Sanjeev V Sardesai
For a first time visitor, the image of Goa portrays a glittering LED illuminated picture of the beachside shacks and nightlife or the merrymaking, and a laid back lifestyle of its residents.
The present day annual flux of tourists into Goa is attributed to modern avenues of entertainment and nightlife and to a vast extent, the availability of accessible alcohol in an ambience of warm people, the hot sun and the glittering sands.
This image is further promoted by other visitors, along with the portrayal of ‘Goans’ in Bollywood of being fun loving and alcohol guzzling individuals- which has showed Goan in bad light, thus, portraying a very lopsided image of our land.
Goa can be effectively called, ‘God’s own abode’. This land has been blessed with bountiful nature and interspersed with extremely unique natural facets; some unrecognised by its populace and refrained from being promoted much.
Goa is not just about the beaches, it has some of the most amazing heritage facets, which can be effectively brought on to the tourism platform that can garner revenues. However, the bells of caution need to be heard in advance, before any steps are taken to open the Pandora’s Box – that is Goan hinterlands! Greed being one major factor, takes precedence when preservation of the local – tangible and intangible – heritage comes into focus. The prime reason is that Goans have never bonded with their own land and its heritage.
Though Goa finds a place on most Indian as well as foreign arrival travel itineraries, the infrastructural facilities such as proper roads and parking spaces, availability of emergency services, price controls on travel and residential amenities, availability of authentic local Goan cuisine – vegetarian and non-vegetarian has been found to be deliberately lacking.
In such circumstances, opening the huge Goan arena of hinterland tourism without proper safeguards, policies and without empowering and educating the local populace, it would be a catastrophe to allow visitors to the huge assets of natural and cultural importance of this land.
Quepem is one of the main gateways to access this rich heritage dating back to 10,000 BCE – 8,500 BCE, as well as the caves, temples, spice plantations, ruins and some temples in ancient architecture. The most striking aspect of a visit to these areas is the lush greenery. These areas of Goa can now be effectively called ‘Land of a thousand greens’ as it displays shades of green.
From Quepem, when you head north towards Tilamol, just about a kilometre away, you are on the way to Zambaulim. This village was made famous when the icon of Lord Damodar, the presiding deity of the Margao, was shifted here from Margao many centuries ago due to religious persecution.
The Sri Damodar deity is a representation of Lord Krishna as reported in an interesting article ‘Flights of Gods’ by Mohan Pai. The deity has a majestic edifice which attracts thousands of devotees throughout the year, even from the neighbouring states too. The most sought after event here is the famous ‘Gulalotsav’, during the Shigmo season. ‘Gulal’ is the bright pink powder that is smeared by the revellers on the day of Holi.
A day prior to the Gulalotsav the icon of Sri Damodar is taken in a beautifully decorated palanquin to the next door temple of Sri Ramnath and remains here till the next afternoon. Sri Ramnath had probably been displaced here prior to the arrival of Sri Damodar. It is heard locally that these deities seeking a place to reside in exile were given the permission to reside in the village of Zambaulim by Sri Vimleshwar of Rivona under whose jurisdiction these lands lie.
On the next afternoon, the day of the Gulalotsav, in the presence of a huge crowd in the open courtyard and the temple precinct, the palanquin starts its journey back to the temple. The Gulal is sprinkled first on the two deities and then the gathered devotees smear it on each other.
In a few moments, the entire environment surrounding the temple precincts is tinted with a hue of pink. We can see the joy of playing with colours amongst the young as well as the old. However, there is a very unique aspect practiced here. While the male attendees greet each other with colour, no female present here is touched with this colour.
After the palanquin enters the inner precinct, it is taken in a procession in the outer circumambulatory. After the procession, the devotees follow another tradition- fully coated with pink colour they head straight to the River Kushawati which flows just behind the massive temple for the ritual bath at a point called Paanto.
Once upon a time the waters of this river were fast flowing and care had to be taken by children and amateur swimmers for their safety. After the deity reaches inside the temple and the ritual bath is over, folk theatres were held in the evening.
Through the remainder of the year, there seems to be a very placid tranquillity around this Sri Damodar Temple. Zambaulim echoes the true ethos of a traditional Goan village. The temple is just about 100 meters away from the main road; and it is this main route that leads you into the verdant hinterlands of Goa and also the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary.
In the coming articles, let us learn about various other interesting features that are lying low, under the green carpet of nature!