Home of the Goddess.
Adjoining the meandering Mandovi river, Pilgaon was once the archetypal Goan village: lush, leafy, serene, blessed by the goodness Nature grants a riverine habitat. But all that changed when Goa‘s mining mafia commandeered the area. For the past five decades these environmental assassins, under the guise of helping Goa‘s economy, laid waste to Pilgaon and its surrounds. Life for the locals rapidly descended into a living hell of craters at their feet, sludge in the water bodies, and air filled with toxic particulates. Then, at long last, came the miracle – in September 2012 the Supreme Court of India, acting on the pleas of local activists, finally stepped in and imposed a complete ban on mining activity in Goa. For the believers this was divine intervention, a manifestation of the power of the resident divinity, Chamundeshwari.
Pilgaon’s old temple of Goddess Chamundeshwari, an avatar of Shakti, was originally located in Goa Velha, 17 kms away (as the crow flies). Following the sacking of the temple by the Portuguese c. 1530, the idol was relocated to Pilgaon and reconsecrated. The memory of Chamundeshwari lingers even to this day in the imagination of the Catholic village folk of Goa Velha, especially the traditional salt farmers who visit Pilgaon once a year to commune with the Goddess.
I made good on this reprieve to go to Pilgaon during the monsoons earlier this year. The capacity of the land to revivify itself is quite astonishing. The scars were visible, but Pilgaon can breathe now. Green shoots had broken out all over, peace and quiet had returned to the area; the promise of a renewal was unmistakable. Whether this is here to stay or a mirage remains to be seen.
On entering the village we first came upon this luscious scene. The only problem with what should have been a compelling image was the unsightly mass of power lines cutting across the frame. Enter Miss Photoshop. Eliminating the intruding lines is now trivial: trace a path, then stroke it with the spot healing brush in “content-aware fill” mode and voila!