Goan temples were once at the centre of city and village life — in some communities, they still are. Many of the oldest Goan temples were destroyed when the Portuguese occupied the region, but devotees smuggled the idols out of these ransacked temples and kept them safe until such a time as new temples could be built, beginning in the early 19th century.
Some of the most famous temples in Goa include the Shri Bhagavati Temple complex, the Shri Chandranath Temple, the Shri Mahalaxmi Temple, the Shri Mahalasa Temple, the Shri Mangueshi Temple, the Shri Naguesh Temple and the Shri Shantadurga Temples.
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The Shri Bhagavati Temple at Parshem
The Shri Bhagavati Temple at Parshem is a temple complex consisting of five temples. Devi Bhagavati is the main temple in the complex; the other temples are Shri Sateri, Shri Dev Bhivangi Panchakshari, Shri Dev Ravalnath and Brahma.
There are four main festivals celebrated at Shri Bhagavati Temple. Foremost is the seven-day festival of Bhajanisaptah, celebrated during the Indian month of Kartika. Zatra, Shimgo and Dessehra are also celebrated here.
The Shri Chandranath Temple
In Paroda, Quepem, at the top of Chandranath Hill, you’ll find Shri Chandranath Temple, also known as Chandreshwar Bhootnath Temple. Its deity is Lord Chandreshwar, worshipped primarily by the Bhoja kings who ruled Goa for more than five centuries, beginning in the third century B.C.
The temple is consecrated to an incarnation of Lord Shiva, Lord of the Moon. Inside the temple, natural rock formations create a Shiva Linga, which is bathed in light on the full moon. Festivals celebrated here include the Hanuman Jayanti, lasting five days, as well as Mahashivratri and Dushera.
The Shri Mahalaxmi Temple
The Shri Mahalaxmi Temple is consecrated to the Goddess Lakshmi, who is the presiding goddess of Goa’s capital, Panaji. She was worshipped by the Shilahara and Kadamba dynasties of Goa, beginning in 750 A.D. This was the first of the devastated Hindu temples to be rebuilt after the Portuguese occupation. It is the home of the goddess of the Shakti cult. Its festivals are Chaitra Purnima and Navaratri.
The Shri Mahalsa Temple and the Shri Mangueshi Temple
These temples can be found in the village of Mardol, about one kilometre apart. Consecrated to an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Shri Mahalsa Temple is one of the most celebrated and lavish in all of Goa. Its splendid deepstambh rises to a height of more than 12 metres. Its festivals are Jatra, Kojagiri Pornima and Jaiyanchi Puja.
The nearby Shri Manguesh Temple, consecrated to an incarnation of Lord Shiva, was originally located at what is now Coralim. When the threat of Portuguese destruction grew near, devotees moved the Shivalinga to its present location. The main festival celebrated here is that of Jatra.
The Shri Naguesh Temple
The Shri Naguesh Temple, consecrated to an incarnation of Lord Shiva, is one of Goa’s oldest Hindu temples. The temple was originally built in 1413, under the rule of Veer Pratap Devraya of the Vijayanagar Empire. It was renovated in 1880.
This is one of the only Goan temples that did not suffer destruction at the hands of Portuguese invaders in the 16th century. Don’t miss the elaborate wood carvings depicting the events of the Ramayana.
The Shri Shantadurga Temples
The Zatra of Shantadurga is one of Goa’s most important festivals, so it makes sense there should be three Goan temples consecrated to the Goddess Durga. Construction on the extravagant Shri Shantadurga Temple in Kavlem began in about 1730 A.D., after the original temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1564. The Garbhakuda here, where the idol is kept, is particularly beautiful.
The second Shri Shantadurga Temple is found at Dhargal Pernem where devotees brought the idol after the original temple was destroyed by the Portuguese in 1550. The third Shri Shantadurga Temple can be found at Fatorpa in Quepem. The most famous Zatra festival of Goa is held near the beginning of each year at the Fatorpa temple.
When visiting Goa, don’t forget to visit the region’s many beautiful temples. Whether or not you are a spiritual devotee, Goa’s temples offer a glimpse into this region’s fascinating culture and history.
About the Author: Contributing blogger Kamini Misra has recently completed a tour of Goa’s most famous temples. She encourages tourists and pilgrims alike to search for Goa hotels on Expedia.