Curdi was a living village till 1983. Since then it is a ghost village in making. It stays submerged in the waters of Salaulim Dam for 11 months in the year. Just before monsoons that hit Goa in early June, the water levels go down and the village resurfaces for a while.
The houses, temples, caves, and pathways of the village have managed to sustain themselves despite staying underwater for more than 35 years. They will give in someday or the other.
So, visiting Curdi is like visiting a part of the history of Goa that you know will not be available to future generations. Even if some of these signs of civilization manage to persist, the state would change with every passing year.
When to visit Curdi Village?
There is a very small window when you can visit the village in Goa. The second half of May is the best time to visit the village. You can look at the monsoon predictions and go as late as possible before the pre-monsoon showers hit Goa.
How much village and its remains will you get to see depends on how low the water levels have gone. So, each year what you see is slightly different, except for some high spots like Someshwar Temple that stands on a hill.
History of the village
Actually, it is not just Curdi, but about 17 villages of Sanguem Taluka of Goa that were relocated to make way for the catchment area of Salaulim dam. The dam was conceived in the late 1970s by the first chief minister of Goa. Villagers were moved-out in 1983-84 to the villages nearby at Velip and Valkini.
The village lived on the banks of the Kushavati River. Someshwar temple stood on a hillock not too far from the banks of the river. It still continues to stand tall as a reminder of the village that surrounded it.
The village was home to legendary classical singer Padma Vibhushan Mogubai Kurdikar. You may better know her accomplished daughter Kishori Amonkar. Mogubai may have spent her childhood here but she made her career pretty much in Mumbai.
Her submerged home is the greatest attraction that visitors try to locate when the submerged village makes an appearance in peak summers.
Other noted people from the village are Ganesh Velip and Sriram Kurdikar.
Temples of Curdi
Village life in India revolves around its temple that served not just as the religious center but was loci for all social activities.
Sri Someshwar Temple
This must have been the main temple in the village. The sanctum of it continues to stand with its two floors. The deity – a Shivalinga called Someshwar stayed here. My readings tell me that villagers believed that this linga is Swayambhu or self-manifested, so should not be moved.
A photograph of the original temple was on the wall of the Someshwar temple when I visited. It shows that it was a much bigger temple than it appears now. There is a stone slab inside the temple with 12 markings probably for 12 months or 12 zodiac signs, but since the temple was closed I could not see it.
Deepstambha of the temple wears the signs of submerging but is still standing tall.
A concrete formation in front is Shezo. It has two arched doors, one facing the temple and the other facing the river. This used to be a green room for performances that happened on a stage between the temple and the river. It also played as a music room and storeroom for the temple and the artists.
Since 2016, the original residents of the villagers have started an annual Curdi Utsav to come together and pray at this temple. I visited just after the annual Jatra took place. Signs of worship were all around.
Curdi Mahadev Temple
This is a 12th CE temple in stone that was moved stone by stone from here to a place closer to Salaulim Dam. This, in itself, is a feat that ASI must be proud of. Not many buildings have been moved completely like this.
It now stands next to Salaulim dam, with its stones carrying the signs of movement marked by ASI.
Mother Goddess or the Devi Image
A huge mother goddess image was carved here on a laterite rock. This rock was nicely scooped out and taken to Verna village in South Goa and placed there. You can visit it close to the original Mahalasa Narayani Temple in Verna.
Just like Rivona caves, not too far from here, the village also had its share of rock-cut caves. It is not easy to locate them now, but they do exist somewhere in the ecosystem of the dam project.
Every May for the last few years, I wanted to visit this village, but the small window passed by due to one reason or the other. This time, the stars finally relented and one morning we just decided to drive to explore the submerged villages.
On the way, we explored Rivona caves. You can also visit Pansaimol Petroglyphs on the bed of the Khushawati river. May is a good time to see them as well. Budbude Taal – the bubbling lake of Goa and Cotigao Wildlife Sanctuary are also close by.
As we drove towards the village, the road became narrower and the jungle denser. We followed the road and reached another village where the villagers were moved. The biggest structure here was a fairly new temple in bright yellow color.
I found small Lingas around the temple with three sides boundary around them. Is it a rudimentary form of Yoni? We tried asking the people, they only said these have been installed by the ancestors.
