The jatra of Sri Manguesh Temple

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Sanjeev V Sardesai

Sri Manguesh Temple is one of the most famous temples of Goa and a center of pilgrimage for Hindu devotees. In fact, the prominence of this deity has led to the entire land being identified as Mangeshi. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple has a beautiful history and heritage and is presently celebrating its annual ‘jatra’ festivities. 

Located in Priol village of Ponda Taluka, it has a majestic access pathway with a huge ‘dwar’ (entry arched door) when entering the temple from the earlier highway. The almost 300 metres long, straight, well soled pathway is flanked on either side, by an artistic masonry balustrade, which accompanies the visitors from the gate entrance to the temple. The new temple complex that we see today was completed in 1973, and inaugurated on Magh Purnima. The golden ‘kalash’ (holy pot) was also installed on February 17, 1973.

As you approach the temple, you are greeted by a huge expanse of water, encompassed in an architecturally beautiful masonry pond, accessed by stairways, with pavement on all sides and a ‘tulsi vrindavan’ in the center. This is the temple lake which is used for ritualistic events such as ‘Sangodd’, where the deity is taken around the temple lake kept on a pair of decorated canoes, tied together.

Next, you come across the cloud grazing ‘deepstambh’. This ‘deepstambh’ or pillar for lights is considered the most prominent and tallest among all the Goa temples. During the earlier period, when there was no electricity, all temple celebrations, usually held in the evenings or night, were hosted under illumination of the oil lamps kept in these niches.

This deity was originally located at Kushasthalli (present day Cortalim), on the banks of River Zuari. During the early Portuguese era, among many other temples in the vicinity, the Sri Manguesh Temple fell prey to religious atrocities and persecutions. As per the writings of Anant Shenvi Dhume, the temple was demolished around 1540 AD, under orders from Frei Miguel Vaz, by the forces of Captain Rodrigues stationed at the Rachol Fort.

It was then that the temple devotees, fearing desecration of the ‘ling’ decided to shift the icon to the safer lands of Ponda, then under the Adilshahi reign. To do this, they needed a place to first hide it and then wait for the opportune time, to take it to the banks of the river, for the crossing, without the knowledge of the Portuguese forces.

But no house along the way, from the original temple to the river bank, was ready to shelter the icon. However, at the base of the Verna Hillock, there existed a small Gavda community (ethnic tribe of Goa) who agreed that “till the threat of the forces passed” the devotees could hide the ‘ling’ in their dung pit or ‘gairi’.

Later as it was shifted to Priol, it is said that the ‘ling’ was carried during night time in a hammock type palanquin supported by a long pole, and carried over shoulders of strong men. It is also said that once on the other side, this contingent travelled in the dark night without stop, through bushes till they reached the destined spot. When they reached there, the ‘pujari’ or the Hindu priest was carrying out the ritual of the ‘Tulsi Vivah’ (Tulshiche lagna). The ling was rested on a plinth nearby and after the pujari completed his ritual, he then carried out the ritual of establishing the Shiv Ling at the present temple spot. However, the ‘Vardhapandin’ or the day of the new ‘Pindika’ is celebrated in the Hindu calendar month of Falgun Shukla Dwitiya, towards the mid or end February (February 25, 2020 this year)

After this day, two traditions were set in the Sri Manguesh Temple, and are still carried out till date. On the ‘Tulsi Lagna’ day, the festival idol (‘utsav murti’) is carried out ceremoniously to the spot where the ‘ling’ was first brought and rested. The procession returns back to the temple only after the ‘pujari’ completes the ‘Tulshiche Lagna’. This may be done as a remembrance of the day of arrival of the ‘ling’.

Also, there is a ritual wherein the devotee takes ‘prasad’ (an oracle of seeking blessing and permission of the deity to carry out any errand), by sticking petals, buds or leaf pieces to the idol or to a specified temple spot, and the ‘pujari’ asking the question on behalf of the devotee. The falling of the petals is interpreted as a positive or negative sign. This is carried out in a queue system of ‘first come first served’ basis and the gavdas from Kushasthalli are given first preference, possibly to acknowledge the kindhearted deed of their ancestors.

The temple festival or ‘jatra’ of this temple is a grand affair and is celebrated from the Hindu lunar calendar month of Magh Shukla Saptami (seventh day of the lunar bright half of Magh month) till Magh Purnima (full moon day of Magh). These dates usually coincide towards the end of January or beginning of March, of the Gregorian calendar.

During this time, the entire temple precinct is gaily decorated. Thousands visit the temple in these nine days. While religious rituals are held during the day, the major attraction is during the nights, from 10 p.m. onwards, when processions are taking out on various themed temple palanquins, and chariots. There is also a sojourn in the temple lake in a ‘sangodd’.

On the first night the procession is in a ‘vijay rath’ (horse chariot); day two is the ‘hatti ambari’ (elephant chariot); on the third day the deity is taken out on a silver palanquin; on the fourth day the deity is carried in a ‘rath’ held on shoulders; on day five, the ‘nandi vahan’ (bull shape) is used for the procession. On the sixth day, the deity is taken for a ‘cruise’ in the temple lake on the ‘sangodd’. Day seven sees the deity in a ‘sukhasanotsav’ and on day eight the deity is taken in procession in a smaller ‘rath’

or chariot.

The festivities culminate on the ninth day, when the huge, towering temple chariot or ‘maha rath’ is used to take the deity around the temple, pulled by thick ropes by devotees. This takes place at 5 a.m. This year the ‘maha rath’ is scheduled to be held at 5 a.m. on February 9, 2020

(Sunday – tomorrow).