Sanjeev V Sardesai
In present times when we travel in Goa especially in the hinterlands, what we fail to realise is that these are the routes and pathways made as per convenience of the human raceand has changed the topography of the land. The traditional routes have almost been obliterated.
If we observe the surroundings on our hinterland jaunts, we can often spot a parallel mark on the hard rock surface amidst thick vegetation. These are the cart tracks created by the wheels of possible horse carriages or bullock carts that traversed through, pursuing trades.
Many urban dwellers will be surprised, if they peruse the history of the route from O Coqueiro, Porvorim to Mapusa vis-a-vis a small monument that exists right at the junction. This main route was classified earlier as NH17 and is presently renamed as NH66.
Though many born and brought up in Porvorim and Torda may have passed this monument umpteen times, enroute to the Xavier Centre for Historical Research from the roundabout, they have definitely skipped the small, yet thick and stocky, square column with a round sphere perched atop it. This ‘ball’ atop the column gave the junction its erstwhile name “Gulleakode” or near the ‘ball’.
The marble etched plate affixed on it informs us that it was inaugurated on November 25, 1910, 400 years after Goa was re-conquered by the Portuguese and renovated on November 25, 1935. The land was donated by the Comunidade de Serula or Socorro to construct this road to Mapusa.
The trade routes were essential to bring goods from across the Western Ghats and to transport goods received through its ports and inland jetties. Each of these routes under many royal dynasties left imprints of some form depicting the culture of that era.
One such trade route, which passed through the present day Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary, in east Goa, passes from a village known as Vichundre or Vichundrem. The trade route, credited to the Kadamb Dynasty to Karnataka, over the mountain range passed from here and possibly the Curdi Basin connecting the capital Chandrapur to the present day Alnavar (then Anilpur) and Halashi (then Halashige) in Karnataka. As said above, the dynasties prevailing at that time constructed temples and allowed establishment of villages along these routes, to assist the weary travellers.
One fascinating heritage site protected by the Department of Archives & Archaeology is the ruins of the Narayandev Temple and the plinth ruins of a temple surmised to be dedicated to deity Mahishasuramardini; with a temple lake nearby, presently in extremely bad shape.
From Panaji, these ruins are about 78 kilometres, on way to the famous ‘Budbudyanche Tolle’. When you travel from Zambaulim, via Rivona Market and through Cavrem Village, known for its mining activity and the Don Bosco College of Agriculture, and proceed fro another 12-15 kilometres, you encounter a board which points to a narrow lane to your left. About 500 metres from the main road, another board directs you to these ruins. Located in a thick cashew plantation, you may have to seek local help to point the right pathway.
These ruins, dated possibly to the 13th or 14th century, host the 6 feet high granite carved idol of Lord Narayandev. Some theorize that it could be Lord Padmanabh, however, it is a fact that both are representations of Lord Vishnu of the Hindu Trilogy.
This idol is kept in the open, braving the vagaries of nature. The idol is in standing position, and has a ‘Prabhaval’ or a halo arch, of the same piece of granite, behind and around the head. The entire surface of the halo has the carvings of the ‘Dashavatar’ or the ten reincarnations of Lord Vishnu on it. It is indeed amazing that the mythology of ‘Dashavatras’ portrays the ‘evolution of life’ much before it was scientifically documented by scientists in the 20th century.
Today the idol has gathered moss and the carvings are not precise to identify, but another idol at the entrance portrays the ‘Garuda’ – the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. This idol is at the right hand side as soon as you enter the ruined garbhagriha, along with granite carved relief of the ceiling.
Many visitors fail to take note of the decorative carvings made on the laterite border stones of the temple. These borders are seen on the plinths of both temples which stand side-by-side and face east. The Mahishasuramardini Temple only has its plinth in existence about a metre away towards the North, besides which, one cannot see any other feature. It is said that there existed another temple nearby.
The Temple lake ruins are towards the left of the temple and totally covered in vegetation. In February 1992 Directorate of Archives & Archaeology carried out excavations through superintending archaeologist Manguesh Deshpande, who camped there for over a month and found all the elements of the temples and kept them at one place. It must be noted that, besides Vichundre, there are Narayandev sculptures in Savoi Verem, Keri, Mulgao and Korgao
These ruins speak about the incredible artistic prowess of those times. You can also visit another temple, just behind these ruins but accessible from the main road. They lie about 100 metres away with a 6 feet high idol of the Vetal Deity.
Many a times, we pass by these routes, realising little that there lie the rich heritage of Goa. Make time to take your children to view these treasures, so that they are empowered to protect them as they grow.