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Cuncolim – The land of festivities, art and the braves

Sanjeev V Sardesai

After our last trip to the deep hinterlands of Sanguem in the previous article, let us now turn back towards the Southern areas of Goa and head over to Cuncolim.

From Curdi, as you drive back along the Rivona and Zambaulim routes, you will meet the main road at Tilamol; and taking a turn towards Quepem town, you need not go to Margao to proceed to Cuncolim. Ask someone in town and you will be directed via a short cut through Ambaulim and Balli. This will cut your driving time by almost 30 minutes.

As we drive along these comfortable motorable pathways, one cannot fail to appreciate the green forests as they race backwards, displaying a wealth of nature’s bounty and if you are lucky, you may glance upon a group of monkeys playing on the roads or a lone Malabar squirrel walking the branches, some peacocks and a few exotic ethnically residing birds.

This short cut route is also interspersed with many a historic temple sites and you can observe many carved Hero and Sati stones; and even the icons of the deities, carved in granite, display some very unique features. The most beautiful edifice along the way, which is in the process of undergoing renovation, with a modern touch is the Sri Shantadurga Ballikarinn Temple, famous for its ‘Shiddiyotsav’ festival, during Shigmo season.

The temple architecture of the Sri Shantadurga Temple has been altered from its original design and is being constructed with open laterite features. Every year, a very unique festival takes place over here. A sturdy, tall wooden pole is erected in front of this temple, affixed into the ground; and a very long wooden cross-beam is attached towards the top of this vertical pole, using it as a ‘fulcrum’. One side of this horizontal pole is longer than the other, leading to this pole tilting downwards. Hence the other end has a thick rope tied to it.

At the auspicious time, a few hierarchical selected people called as ‘gades’ arrive, to the accompaniment of music and one of them is tied – face down, in a horizontal manner, to the end of the longer side of the pole. The pole is held erect by the other attendees, by hanging onto the thick rope, as a counter-weight.

This horizontal pole, with the man tied to one end, is rotated clockwise and anti-clockwise, as per the rituals. And it is only after completion of the rotations that the pole is brought down and the person tied to the vertical end is lowered and untied. It is indeed a very awe-inspiring sight to watch. This temple is just by the side of the Quepem – Balli route.

As you proceed further along this route, you come to the National Highway 17, now NH66, at the Balli village intersection. This intersection is a hub of activity, as all vehicles traversing towards Karwar, to exit Goa from its southern boundary, pass this way. Also two of Goa’s famous religious institutions – the temples of Sri Shantadurga Kunkalkarinn and Sri Shantadurga Faterpekarinn are located just about 2-3 kms from here.

As the names suggest, the temple of Sri Shantadurga Kunkalkarinn, was initially located at Cuncolim, and was shifted here during the period of religious persecution.

As history informs us, it was the benevolence of the presiding deity of this land of Fatorpa (not to be mistaken with Fatorda of Margao) – the Sri Shantadurga Faterpekarinn, that the deity in exile – Sri Shantadurga Kunkalkarinn was allowed to establish her temple in its village precinct. Hence we have two superbly crafted temple complexes, at short walking distances, from each other.

The temple of Sri Shantadurga Kunkalkarinn has now been developed as one of the most beautiful temple complexes in Goa. One aspect which catches the eye of every visitor is the unique ‘Deepstambh’ or the ‘Pillar of Lights’ that stands in from of this majestic temple. It does not have any local architectural features from those in Goa, but is designed on the perspective of the ‘Kirti-Stambh’ or ‘Vijay –Stambh’ (Victory Pillars) of Rajasthan.

As is the true ethos of the Goan lands, this temple opens its doors to any and all the individuals, who have sincere devotion in their hearts, irrespective of religion. The local people of Catholic faith also revere this deity, and seek blessings, rubbing shoulders with their Hindu brethren, since time immemorial. This has led to a very strong and proud community bond between people of all faiths in this village, who participate in each others’ festivities with equal zeal.

There are a couple of festivities held here with gusto and fanfare, for which the entire populace of Goa, make their way to attend. One is the traditional ‘jatras’, of both these temples, held back-to-back. One of the Goan Konkani songs ‘Bomaim vochon yeta go Lila’ has made this temple festivity famous in its lyrics.

The other festivity held in Fatorpa, during the period of Shigmo is the ‘Sontrio Festival’. Literally translated it means the ‘Umbrella Festival’. This festivity does not restrict its celebration to the precinct of the temple but covers the entire route from Fatorpa and extending along its original location at Cuncolim, with the participation of 12 communities that accompanied the idol of Sri Shantadurga of Cuncolim from its original location to its present location in Fatorpa.

In this festivity, the representatives of each of the 12 ‘vangodds’ or the original communities, each hold a ‘religious umbrellas’ as they proceed in procession, dancing to the tunes of the dhol and tasha and cymbals as coloured powder is thrown in celebration. One aspect that a visitor must notice is that the twelve umbrellas, representing the ‘vangodds’ are white, while the one depicting the deity is red in colour.

The most impressive event that one must be present for is the time when the huge and towering, artistically wood crafted ceremonial chariot or ‘rath’ is towed by hundreds of devotees, in the early hours of the festive period around the temple and shrine, while pelting the same with sweet ladoos, while coconuts are broken on its huge wooden wheels. A sea of devotees, numbering to over fifty thousand people, from different parts, not only from Goa but from Maharashtra and Karnataka, can be seen around.

From near here, you can find a route that takes you to the historic forts of Betul and Cabo da Rama as you pass the ancient Dolmens and Cairns Circles.

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