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History of Saptakotishwar

The Saptakotishwar Temple is one of the oldest and a very ancient temple in Goa. It is mentioned in ancient scriptures and the recorded history of the temple is very interesting and fascinating. This temple is considered to be one of the six great sites of temples of Lord Shiva in the Konkan area.

Situated in Narve, the complex is spread across . . . . . acres of lush green surroundings. The village of Narve is located about 35 Kms. From Panaji and can be reached via an interesting route which requires a ferryboat from the island of Divar. The presiding deity in the temple is an incarnation or manifestation of the Supreme Load Shiva and as is the practice, is represented in the form of a Linga. The Linga itself is a faceted one where the face of the Lord is shown in human form and is a distinctive ‘Dharalinga’ type or ‘Mukhlingam’ (mukh – face) and is made of polished stone. The Lings is . . . . . feet by . . . . . feet by . . . . . feet high and is made from an alloy of 7 metals.

 

The temple is built based on the typical contemporary Goan architecture, having a dome affixed on an octagonal shaped Sanctum Sanctorum with only the Deep-Stambh – the Lap Tower – design being of a distinct variety. The Saptakotishwar Temple has a small entrance hall with bells called the Mandapa. The main five pillared hall is decked with arches and is very beautifully and intricately painted. Chandeliers glorify the beauty of the ceiling while the sanctorum wall is made of plain wood. The presence of ancient ‘aggrashalas’ or enclosures / places of learning can be demonstrated from the fact that there are ruins of an arched crumbling structure behind the main temple.

At the right side of the Deepastamba outside the temple is a shrine of Kalbhairav – a manifestation of Shiva and outside it are a set of Padukas – sandals worn in olden days – of Dattatraya – the holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, carved on a stone. Close to the Deepastamba are seen two huge pillar-like structures buried deep. The rear side of the temple has carved stone walls with niches. It may have been an ancient Agrashala. Similarly, close to the temple there is a man-made tunnel like structure which is presently sealed. Near the temple site there is a sacred tank known as Panchaganga Tirtha which is used for ablutions by the devotees on Mahashivratri.

The surroundings of the temple are tinged with several Brahminical laterite and stone caves. In the vicinity of it existed a Jain Math, the ruins of which are still visible. It was probably an important Jain temple patronized by the Kadamba rulers before they accepted Sri Saptakotishwar as their prime God.

Originally the Lingam was housed in a temple in Diwar, an island on the opposite banks but through many hundreds of years of turmoil and prosecution of the Hindus and their way of life by the Muslims and the Portuguese it was brought to Narve and established here in a temple.

References to Saptakoteshwar are found in Sahyadri Khanda of Skanda Purana and also in Saura Purana.

According to the legend, the ancient seven holy sages [Sapt – seven, Rishis – sages] meditated on the Lord Shiva and performed penance to propitiate the Lord near the place in Gokarn [ancient name of Goa] meaning place shaped like the ear (Karn) of the cow (Go) where five holy rivers met the sea. They prayed for seven crore years (each crore being 10 million) at the end of which, Lord Shiva was pleased and appeared before them and offered them a boon. The sages requested the Lord to make the island of Dipavati (Diwadi, currently called Diwar) his permanent abode at least for the period of time for which they had done penance. Shiva granted them their wish and his Linga started being worshiped since those times. This incarnation is known as Saptakoteshwar (Sapt means seven and Kot meaning crore and Eshwar meaning lord/master/god).

There are other legends or could be additional aspects about the reason that this incarnation of Shiva or Mahadev – the God of the Gods was named Saptakoteshwar. The Saptakoteshwar Linga of Lord Shiva is believed to be made of seven metals and hence the name Saptakoteshwar. The reverse could also be true here, where because the deity had the number seven in the name, the material representation of the incarnation was made from 7 metals.

Also, according to other folk tales, the deity is called Saptakoteshwar because he is believed to have crossed swords with demons with his powerful army of seven crores.

This Lingam is considered as important as that of Kedarnath and Goa is considered as Kashi of the Konkan region or Konkan Kashi.

The festival of Saptakoteshwar is celebrated on Gokul-Ashtami – the day of birth of Krishna. There are some legends behind it.

It is said that the Lord appeared before the Sapt Rishis on the day which in later years became the day of the birth of the Vishnu Incarnation – Krishna – and hence since times immemorial the festival of this incarnation of Shiva is celebrated on the day which later became the day of the birth of Krishna – Gokul Ashtami. On this day thousands of devotees gather at the site to bathe in the river alongside the temple. The belief is that the river becomes Pancha Ganga (Panch – 5, Ganga – holy river) on the Gokul Ashtami day and it is considered that a bath on this day guarantees Moksh or Nirvana – freedom from the birth/death cycle of earthly life.

