Goa is home to an ancient Hindu tradition, something most Indians are unaware of. Of all the Goan temples, none is more central to that tradition than the one at Mangeshi (also spelled Mangueshi), the eponymous ward in the village of Priol, deep in Goa‘s hinterland. Mangesh is the Goan name for Lord Shiva.
Upon their arrival in Goa in the 16th C, the Portuguese destroyed hundreds of Hindu temples in a savage frenzy of religious violence. Among them were the three great temples to Shiva: Saptakoteshwar, Ramnath, and Mangesh. The old lingas had to be retrieved and squirreled away for reconsecration in the relative safety of the jungle. The reinstall at Mangeshi took place circa 1560.
Each of these temples holds sway in the Goan imagination to this day, and the affiliation transcends religious divides. It is not uncommon to see young married Catholic couples at Mangeshi, for the Great Yogi is also the acknowledged Head of the Dept. of Fertility.
Mangeshi‘s cachet does not derive solely from its historical and religious significance. For long it has sheltered and nourished aspirants in music and dance, and from its mandapa have emerged some of the most distinguished names in Indian music. Dinanath Mangeshkar was born here and grew up in the shadow of the temple. His daughters Lata and Asha are known worldwide for their contributions. The great Indian classical master, composer & scholar Jitendra Abhisheki was born here, and his family has traditionally served as priests at the temple. Kesarbai Kerkar, from the nearby village of Keri, had her musical awakening here through the kirtans and bhajans she absorbed as a child.
Before it was powderized, the original temple of Mangesh was located in the village of Cortalim (also known as Kuththali or Kushasthali). The origins of the deity lie in antiquity. The Gavdas, a tribe of the earliest settlers in Goa, are said to have worshipped the form and still enjoy special dibs during rituals at the temple. The legend of Mangesh is in essence a tale of the love between Shiva and Parvati.
Legend has it that once Shiva and Parvati were playing dice in their abode at Mount Kailas. Shiva kept losing, and in the last roll of the dice staked his heaven. Having lost that too, he had to leave the Himalayas. He wandered southwards and presently crossed the Sahyadri mountains and came to Kushasthali, now Cortalim, where Lopesh, his faithful devotee, entreated him to remain. Forlorn Parvati, now heartbroken without Shiva, left heaven and went in search of him. In the midst of a dense forest she came face to face with a huge tiger. Shiva had taught her an incantation, “He Girisha mamtrahi” – O Lord of the Mountains protect me – but she was so frightened that she lost her coherence and uttered the jumbled incantation, “Trahi mam Girisha”. Shiva, who had assumed the form of a tiger, instantly returned to his normal form. And then at a much relieved Parvati’s behest, he added Mam-Girisha to the many appellations he is known by. Which is also how the village where the temple is situated came to be eventually known as Mangeshi, an abbreviation of Mam-Girisha.
Given the limited space available on the premises, a Tilt-Shift lens was necessary to keep the vertical lines vertical in the photographs of the temple and its deepastambha. Canon’s remarkable TS-E 24L II lens was equal to the task.
A long view of the hilly, forested Mangeshi area on a misty monsoon morning.
The deepastambha (tower of lamps) is a characteristic feature of Goan temples.
This new form of Sri Mangesh cast in solid gold illustrates the avidya of modern Hindus. They don’t even know what it is that they are worshipping. Shiva is the exemplar of vairagya but the Goan boneheads have transformed him into a glittering tinseltown hero, no doubt an unintended reflection of their own attachment to coin.
This is a photograph of an old photograph (1925). Note that Mangesh is also spelled as Manguexa or Manguesh. The (orange) tower in the foreground is the naubatkhana where the shehnai and other musical instruments are played during temple ceremonies.
This 16th C sculpture of Kalbhairav occupies a small shrine outside in the temple compound.