eventually moved southwards, towards Goa. However, due to Portuguese persecution, some of the Saraswats again shifted base to adjoining regions of coastal Karnataka and Maharashtra. Mangeshi is essentially a temple that hosts the idol of the kuladevataa of a section of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins.
The Sahyadri Khand of Skand Purana says that Lord Parshuram invited 66 Panch Gaud Brahmins belonging to 10 gotras from Trihotra (believed to be Tirhut in Bihar) to Kushasthal for performing the yajnya after wiping out the Kshatriyas. Each group had brought with it the idol they used to worship (kuladevataa) and installed it in the villages donated by Lord Parshuram out of the land reclaimed by him from the sea.
Those belonging to the Vatsa and Kaundinya gotra received Kushasthal as gram dan and installed in the village their kuladevataa, Shri Mangireesh. The Purana explains that the Lord Brahma had established the Shivalinga at Munger in Trihotra and it came to be known as Mangireesh or Mangesh.
According to yet another story, during a game of dice Lord Shiva lost everything he possessed to his wife Parvati, even his home on Mount Kailasa in the Himalayas. He left his abode and wandered to South India and reached Goa. He decided to stay there and meditate. His wife Parvati, heartbroken and lonely, came searching for him. While moving through the dense forests in Goa she encountered a tiger. In fright, she shouted: Trahi Mam Girisha, which means ‘Oh Lord of the mountain protect me’. This is how the village where the temple is situated came to be eventually known as Mangeshi, an abbreviation of Mam-Girisha.
When the seven-storied tall deepastambha is lighted with lamps in the evening, the view must be simply majestic. We couldn’t witness the majestic grandeur as we visited the temple in the middle of the day.
Walking over the stones on the courtyard under the scorching Sun was like walking on burning coal. There were two narrow carpet strips for pilgrims to save their feet from being scorched.
There are many shacks selling green coconuts, cucumbers, mangoes, papaya, etc outside the temple complex. We had a very refreshing, sweet water of green coconut, cucumbers, and mangoes. It was already lunchtime so we visited a nearby roadside restaurant for a Goan Thali in our lunch, which included mackerel and shrimps. Of course, no meal in Goa is complete without beer, especially in such a hot and sultry afternoon.
Shri Mangesh temple is an amalgamation of rich heritage and architectural beauty. Surrounded by beautiful coconut trees, jackfruit and mango groves and the paddy fields, nature at its best which makes it more appealing. Experiencing the spectacular piece of art and the grandeur of worship is a must if you visit Goa.