It is also said that though Saptakoteshwar is a Shaivite shrine, the Linga of Saptakoteshwar is considered a representation not only of Shiva but also of Vishnu, Brahma and Bhairava (another manifestation of the Supreme Lord Shiva). Both Hari and Hara are present in the Linga.

So, Krishna Janma Ashtami is celebrated on a grand scale in this temple. As per records, even in the 16th century, large crowd of devotees estimated to be over thirty thousand would assamble and bathe in the sacred waters.

As time passed a small temple was built to house the Linga of the Lord. Later, as per modern history records, it became the family deity of the then rulers of Goa – the Kadambas, when the King Shivachitta Permadideva (1147 – 1172 AD) built a grand temple for the Lord to please his wife, Kamaldevi, who was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva, in 1155 AD, when Govapuri was the capital of the Kadambas. The temple became a major center of religious worship and pilgrimage. They were probably Jain by faith and Mahavir worshippers (as the vicinity has some ruins of Jainism – a religion or sect that has grown from Hinduism but is not anti-Hindu and both co-exist peacefully) who accepted the Lord Shiva as their primary God and they honoured it by featuring the legend and the Shikara on their gold coins. The Kadamba kings were very proud to use the title (Birud) ‘Shree Saptakoteshwar Labdha Varaveera’.

The gold coins discovered at Chandor, Goa (Old name: Chandraura, Chandrapura), Gopikapatna and other places in the erstwhile kingdom of the kings Jayakeshi – I, Jayakeshi – II, Jayakeshi – III, Shivachitta Paramadideva, Soideva etc., have inscriptions reading; ‘Saptakoteshwaralabdha – Varaprasada’ – which means, ‘with the grace of Lord Saptakoteshwar’, the family deity of Kadambas. These coins were often referred to as Saptakoteshwar-Gadyanakas.

The gold coins of Jayakeshi – I (1050 – 1080 AD) and Jayakeshi – II (1104 – 1147 AD) also carry the inscription . . . . . . . . . . . . .

They built a beautiful temple to house the Linga in Diwar, the beauty of which can only be imagined from the descriptions in the historical manuscripts from that period because this temple was destroyed several times by the marauding Muslims and later by the Portugese. The Lingam itself is one of the most sacred relic which has been equated with that of the Kedarnath in the Puranas and its presence endowed on Goa and designation of Konkan Kashi. This sacred relief, however, once had to be buried in the paddy fields to avoid descration (by the Muslims) and had to face the ignominy of being turned into the step of a well so that people drawing water could commit the sacrilege of steeping on it (this was done by the Portuguese). A variation of this could be the story that it was used as a pulley for drawing the well water by the Christians converted from Hindus – as a mark of disrespect and insult to the representation of the Lord, done by the Portuguese as a way of giving the message that this Lord was Powerless. The rope marks are still distinct and can be seen on the Linga descrated by these misguided souls till the Hindus took it to Narve and built the present day temple there.

Andre Corsali in a letter to Duke Giulianode Medicia dated 6th January, 1515 refers to an ancient temple, ‘which was built with wonderful skill with ancient figures of a certain black stone worked with great perfection, of which some are standing, ruined and spoilt’. Should I have in hand any (figure) thus ruined, I shall send it to Your Highness that Your Highness may see how is ancient times sculpture was appreciated elsewhere’. This referred to none other than the Saptakoteshwar temple of yore.

The Adil Shah Gate in Old Goa is a part of that old structure or a part of the King’s Palace which is a proof of the enormity and beauty of the temple.

In 1352, the Kadamba kingdom was conquered by the marauding Bahamani Sultan Allauddin Hasan Gangu from Delhi. Goa was under the rule of the Sultan for about 14 years. As is wrongly taught to them by their faith the Muslims wrecked havoc on the Hindu population and a number of Hindu temples were destroyed and desecrated and the Linga at the Saptakoteshwar temple was dug up and uprooted by the enemy troops. It was the hidden in the paddy fields by the believers to guard against desecration.

In 1367, the army of Hindu King Harihararaya of Vijayanagar defeated the Bahamani Sultan’s troops in Goa and managed to restore most of the temples to their formar glory including that of Saptakoteshwar. According to the records the temple was reconstructed by Madhava Mantry by the end of 14th Century.

A Kashmiri Saraswat Brahmin, a Vedic scholar, an ardent Shaivite and a patron of learning, Madhav Mantri who was the Governor of the region for 12 years restored the buried idol and rebuilt the Saptakoteshwar temple at Narve-Divar in 1391.

