This is the launch of a new series – the photographic documentation of the ancient Vetal idols of Goa. A few images have been included in earlier posts; those and the ones to follow are now consolidated at this link.

In the village of Amona, the idol is fitted with a gleaming shell and wrapped in colourful vestments.

Vetal-bab of Amona, Goa

Vetal of Amona, Goa
5D, 24-105L

 

The ancient deity of Vetal, its iconography and associated rituals, are important elements of, and unique to, Goa‘s Hindu tradition. The deity was most likely worshipped by the Austric Gauda tribe, Goa‘s earliest settlers, and later embraced by the Nath Panthis between the 10th & 13th C. Eventually it came to be absorbed into the larger Hindu pantheon. Details of the Vetal mythos are here.

A mere 50 or so out of the hundreds of ancient Vetal sites in Goa survived the iconoclasm by the Portuguese. Every single site in the Bardez and Tiswadi talukas was destroyed. For instance, before the foreign invasion, the village of Taleigao was a strong centre of Vetal worship, but I doubt you will find a single current resident of the area with any memory of this past.

The Vetal praxis serves to define the circumference of Goa‘s cultural influence which extends beyond its current geographic borders. Vetal worship is prevalent in the Sindhudurg district of southern Maharashthra and unsurprisingly, the people there have strong emotional and cultural bonds to Goa.

Traditionally the images of Vetal were cast out in the open with provision for a simple roof overhead. After all, as the village protector, he was expected to be out on his nightly patrol. To this day, offerings of footwear are made at his temples. Buffalo sacrifice was once common but is now far less so. Fowl and goat are still routinely offered (but don’t tell that to the malcontents from PETA).

The evolution of the depiction of the Vetal image itself is interesting. Traditionally, he preferred to go au naturel, and so the idols were displayed that way. But nowadays the ‘naked truth’ makes people somewhat uncomfortable, and therefore in several temples he has reluctantly taken to wearing the dhoti. (Reminds me of Bertrand Russell who wrote that whoever coined the phrase “the naked truth” must have perceived the connection that nakedness is shocking to most people, and so is truth.)

During the years 2006-2008, I set off on Vetal‘s spoor and checked off 45 of the surviving old sites in Goa (around 5 still to go). I scored many delightful images, confirming the televangelical geezer Pat Robertson‘s view that we Hindus are indeed worshippers of the devil (nothing gives me more pleasure than spending quality time with the devil).

 
Vetal temple at Amona

Vetal temple at Amona
5D, 24-105L

 
 
Facebook|Twitter|Google+|Email|Subscribe|RSS|Top

A weathered farmhouse in the Eyjafjöll region of south Iceland, interpreted in black-and-white and colour.

Steinar farm in Eyjafjöll, south Iceland

Steinar farm in Eyjafjöll, Iceland
5D Mark II, TS-E 24L II

 
Steinar in colour

Steinar farm in colour
5D Mark II, TS-E 24L II

 
 
Facebook|Twitter|Google+|Email|Subscribe|RSS|Top
  • Anu - November 15, 2011 - 5:48 pm

    It’s almost a day and night difference between the two pictures :) The same hills look so menacing in the black and white picture; a bit more mellow in the colored one. Colors are captured beautifully in the second one…the house looks so striking in the lush green dotted with yellow. The tire marks define the pathway leading straight to the cottage….nice perspectiveReplyCancel

  • Jon - November 3, 2011 - 2:16 pm

    I agree with Thomas. The black and white is very dramatic.ReplyCancel

  • Thomas Pindelski - November 2, 2011 - 10:15 pm

    There must be something about Iceland which lends itself to monochrome, and while I believe black and white is too often an excuse to make a poor color picture interesting (not the case here, I hasten to add, as both work) the black and white version just seems so brooding and powerful compared to the color one.ReplyCancel

In Hindu tradition, Nagesh is a manifestation of Lord Shiva, and one of the 12 jyotirlingas. The ancient shrine of Nagesh in the village of Bandivade (also known as Bandode) in Goa probably dates as far back as the 5th C. Its interior location saved it from the depredations of the early Portuguese conquests.

Historically as well as in regards to current religious practice, the temple at Nageshi, as the campus is called, occupies a special place in the hearts of Goans. The structure first assumed its present form around 1780.

