Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Flight of Gods 33. Mahalakshmi Temple, Panaji

The Flight of Gods

by Mohan Pai




Sri Mahalakshmi Temple

Panaji
The Temple Entance


This Temple is located in the city of Panaji, off Dada Vaidhya road at the Altinho foothill. It was the first Hindu temple allowed to be built by the Portuguese in Goa after 300 years after bitter opposition. It was approved by the Portuguese authorities in 1818 after a long delay and built subsequently on contrubutions made by the devotees. It was most recently renovated in 1983. The deity of the temple originally came from the village of Taleigao and was moved to Bicholim in the 16th century to escape Portuguese destruction. For a short while during the approval process for building the temple the deity remained at the house of Mhamai Kamat, near the Idalcao’s palace.
Sabha Mantap - photo by Mohan Pai

The deity is Goddess Mahalakshmi (the Hindu Goddess of Wealth), made of black stone, with four hands and is placed in a silver canopy. This is the peaceful or Satvik form of Devi. According to the Shakti cult (worship of power), Mahalakshmi is the original Goddess who takes forms according to three aspects or gunas viz. Brahma (peaceful, calm form or satva), Vishnu (creative action or rajas) and Shiva (destruction or tamas). The deity originally from Mayem in Bicholim taluka was transferred to the present site.


A brief History of the Temple

This 182 year old temple has a fascinating history. In the 16th century the Havig Brahmins from Karwar-Kumtha areas who lived on alms and charity of others worshipped the Mahalaxmi deity and wherever they went in search of alms they carried this deity along. In the 16th century, they moved to Goa along with this diety and reached Taleigo village of which Panjim was then a mere ward, along the river Gomati (Mandovi). The Havig Brahmins whose whole day was spent begging for alms had sought shelter in the precincts of the Vetal temple of Taleigao. But when they learnt of the conversion policy of the Portuguese, fearing desecration of their revered Mahalakshmi idol made of marble, they moved away from Taleigao and as they were moving on they found a horse stable which actually belonged to the Portuguese government.
A gentleman called Raghavendra Kamat Mhamai who worked for the Portuguese military found that this place selected by the Havig Brahmins to hide their deity was unsafe and hence moved it to his palatial house opposite the Adilshahi palace (Secretariat) in the heart of Panjim city. Still fearing for the safety and security of the deity, he moved it to Mayem village of the Bicholim Taluka where it remained till 1817.
Sometime later in 1817, Narayan Kamat Mhamai of Panaji dreamt of the deity and the next day itself he along with others went to Mayem and brought the diety to Panjim and hid it at a place where stands the People's High School today. That corner at the People's High School is still venerated where the deity was kept hidden.
He later moved it to his house and started worshipping it there. He expressed his desire to a friend Mr. Sinari of building a temple to consecrate this diety. They seeked the permission of the liberal Portuguese governor Conde De Rio Pardo, which was granted to them on 2nd July 1818.
On 10 July 1818, the deity was consecrated there and the foundation stone of the Mahalakshmi temple was laid. Refusing to be cowed down by the heavy monsoon downpours of Goa, the pious devotees led by the late Shri Narayan Kumar Mhamai, Mr. Sinari and others consecrated the Mahalakshmimi deity in the backyard of Panjim city on 10 July 1818.

By 1819, the temple was completed. The original deity today lies in a small box in the rear wall of the temple which faces the present day main idol of Goddess Mahalakshmi. The magnificent subhamandap of the temple has been added later and today the recently completed new building of the temple stands proudly as a superb addition to the landmarks of Panjim city.
The Havig Brahmins whose whole day was spent begging for alms had sought shelter in the precincts of the Vetal temple of Taleigao. But when they learnt of the conversion policy of the Portuguese, fearing desecration of their revered Mahalakshmi idol made of marble, they moved away from Taleigao and as they were moving on they found a horse stable which actually belonged to the Portuguese government.
A gentleman called Raghavendra Kamat Mhamai who worked for the Portuguese military found that this place selected by the Havig Brahmins to hide their deity was unsafe and hence moved it to his palatial house opposite the Adilshahi palace (Secretariat) in the heart of Panjim city. Still fearing for the safety and security of the deity, he moved it to Mayem village of the Bicholim Taluka where it remained till 1817.
Sometime later in 1817, Narayan Kamat Mhamai of Panaji dreamt of the deity and the next day itself he along with others went to Mayem and brought the diety to Panjim and hid it at a place where stands the People's High School today. That corner at the People's High School is still venerated where the deity was kept hidden.
He later moved it to his house and started worshipping it there. He expressed his desire to a friend Mr. Sinari of building a temple to consecrate this diety. They seeked the permission of the liberal Portuguese governor Conde De Rio Pardo, which was granted to them on 2nd July 1818.
On 10 July 1818, the deity was consecrated there and the foundation stone of the Mahalakshmi temple was laid. Refusing to be cowed down by the heavy monsoon downpours of Goa, the pious devotees led by the late Shri Narayan Kumar Mhamai, Mr. Sinari and others consecrated the Mahalakshmimi deity in the backyard of Panjim city on 10 July 1818.
By 1819, the temple was completed. The original deity today lies in a small box in the rear wall of the temple which faces the present day main idol of Goddess Mahalakshmi. The magnificent subhamandap of the temple has been added later and today the recently completed new building of the temple stands proudly as a superb addition to the landmarks of Panjim city.
Flower shops at the temple

2 comments:

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