Legend has it that a group of sages on the island of Divar in Goa undertook penance to propitiate Shiva. It took seven crore (sapta-kot) years for the Great Yogi to take notice of their exertions. When He finally showed up, the sages petitioned Him to take up residence in the village of Naroa (also called Narve). Thus came about the great temple of Saptakoteshwar in Naroa-Divar, one that enjoys a special place in the Goan psyche for its singular role in our land’s turbulent history.
Saptakoteshwar weathered intrusions first by the Bahmani sultans, and later by the Portuguese who destroyed it. The first mass conversion of Goan Hindus to Christianity took place here on August 15, 1560, cleverly engineered by the Portuguese on the day of Gokulashtami, traditionally the most important celebration at the temple. The provenance of one of Goa‘s popular folk tunes, Hanv Saiba poltodi vaita, can be traced to this event.
At the original temple site in Naroa-Divar today stands the Chapel of Our Lady of Candelaria, and nearby lie the remains of the temple tank. The ancient linga has its own tale of woes to tell, even serving as a pulley for a nearby well. Finally it made its way across the river to be reinstalled at a new site which came to be known as New Naroa, today’s Narve in Bicholim taluka. The temple was restored by Shivaji in 1668.