Sanjeev V Sardesai
The opulence of the Goan hinterlands cannot be put into words, but have to be experienced. The scintillating combination of the colours in nature, the voluptuousness in the chiselled carvings in stone and granite, the architectural finesse and harsh terrain boast the making of a great memory!
As detailed in the earlier articles, Rivona or ‘Rishi Van’ of the ancient era is a cauldron of a various archaeological assets. Though a few of these treasures have surfaced to public view, these are but the tip of the iceberg of the legacy of the communities and tribes of the past.
The biggest and the awe inspiring find that took us back to 10,000 BCE-8,500 BCE were the Ponsaimol petro glyphs or the surface rock carvings in Sanguem Taluka, on the banks of River Kushawati. The sheer inquisitiveness shown by Vithal Khandeparkar and Kalidas Sawaikar who harboured a passion for the land brought these priceless carvings to light aided by the able efforts of PP Shirodkar the then Director of Archives, Goa. Many other heritage sites in the region have been destroyed owing to lack of knowledge.
However, Ponsaimol is not the only place endowed with these petro glyphs. Though not as quantitative as the Ponsaimol rock, a village called Kazur also has a similar treasure etched on a single rock.
The name Kazur should not be confused with the famous fruit that Goa is identified with – the ‘Caju’. This is a typical tribal village (till a few years ago) that can be accessed while driving from Zambaulim to Netravali Wild Life Sanctuary. After visiting Ponsaimol you can turn right when you come to the main road and proceed for about 5 to 6 kilometres. You will spot a board put up by the Directorate of Archives sporting an arrow showing you the route to Kazur.
From the road, the petro glyph is about 4 to 5 kilometres away located amidst paddy fields, and quite close to a hamlet of a cluster of houses. The local people call this stone ‘Dudha Fator’ or the ‘Stone of Milk’. This stone is about 1.5 x 1 metre wide and about 3 feet high. The locals informed us that it was initially in an upright position, but has collapsed on its side a few years ago.
We can see a lot of geometric shapes portraying deer and other animals, and a possibility that there may have been more carvings on the other side. The stone began displaying signs of wear and tear over a decade ago, with a fine crack along its top. Over time this crack has developed into a major fissure which will only widen and thus causing the precious rock to split into two.
In the vicinity of this ‘Dudha Fator’ is another structure from the ancient eras. Prior to the construction of this temple there existed a small, tiled roof shrine hosting the icon of the deity, depicted with a sword, sitting on horseback. Today, a bright orange modern day shrine has replaced the earlier structure, and the old charm has thus vanished.
But, you must not miss the eye-catching circular structure, erected on a masonry plinth, in front of this shrine. This structure too has been totally distorted to suit modern tastes. This is a classic structure called the ‘maand’ that was considered the most important part of the shrine. Previously the maand played a major role in all village or tribal festivities.
The Kazur maand design displays a 15-20 feet round, masonry structure with a beautiful seating prepared with big, flat round pebble like stones, affixed as back-rests. There is a big round boulder placed in the centre of this circular seating, and the roof was earlier covered with coconut fronds, today this roofing is covered with metal sheets.
The maand was also used as a village tribunal where disputes amongst the villagers or the tribes were discussed, argued and a solution found. These deliberations were held in the respectful presence of the village elders or ‘budhvants’, who would listen to either sides and offer their judgement. The locals further added that when a solution was arrived at, the conflicting individuals or tribes would confirm approving and accepting this solution, by taking a vow in front of the Sri Paik Dev deity and the matter was thus put to rest.
From Kazur, you can proceed towards to another amazing heritage site the Budbudyanche Talle or the ‘Bubbling Lake’ of Netravali. This is a sacred temple lake of the Sri Gopinath Temple. At this fascinating lake one can see continuous air bubbles rising up to the surface, from its bed. This phenomenon though seen at a few other places in Goa finds prominence here due to its easy accessibility. This temple too shares the fate as the Paik Dev temple, the old structure is lost to a modern edifice. The earlier icon of Lord Gopinath has been shifted to the Goa State Museum and a new idol installed in the temple.
This fresh water lake is about 30 metres long and 15 metres wide and about 6 metres deep. The thriving small fish reveal that the air bubbles are non-poisonous. Do spend some time sitting on the laterite stone steps, soaking your feet in the water and get a complimentary ‘fish pedicure’.
This Netravali trail can wind up at a beautiful spice plantation nearby that excels in serving a delicious lunch and a plantation tour. This is a good opportunity to teach your children the source of the spices in their food.
Our history is slipping away from our hands in our quest to upgrade and modernise our surroundings; we forget that our heritage sets us apart from the rest of the world. Goa has beautiful and amazing heritage sites in the hinterlands and they are calling out to you!
Note: Two small slips in previous articles (a) 9th June 2018 – Sri Damodar is the manifestation of Shiva & not Krishna as mentioned; (b) 23rd June 2018 – The two individuals who spotted the Ponsaimol carvings were Vithal Khandeparkar & Kalidas Sawaikar & took Dr. P. P. Shirodkar, the then Director of Archives and it was not (late) Anant Dhume. Mistakes regretted.