 
From: Socio Cultural History of Goa by V.R. Mitragotri, published by Institute Menezes Braganza, 1999.

pp. 155-156
The influence of the Naga cult in Goa and in the adjoining regions could be traced with the help of the copper plate of Siroda…[which] clearly indicates that the Hindu society by c. 400 A.D. in this region had worshipped Nagas…In Goa there are two villages bearing the name Nagoa, one in Bardez taluka and the second one in Salcete. Before the spread of the Vedic culture in Goa region the linga of Nagesh may have been consecrated by the Gavdas and worshipped in the Nageshi shrine of Ponda taluka…There are two well known shrines of Nagesh in Ponda taluka namely in Priol and Bandivade…

 
 

Note: Goans often spell Nagesh as Naguesh (same thing with Mangesh and Manguesh).

 
Nageshi temple

Nageshi (2011)
5D Mark II, TS-E 24L II

 
Nageshi temple (1958)

Nageshi (c. 1958)
Scanned from Postais Antigos do Estado da Índia by João Loureiro

 
Front view

Front view
5D, 24-105L

 
Nagesh-bab

Nagesh-bab
5D, 24-105L

 
Temple tank

Temple tank
5D, 24-105L

 
Deepastambha

Deepastambha (Tower of Lamps)
5D, 24-105L

 
 

PS: The archival image in this post is scanned from Postais Antigos do Estado da Índia by João Loureiro (Fundação Macau, 1998). In the book it is credited to Centro de Informação e Turismo – Pangim.

 
 
Facebook|Twitter|Google+|Email|Subscribe|RSS|Top
  • Mahesh Rao - September 25, 2014 - 6:01 am

    It would be nice if you could post the picture of a 15th century inscription which is in the temple which is probably the first inscription that is in Konkani.ReplyCancel

  • Edwin D'Souza - October 31, 2011 - 6:03 am

    Dear Rajan,
    You are doing a splendid job of keeping us-who live away from Goa, informed of its great and varied cultural heritage. Pray for lots of success in this venture!
    Edwin PuneReplyCancel

Kaldalón – “Cold Lagoon” – is located in the Westfjords within touching distance of the tongue of Drangajökull, the northernmost glacier in Iceland. These are images of a morning spent there in menacing but irresistible conditions. With howling winds matched to its cold isolation, it is a place to die for (or in).

Mouth of Kaldalón

Mouth of Kaldalón
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 Makro Planar

 
Kaldalón and Drangajökull glacier

Kaldalón and Drangajökull glacier
5D Mark II, TS-E 24L II

 
Kaldalón

Kaldalón
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 Makro Planar

 
Kaldalón and Drangajökull

Kaldalón and Drangajökull
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 Makro Planar

 
Niveous stingray?

Niveous stingray?
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 Makro Planar

 
Turbulence

Turbulence
5D Mark II, Zeiss ZE 50 f/2 Makro Planar

 
 
Facebook|Twitter|Google+|Email|Subscribe|RSS|Top
  • Suresh - October 30, 2011 - 3:45 am

    Nice photos, all of the them. The B&W effects have come out well. I personally liked the Kaldalón and Drangajökull photo. Good sharpness and nice colors.ReplyCancel

  • Sanjeev - October 30, 2011 - 2:23 am

    brrrr……

    The ‘turbulence’ pictures looks as though it was taken on Jupiter ! Amazing…

    Do post a colour version of the picture as well.ReplyCancel

  • Borkur - October 29, 2011 - 4:53 pm

    Nice, like the ,,turbulence” !ReplyCancel

So goes the cliché.

The obverse: “As the Chinese say, 1001 words is worth more than a picture.”

That piece of insight came to us from John McCarthy, the legendary computer science professor at Stanford University, who passed away this week.

Other John McCarthy sayings I am fond of:

“Comparing oneself with Galileo or Einstein is certainly good for the ego – provided one refrains from going into too much detail.”

“To keep the wilderness truly wild, all maps and publications should be suppressed – no more Sierra Club books and calendars.”

“No-one has yet built a monument so high that a bird can’t fly over and shit on it.”

More pellets of wisdom at The Sayings of John McCarthy.

PS: His obituary.

Facebook|Twitter|Google+|Email|Subscribe|RSS|Top