Catchment Area of Salaulim Dam
We were then directed to a kutcha road that would lead us to the destination. The narrow road suddenly brought us in front of a wide-open ground. In the distance, we could see some water. Across the water, at a distance, we could see some ruins in a dried mud bed. They were too far for me to make out anything.
We moved closer and passing by the water, stepped closer to the first set of ruins that we could see. The parched mud bed was still moist and we were not very sure if it is safe to step on them. There was no help available in case of any mishap.
Ruins of Submerged Village
Tiptoeing on the stones, I stood among the walls that must have been someone’s home. A Tulsi Vrindavan on the other side told me which way the houses must have faced. A faint straight line told us the street and the houses on both its side.
On the mud bed, lining the waterbody and on small mud islands in the water were the stubs of coconut trees. Imagine 35 years underwater, and still standing, emerging every year to soak in some sun. Water has created patterns on them. Spiders have lost no time in weaving a web around some of them. They look ghostly. If I had visited in the evening, I might have mistaken them for ghosts talking to each other.
This was the first time I had an eerie feeling in the village. It was different from what you feel at haunted places like Bhangarh Fort.
Crossing the Khariz
We moved ahead on the narrow road and passed by a deep gorge cut through the rock, called Khariz. I wondered if it a natural waterway or a man-made one. Looks like, it is manmade to connect some low-lying areas. Across the gorge is a cross in stone, surrounded by stones kept to create a boundary.
Passing by the different pond like formations of water, we finally saw a tall structure. I knew this is Someshwar Mahadev Temple at Shrishtal. It was freshly painted and flags fluttered all around it.
Temple was locked but the stone linga was visible. I said a silent prayer and walked around the temple. I was looking for cues to other smaller temples around the main temple. Did find a Linga, right with the Yoni. There were few other broken images in the same stone. Some of them had Haldi-Kumkum on them. There used to be a Betal temple in the village, but I could not locate its remains.
I wondered how the temple would have worn a much more festive look every Mahashivratri, Chaitra Purnima, or Dussehra.
When I looked around from the height of the temple, the scenery around was haunting. Triangular peaks of hills reflected in the still waters around them. It was like standing in the middle of a bowl with hills forming its sides and puddles of water all around.
Near Kushavati River
I passed by the crumbling Shezo to the path leading to the Kushavati river, called Paaz. The ruins here are the densest in the submerged city.
On the right, is well maintained well along the walls of a house. Another Tulsi Vrindavan stood like the strongest member of the family. I wondered if it derived its strength from the plant that it once held.
Little ahead, there is a platform, which must have been the stage for performances. Somewhere here, I found a carved terracotta piece. Door jambs and wooden brackets lie around in different stages of decay.
Magubai Kurdikar’s home was still submerged in the river with only a faint hint of it out of water. It appears only when the water goes really goes down. I stood there and looked at the temple from her house and it looked really tall. To think that all this goes underwater and so much rainwater is contained in this is beyond imagination.
A square platform that was used to rest the Utsav Murti when it came out in its Palki can still be seen. There is Mand, where the festivals would have been conducted.
Closer to the Temple
On the other side of the temple, there was a small square platform with signs of Puja performed.
About 100 meters away there were tall standing stones. One of them had a carving on it, while most others were plain. They were arranged in a rough circle. I wonder if they have a story to tell.
A little away, a flag was standing on top of a pile of stones, around which was another boundary created by stones again.
After spending an hour or so, we headed back.
Curdi is hauntingly beautiful. It makes you sad and happy at the same time. It reminded me of the haunted Kuldhara Village near Jaisalmer.
You feel sorry when you look at the ruins but the landscape all around is stunningly beautiful. The fact that you get this glimpse just for a few days in a year, makes it even more precious.
I think the people of South Goa will always remain indebted to the people of Curdi and the villages that let go of their homes so that everyone can get ample water to drink.
Video of the submerged village
Take a look at this short video of my visit to the resurfaced village.
- Curdi is 30 KM South East of Margao. The last part of the drive is tricky and make sure you are with a group when you travel there.
- Carry a lot of water as it gets very very hot there and there is no shelter whatsoever.
- There is no food that you get there, so plan accordingly.
- Wear comfortable shoes that allow you to walk up and down.
- Check the space before you step onto it, the mud may be loose.
- Be aware that it is a forest area and you can expect all kinds of animals and reptiles here.
- Visit it only during the daytime and return before it gets dark.
- Do not carry anything back from there, especially the forest products.