Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe Mahadev Temple at Tambdi Surla is the oldest temple in Goa, a small state on the Western Coast of India. A small temple, it nestles in a glade of the dense forests of the Western Ghats close to the border with the neighboring state of Karnataka. Built in the 12th century by Shaivites (worshippers of Lord Shiva), the temple is dedicated to Lord Mahadeva.
HistoryThe temple is believed to have been built during the reign of the Kadamba Dynasty which ruled Goa and the surrounding areas between for four centuries up to the 14th century. The Hemadpanthi-style of using basalt for construction implies that the temple was built by Hemadri, the Minister of the Yadava King, Ramachandra. There is a debate about the origins of the temple because of the Jain style of construction. But it has to be noted that one of the later Kadamba rulers, tired of constant warfare and bloodshed, King Shivakoti had adopted Jainism.
The fact that the small temple is located in the dense rainforests of the foothills of the Western Ghats, is perhaps why it survived the ravages of mankind more than those of the elements. It survived numerous invasions, and even the Portuguese imposed Goa's inquisition over three centuries, during which more than 300 temples are believed to have been destroyed.
ConstructionIt is generally accepted that the temple is constructed using basalt transported over the mountain ranges. But the intricate carvings and the durability of the stone has prompted the well-known history researcher, Prajpal Sakhardande, to claim that the stone is soapstone or steatite, a gray, black, chlorite schist stone.
The temple has an inner sanctum sanctorum or the ‘garbhagriha’ which houses the principal deity, which in this case is the Shiva Linga. It has the antarala or the ‘foyer’, which separates the garbhagriha from the pillared mandapa, or the ‘pavilion’, used for public rituals. The ceiling, intricately carved with lotus flowers, is supported by four pillars, equally impressively sculpted with elephants and chains.
While panels on the sides have the figures of Lord Shiva, Lord Brahma, and Lord Vishnu with their consorts, the interior is skillfully sculpted with decorations. There is a headless Nandi bull, Shiva’s vehicle, in the mandap and the three-tiered tower atop the garbagriha whose top has been severely damaged. Because the temple faces due east, the first rays of the rising sun penetrate into the inner sanctum. It is the only surviving structure of the Kadamba-Yadava era.
Religious SignificanceThe remoteness of the temple from significant habitation and the lack of records makes it unclear whether the temple has been in continuous use over the centuries. One version has it that a Portuguese military engineer stumbled upon it when he had gone hunting, and impressed by its magnificence, prevailed upon his seniors that it had to be spared.
Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Linga in the sanctum sanctorum represents unlimited power and the regenerative potency of the deity. It is, as is usual, mounted on a yoni, a symbol of the creative power of the Goddess, Shakti. Taken together, the two symbolize the inseparable togetherness of male and female. People from the surrounding villages regularly visit the temple to pay obeisance to the deity. Mahashivratri (the great night of Lord Shiva), which is the day Lord Shiva married his consort, Parvati, is celebrated with great pomp every year.
LocationLocated in the northeast of the Baghwan Mahavir Sanctuary, it is at a distance of 40 miles from the capital city of Panjim by road. Bolcornem at a distance of 5.0 miles is the nearest sizable village. It can be reached via the border village of Molem and for an ardent lover of nature, will probably mean a day out in a hired vehicle as it is difficult to reach by local transport. The fascinating views of evergreen rainforests, the Western Ghats at the foot of the Anmod Ghat makes the journey worthwhile.
The wildlife reserve of the Baghwan Mahavir Sanctury is rich in flora and fauna and an environmental enthusiast will have more to savor than just the temple. Packing one’s lunch on a trip to Tambdi Surla will be advisable. Accommodation is scarce in the area with the only option being the Government Tourist Hostel at Mollem, which has a few cottages and a dormitory which might suit a backpacker. There are other places of interest in the region too. The Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary with its zoo and botanical garden is close by and so is the Dudhsagar Falls.
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Author: jackmartis. Last updated: Mar 30, 2015