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Tracing the history of the Sri Manguesh Temple

Sanjeev V Sardesai

One of the most visited Hindu religious sites in Goa is undoubtedly the Sri Manguesh Temple situated in Ponda Taluka, in the village of Priol. This temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva has a deity with the identity ‘Manguesh’, and is revered in its iconic form of a ‘ling’.

This aesthetically and majestically built temple has a scintillating story of its existence here in Mangeshi.

While most dynasties who ruled over the lands that are today known as Goa, were compassionate towards the many faiths that prevailed here, from November 25, 1510, with the coming of the Portuguese, this scenario took a huge apathetic twist tainted with horrific intolerance towards all the existing faiths on this land.

In 1542 AD, upon his arrival in Goa, Fr Francis Xavier (later canonised as Saint Francis Xavier) requested the establishment of the Grand Inquisitor, to give a direction to the promotion of evangelical faith in these new-found lands of Elapuri. The wish was granted by the Portuguese monarchy, eight years after his demise on the intervening night of December 2/ 3, 1552.

The actual intention why the Grand Inquisitor was asked to be established in Goa was possibly and totally ignored, and the path that this institution took in Goa, has created the darkest pages in ecclesiastical history of the world. These pages disappeared and are justifiably not available for verification of truth.

When we look back, the actual intent of the Tribunal of Inquisition established in 1560, are found to be undoubtedly dubious. In the opinion of this author, the proceedings of this Inquisition tribunal had nothing to do with the actual ecclesiastical church proceedings. But the fair name of the church was misused to maliciously extract lands and wealth through abominable torture, pains of exile from the homeland, penalty of being sent to the galleys to row till death, and death by burning of individuals through trickery and deception; coupled with the Tribunal’s blind trust on any and false charges made by individuals, to extract vengeance on neighbours’ and others – for a few pieces of silver!

In the immediate years that followed the establishing of the Inquisition Tribunal, inhumane atrocities were showered on the newly converted ‘Novo Cristaos’ and the Hindu religious faith. More than 275 temples were destroyed, under the order of Fr Miguel Vaz, ably assisted by the troops under Captain of the Rachol Fort, Diago Rodrigues.

One of the major temples to be razed mercilessly was the Sri Manguesh Temple which was situated at Kushasthalli (presently Cortalim). It existed where the present day St James and St Philip Church is situated at Cortalim.

Fearing the wrath of the Portuguese troops, the devotees of Sri Manguesh decided to shift the very heavy granite phallic icon – ‘the ling’. However, no one wanted to grant shelter to this icon fearing the horrific backlash of the pillaging Portuguese soldiers. Being too heavy to carry, the devotees then found a savior in the local Gavda community at the base of the present day Cortalim – Verna slope.

They suggested that the ‘ling’ be hidden in a ‘gairi’ or a ‘cow dung collecting pit’, till the immediate danger was over. This suggestion was gratefully accepted in view of no other solution and the ling was hidden in this pit. A cute temple has been erected at this location today. Later, after the major risk of the Portuguese was over, this ‘ling’ was smuggled across the River Aghanasshinni (River Zuari) and taken to the safer lands of the Antruz Mahal or Ponda, in the dead of the night.

As they made their way, they came across the residence of a temple priest in the ward of Priol or present day ‘Mangeshi’. It was the day of the traditional ‘Tulsi Lagna’ (Vhadli Diwali), held annually and the priest of the ‘Abhisheki family’ was in the middle of his religious rituals near his home tulsi. On completion of his puja, he proceeded to carry out the ritual of re-establishing the newly arrived deity in a place near his home. Today, this deity has the glory of being visited by thousands of visitors to Goa, and has a majestic precinct. India’s most famous family of singers – ‘The Mangeshkars’, had their ancestral family home very close to the temple, but today there is no trace of the same.

Since the temple rituals were always held in the late evening or night, there was a need to have a pillar for lights (Deepstambh), to hold oil and cotton wick lamps, in the absence of electricity during that era. The Sri Manguesh Temple supposedly has the tallest pillar for lights in Goa. The new complex has been beautifully designed and the temple has a very iconic, long and beautiful pathway from the main road to the temple, with a ‘matth’ or hall to its south. On the sanctum sanctorum dome of this temple, is affixed a ‘golden kalash’.

This temple is known for seeking ‘prasad’ or ‘oracle’, by devotees to be granted the blessings of the deity, before commencing any enterprise or in case of a family quandary. This is a practice of attaching pieces of leaves or flower petals/ buds to a specific idol of the deity, with a water base. Depending on the “falling pakli”, the priest interprets and conveys the wish of the deity to the devotee. However, sometimes, the ‘pakli’ does not fall for long periods; in such times a person from the Gavda community of Kushasthalli (Cortalim) is given preference over others. This is the way the deity expresses its gratitude to the community that gave it shelter in the time of crisis.

Also every year, on ‘Tulsi Lagna’, the deity is carried to the very place where it first landed and after the rituals are over, it is carried back to the main temple.

Sri Manguesh Temple is one of the iconic religious edifices of Goa and is a must visit. After paying obeisance to the deity, walk around to see the hidden mysteries of this temple.

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