Rajan Parrikar Photo Blog

The Sacred Anthill

The ancient Indian tradition of anthill worship is widespread among the Hindus of Goa. In the Goan praxis, the anthill is regarded as a manifestation of the Earth Goddess, and She is given names such as Sateri (Santeri), Bhoomika, Ela, and so on. The name of one Goan village – Bhoma, cognate of Bhoomi (Earth) – derives from the worship of an anthill. The word for anthill in Konkani is ro’in.

Excerpt from The Sacred Anthill and the Cult of the Primordial Mound by John C. Irwin.

Ethnographical reports of the last hundred years suggest that anthill worship is an ancient cult that survives in many parts of India up to the present day. The cult once occupied a central place in Vedic and Hindu religion, and from at least as early as the first millennium B.C., and probably earlier, it has figured prominently – if somewhat incomprehensibly – in rituals associated with all the critical events of human life, including birth, marriage, sickness, and death. Anthills have also played an important part in the consecration of temples, the warding-off of evil, ritual destruction of an enemy, calling divine witness, and securing material prosperity…

Strictly speaking, we should not call them “anthills,” because they are made not by ants but by termites (misleadingly called “white ants”). The termite, in fact, is unrelated to the ant. It is entomologically closer to the cockroach, but mainly confined to tropical and subtropical regions…

 
 

The most impressive of these anthills in active worship in Goa is found in the village of Virnoda. It is said to be very old (How old? Nobody knows for sure, so feel free to start with 200 years and add your own factor), and I reckon it to be 8-9 feet high. The TS-E 17L lens with its shift function came in handy here. As is the case in most places of this kind, you have to make do with the lighting conditions available.

Sacred anthill in Virnoda, Goa

Sacred anthill in Virnoda, Goa
5D Mark II, TS-E 17L

 
 

The next three photographs are from the Sateri temple in Morjim. The structure lies in a state of disuse and disrepair, and the weathered look adds to its mystique. Notice the kaavi art (sgraffito) both on the interior and exterior walls. The image of the mural in close-up exudes a rich visage, like a painting on canvas.

Antill worshipped as Goddess Sateri in Morjim, Goa

Antill worshipped as Goddess Sateri in Morjim, Goa
5D, 24-105L

 
Sateri temple in Morjim

Façade of Sateri temple in Morjim
5D, 24-105L

 
Mural at Sateri temple in Morjim

Mural at Sateri temple
5D, 24-105L

 
 
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