The temple was once again razed to the ground by Muhammad Gawan in 1471 during his plundering of Goa and then rebuilt by the local community until its final complete destruction between 1540 and 1558. This time it was the Portuguese – the infamous Miguel Vaz – may his sinful soul never rest in peace – who took upon himself to destroy the famous shrine – the house of god.

Goa fell to the Portuguese in . . . . . . . thanks to the treachery of a Hindu . . . . . . . . . . . may he suffer eternal hell. During the inquisition and what folowed after that was indeed a very dark period for the Hindus of Goa. The Portuguese started persecuting and oppressing the Hindus in such a way that manyof them converted to Christianity out of sheer helplessness. Some of the atrocities committed by the Portuguese – mostly by priests, the so-called people of their God are well recorded – one of them being cutting off the eyelashes of those that did not convert and then torturing their children horribly to death in front of these poor parents who later met the same fate as the children. It had the effect that was desired and they managed to convert a huge number of people till the period they were ruling Goa. Soon they passed draconian laws prohibiting idol worship in public or even in private life. All this was done to harass the Hindus and lure as many of them as possible into the Christian fold.

Actually it is ironic that the Portuguese passed such laws banning idol worship when what the Christians do is nothing but idol worship of a son of their God – an Avatar as some like to call Christ. Also one wonders what the images and idols of their saints and Josseph and Mary are? Same concept as the Hindus but then lack of thought power and the refusal to accept facts turns men into the devil himself.

The first mass conversion of Goan Hindus to Christianity took place here on 15 August 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 fold tunes, Hanv Saiba Poltodi Vaita, can be traced to this event.

The temple was completely demolished in 1560 by the Portuguese and a chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora De Candelaria was erected in its place using the stones from the temple itself. The remants of the temple ruins are still visible in the chapel attached to the cemetery of the Church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade or the Our Lady of Compassion Church at Divar. Again very ironic making a chapel of the Lady of Compassion on the place for which they committed such barbaric and inhuman acts.

The Portuguese authorities uprooted the Linga and placed it at the foot of a well so that people drawing water would step on it. Another version says that it was used as a pulley over which to draw water. The rope marks are still visible on the Linga.

Narayan Surya Rao a Sardesai and ally of the Sultan of Bijapur controlled the opposite bank of the river. He saw in his dreams the Linga from the Saptakoteshwar temple being desecrated. The dreams became nightmares soon and he took it as a call from his God. He gathered a small group of men and crept towards the site of the well to save the sacred Linga.

They carried the Linga outside the Portuguese territory. The Portuguese in hot pursuit killed Narayan Rao’s brother but the Linga was safely carried away to a place called Latambarsem where it remained for 3 years. Then the Linga was transferred to its present location called Narvem and placed in a sanctuary dug out in a rock and Narayan Rao built a small shrine there in 1563 – 1549 AD.

The Maratha King Shivaji conquered the area in 1664. On one of his many expeditions to Goa against the Portuguese in 1668, when Shivaji, who had gone to offer prayers to the Linga placed in a mud and thatch house, found a straw from the thatch roof fallen on his shoulder. He took it as a sign and ordered the construction of the temple at Narve and the Linga installed in its proper place. The stone plaque mentioning this order can still be seen near the temple entrance today.

The construction of the new site was carried out by Shri Shivaram Desai on Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s blessings and guidance.

Today there is clam peace in the land of Lord Saptakoteshwar, but the dark clouds of the hatred against anyone not like them are starting to affect the Christian and Muslims again and we hear stories of Hindus being converted forcibly or being lured by false propaganda or material wealth or by plain cheating.

It is a fact that the God of the Jews, Christians and Muslims is one and the same – called Jehowah or Yahweh by the Jews and Christians. And Allah by the Muslims. He is the God that the Jew Prophets prayed to and who are also the prophets of the Muslims and is the father of Christ – who himself was a circumcised Jew. This God is like our Brahma whose ego made him liable for punishment and who was banished by Shiva, the God of all the Gods. This God of the mono-atheists who forgives any atrocities and sins that his followers commit on others like deceit, rape, murder, plunder etc. to make these others accept him as the only God, can be compared to Hitlar and many other bad influences and powers in history who wanted only their choice to survive by hook or crook. He can be compared to the many Rakshasaas and Daityas that we have in our Hindu books that wanted to oust our Gods from their rightful positions. And like these Rakshasaas and Daityas he should be defeated and destroyed soon before he beings the world to the brink and point of no return.

Jai Saptakoteshwar‼‼

Harr Harr Mahadevv‼‼‼!

By – Mr. Abhijit Bhor