It is not very well known that Goa is home to many prominent and ancient temples like the Mangeshi Temple. Before the Portuguese came, Goa was home to Saraswat Brahmins and the temples of their deities. As Portuguese took over and started pushing religious conversions, some percentage of the population converted while the others moved to areas that were yet to come under Portuguese. When the moved they took their deities along with them. This is how most temples today are found in the Ponda district of Goa. That came under Portuguese much later. And by then they had become more accepting of the other religions.
Mangeshi Temple, Goa
I visited the temple for the first time last year when I was the Deccan Odyssey trip. I found the architecture of the temple intriguing. First of all, I had never seen a blue temple, a color that we do not associate with Hindu temples. But then it is the color of the presiding deity – Shiva. Second, there was a huge pillar-like structure in front of the temple that was too huge for a Dhwajastambh or Flagstaff. I wondered what it was and was informed it is the deep Stambh or a pillar to light lamps in the evening. Now I am not sure if it is still used for that purpose. I could see no signs of oil lamps like soot or oil stains, but if it was used, I am sure it would look beautiful.
Since the temple stands on a hill, this can be seen from quite some distance. Temple structure itself seems to have ample influence from the churches of Goa. Though most elements of Hindu temple can be seen – like a Garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum, a mandapa or the hall and the pillars. Peshwas donated the current-day village of Mangeshi to the temple. The present structure is not too old, though a smaller temple existed in the same place.
Non-Saraswats are not allowed inside the Garbhagriha or the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. You can look at the deity from the distance that is all in silver and beautifully carved and maintained absolutely neatly and cleanly.
On my second visit last month though I was lucky to see the actual Linga below the silver top as they were cleaning it. The real linga is a huge black stone that as per the legend came from the base of Bhagirathi River in the Himalayas via Bihar. And was in the Cortalim area of Goa on the banks of river Zuari before it reached this place. On top of that stone, they place the anthropomorphic figure of Shiva before they deck it up with flowers and silk. It is a typical Shiva temple that is Kuladevata to a section of Saraswat Brahmins. In February/March, the Jatra or the fair takes place in the temple premises and it is a typical village fair. At this time you can also see the tall temple chariot in wood.
Behind the main temple is a small shrine dedicated to Sh Mulkeshwar. If you like me are wondering ‘Who is he?’, hear this contradicting story. Mulki was a Villager, a cowherd who used to live in this area. One of his cows suddenly stopped giving milk and the cow also used to disappear every evening. He followed the cow one day and found that the cow was giving milk on top of a stone which when dug was nothing but the Shivalinga that is in the temple today. A temple was built and Mulki was recognized as its founder. His statue with his cow rests right behind the main shrine. He was a smoker so tobacco rolled in leaves is offered to him even today. It could be something other than tobacco, I am not too sure.
Temple tank lies in front of the temple as it should but is cut off from the temple. Both times I did not see anyone using the tank. Looks like the modern pipelines made it redundant.
Temples can be a documentation of the cultural and anthropological history of the region if we can study them.
Recommend you read the following places to visit in Goa beyond the beaches on my travel blog.