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.
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). At every shrine, faced with the fierce image of Vetal, I remember chuckling at the thought of the televangelist Pat Robertson and his rant that we Hindus are worshippers of the devil.
Excellent photos… 🙏🙏
Hi Rajan sir… It’s interesting that your findings about history is great! Just wanted to know is prasad still offered there?
Thanks Rajanbab for simultaneous lessons in both photography and Goan history.
We insist to perform wedding of our daughter in Shri Vetal Temple Amona, being our kuldevata. Kindly provide us contact number of Bhatmam or the temple which will help us fulfill our wish. Contact us on 8655722160
The god of divakar.palankar .pavuskar bharadvaj gotra
Hi I want to know that which cast belongs to lord Betal/Vetal ??? Can you help me for this.
Recently I have been to Amona Betal temple and felt so happy.
[…] From The Vetals of Goa: Amona […]
Hey! Loved the excerpt from Mr. Mitragotri’s book .. please tell us if there are more tales of our great deity.
[…] From The Vetals of Goa: Amona: […]
[…] to Vetal temple of […]
sir, can i get more information about betal worship in canacona taluka.. as in how many temples of betal stil exist there n some other info.. plzzz
it would be of great help if anyone could post the POSTAL ADDRESS of this Beautiful temple
Thanks for sharing such a nice article. Ammona betal is kuldevata for palankar ? I mean bharadwaj gotra people ?
If you know please clarify on this ? Thanks
is betal and vetal same..? or is there any difference between them both..?
[…] this post for an introduction to the Vetal mythos. All the posts on this theme are consolidated here. Vetal […]
i tried to find on internet but got that betal is nothing more than an unsatisfied spirit but we consider our lord the betal of amona to be a shiv sardar a warlord in lord shivas army and betal is a post he commands ketrapals devchars boot pischa etc “and the betal of amona was never naked like other goan betals and unlike other he is the chief god in amona the betals and other gods in amona was transported from sangammeshwar ratnagiri since it is the kul dev of our khasey the desai’s of sankhali and there is their purvas beside betal siting on a horse some 800 yrs ago” can u share some more info if u know
Another enlightening page in your Goa Encyclopedia !
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Very true betal of amona is shiv sardar. Second under amruteshwar and sateri betal is the cheif god of the pachayatan. And was transported to Goa in 13th century when chandel Prabhu or the Desai of Sankhali came here a purvas of their clan sits next to the good further this God is