Sanjeev V Sardesai
Whenever one travels in Goa, they will see temples, churches, mosques and religious edifices of many other faiths sharing their premises at short distances from each other.
One such religious institution having fascinating legends is the Sri Navadurga Temple of Madkai. This temple, dedicated to the fearsome female deity Mahishasura mardini (Destroyer of the demon Mahishasur) is presently situated in a picturesque village of Madkai (also known as Marcaim) in Ponda Taluka, about 28 kilometres from Panaji. The deity, which is about four feet in height, is also considered as a form of Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. During the period of religious persecution, about 500 years ago, the deity, along with the other subsidiary deities, are said to have been re-located from the village of Ganvshi (or Gavashi or Gancim) to a location called Talli-Khol in Parampaiwada in Madkai Village. The idol of Sri Navadurga was later shifted to the present location. A mention is found that in the year 1603 AD, this temple underwent renovations. Along with this deity were shifted the affiliate deities such as Ganapati, Betal, Ravalnath, Narayan Dev and the Gram Purush or ‘village deity’. We can see some unique animal finials on the temple roof, which are a matter of mystery.
Besides this temple dedicated to Sri Navadurga at Madkai, there are other temples dedicated to this deity in Kundai (Ponda), Borim (Ponda), Pale (Bicholim), Surla (Bicholim) and Painguinnim (Canacona) in Goa and at Reddi and Vengurla in Maharashtra.
This deity is revered by the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins as well as the Daivadnya Brahmins, as their family deity. ‘Navadurga’ literally translates to ‘a singular form of nine Durgas’. This temple celebrates its festival in November or in the Hindu calendar month of Karthik. Thousands of devotees, not only from Goa but also from neighboring states, throng the temple to seek divine blessings on these two days. This temple, facing the West, has a very majestic edifice, which is accessible by climbing a set of many steps and entering a stately gateway called as Maha-Dwar. There are two interesting legends related to this deity which are fascinating.
If one notices the iconic idol of Sri Navadurga in the sanctum sanctorum, it is seen that the head of the idol is visibly tilted to its left. Legend goes that a rich person was undergoing very difficult times in business and was at the end of his wits. He was advised that he should visit Sri Navdurga Temple and pray to her and make an offering. Being a devout person, he prayed with sincerity and made an offering that if his prayer was answered, he would offer `1000 worth of flowers to the deity. In the times that followed, his business took a sound footing and he became prosperous.
Being reminded about his vow to offer flowers, he decided to purchase the flowers near the temple and offer the same to the deity in fulfillment. However, when he reached the temple, he was shocked to find that the flowers in all the shops were sold out. He was very dejected and waited there not knowing how to fulfill his vow. Just then he saw a lady selling flowers passing by. He asked her if she had any flowers. Incidentally, this lady had only one flower in her basket. He asked her if she would sell it to him, to which she jokingly replied that “if he could pay a thousand rupees, then he could buy it”. To the lady’s surprise, without hesitation he offered her the money and bought
He then proceeded to the temple and offered the flower to the deity. However, he was in a dilemma and unsure if the deity would accept this single flower in fulfillment of his vow. Since probably, there was no priest around, he asked the goddess if the offering was accepted by her. To this, it is said that miraculously the head of the goddess tilted to its side conveying her acceptance of his flower. From that day onwards, the deity has her head tilted to its left side.
The other legend is also as intriguing and has led to a very unique tradition! It is said that at some era in the past, the temple authorities felt the need to make a golden mask for the idol of Sri Navadurga; and they thus contacted the village goldsmith. It is said that the goldsmith had a dream, wherein the deity visited him and told him to make the mask in the likeness of his own daughter’s face. The goldsmith did so and the mask was handed over to the temple authorities. However, after a few days, the goldsmith’s daughter took ill and died shortly after. It is said that the deity once again visited the saddened goldsmith in his dream and informed him that she will visit him “as his daughter” and come to his house, once a year. Till date, the golden mask of the deity is taken ceremoniously on Karthik Shukla Ashtami, or the eight day of the month of Karthik, to the house of the heirs of the goldsmith. This family, as well as all the Madkaikars, welcome this mask, as though a married daughter has returned to her
There are many such legends and myths in various temples, as well as other religious institutions of other faiths in Goa, They can be only experienced in totality, by visiting them and participating in such events. A visit to the temple of Sri Navadurga at Madkai, is a must for every visitor to Goa!