The western coastal state of Goa is famous for its beaches brimming with water sports along with its numerous churches such as the Basilica of Bom Jesus, Catholic Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, Chapel of Saint Francis Xavier and the Church of Saint Cajetan. Goa’s vastly rich Hindu heritage has mostly been ignored as the urban areas get most of the attention.

Goa was under the colonial Portuguese rule for around 450 years, even after India got its independence from the British in 1947. It had to be forcibly freed from the clutches of the Portuguese and became an integral part of India only in 1961. It remained a Union Territory till 1987. It may be a new state but the fact remains that Goa is as ancient as the Indic civilisation and is a treasure trove of heritage sites. The oldest have been dated to the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic period with some of the earliest traces of human settlements.

Usgalimol Rock engravings (Petroglyphs at Pansaimol)

These petroglyphs are etched into the river bed of Kushavati River on laterite rock. The site is just outside the Usgalimal village (near Pansaimol village), around 18 km south of Rivona in Sanguem Taluka of the South Goa district. The path to the site is not obvious at first but there are red markers maintained by the State Archaeology Department that guides the visitor to the site. Due to its remoteness, it was hidden from and was only rediscovered in 1993 by a team of heritage experts, who recognised its importance.

These carvings are situated right on the river bed and get submerged every monsoon when the river is in spate. It was discovered with heavy siltation and now it is cleared regularly to ensure that these carvings are visible when not underwater. The location and frequent submergence create difficulties in actual dating. The estimates are based on the similarities of patterns at the other locations. The dates assigned by various experts vary between 8000 BCE to 1500 BCE, although there is a school of thought which believes that it may be really old, dating back 20,000 years or even more.

The laterite bedrock next to the river Kushavati)

Petroglyphs are found throughout the world and help disclose the areas of ancient human settlements. The ancient humans had an artistic and spiritual flair that is visible from cave paintings and rock engravings found at various regions in the world. Figures of indigenous animals, humans in hunting scenes, symbols, and abstract markings are the common symbols. The most intriguing carvings on rock faces and rock floors are the labyrinths or the geometric maze depictions. Labyrinths formed with concentric circles have been found at Winnemucca Lake in Nevada and Casa Grande in Arizona, both in the USA, Maui in Hawaii, Mexico, Peru, Val Camonica in Italy, France, Ireland, England, Scandinavia, Crete, Sumeria, Egypt, India and many other places across the globe. What is most significant about these circular labyrinths is that they are all very similar to each other despite being so far away from each other. From rock surfaces, these symbols reached homes of people in the form of pottery art and symbols on coins and even places of worship.

The ancient humans appear to have been in touch with those at a distance maybe through migrations on land or via the seas and oceans as these ancient labyrinths found across the globe strongly purport this understanding. The 7-circuit Labyrinth at Pansaimol is a sight to behold which researchers claim are spiritual symbols. It may denote the journey through life- a path that leads to the centre and then out again as a new birth. The maze is made in such a way that one can easily find a way to the centre and out again. It is to be noted that petroglyph experts from across the globe have identified the Pansaimol Labyrinth as one of the oldest labyrinth carvings in the world.

The 7 circuit labyrinth at Pansaimol)

Not far from the labyrinth, there is a very clear depiction of a deer facing a humped bull. The etching is deep. It appears as if the two are in conversation.

A deer and a Bull)

One etching appears to depict a gaur due to the heavy hump above the comparably small head and strong torso.


Another area has a herd depicted as it seems to walking together towards the riverfront to quench their thirst. This area must have been home to many wild and domesticated animals as is evident from the engravings. This area is still full of lush greenery although animals have gone down in number.

One of the first petroglyphs to catch the eye on reaching this area is the peacock. The crest above its head, a long neck, full plumage and long legs all come together to form this magnificent bird.

A peacock)

How can rock art be complete without the depiction of the maker! A man with outstretched arms and legs has been etched on the floor. No embellishments are seen. Just the outline of a human.

A man)

Another intriguing etching is the pair of giant feet just near the water tank. This again could have had spiritual significance as it depicts a form that is much bigger and more powerful than the humans.

Giant feet)

The journey from the town of Goa to Pansaimol is not easy as the roads are rugged at many places, but the greenery at Pansaimol along the cool scenic Kushavati River is a rejuvenating force. One can spend some time sitting in the shade and feeling the cool breeze while contemplating the significance of these ancient human endeavours that have lasted thousands of years. There is a narrow bridge made out of thin logs that helps villagers to cross the river. It is a very serene and beautiful locale.

Kushavati River)

The Kurdi Mahadev Temple

Kurdi Mahadev Temple at the relocated site)

There is another must-see site within the Sanguem Taluk of Goa that has much dharmic significance. It is the Mahadev Temple at Kurdi. In the 1980s a dam was constructed on the Salaulem river. The reservoir of this dam submerged the habitation on the banks of this river and the Kurdi Angod village was one of them. This village has spiritual and dharmic sites that dated back to antiquity. Therefore the Archaeology department took it upon itself to translocate the Mahadev Temple that is said to belong to the Kadamba period of 10th-11th century CE. Brick by brick the temple was dismantled and reassembled to a relocated site 17 kms away from its original position. It took 11 years to complete this task.

(Pillars of the Ardhmandapam)

The Mahadev Temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva. The materials used are Laterite bricks and basalt stone. It has a square Garbhgriha with a porch that has two pillars at the entrance. These pillars have a square base. Towards the centre there are carved Kirtimukhas on the four sides. The pillars then become circular and finally end with a square support to the lintel of the porch. The upper corners of these pillars are carved with floral motifs.

In the porch area sits a damaged Nandi on a vedi (base where deity is placed) facing his Lord. A damaged stone image of Lord Ganesha sits on the right side of the entrance

A rectangular basalt doorway leads to the Garbhgriha. This doorway has an intricately carved lintel with a seated female deity in the centre. There are female figures, Kirtimukhas and floral motifs on either side of the door jambs as well as the lower plinth area. Beautifully carved floral motifs along with a conch shell adorn the entrance floor area. The roof of this Ardhmandapam has geometric squares with a circular centre that is adorned with fading floral motifs.  

The carvings on the entrance to the Sanctum)

The Garbhgriha is empty except for the empty vedi. The main deity of worship was a Shivalinga that is at present worshipped at Someswara Temple at Kurdi Angod (The village that got submerged under the dam reservoir). An amazing feature of this submerged village of Kurdi Angod is that during the peak summers it comes out of water for around a month. At this time the Someswara Temple becomes accessible to the locals and devotees alike, who throng to have a darshan of Mahadev. So even though this relocated Kurdi Mahadev Temple is devoid of any worship, the Lord still sits in the area of his origin and blesses his devotees.

There is another stepped mandapam next to the main temple. This part of the Mahadev Temple was also dismantled and relocated to stand next to the main shrine. Only the stepped plinth base remains and with some remnants of pillars/structures.

The remains of the stepped Mandapam)


The nondescript village of Chandor, in south Goa, is off the tourist trail and most of the visitors come here to visit Braganza house which stands as a monument of Portuguese architecture. But the history of Chandor goes back more than 1700 years when the Bhoja kings settled in Chandrapura at the start of 3rd century CE. They were the feudatories of Satvahana and ruled the Goa area between 3rdthe and 6th century CE. The riverine transport system through the Kushavati River and Juari river leading up to the Arabian Sea kept this place in the centre of the international trade for many centuries. After the downfall of Bhojas, the next important dynasty was Kadambas, Founded by King Shastadeva in 960 CE, proclaiming his freedom from the Chalukyas. They started trade relations with Arabs and Chandrapura (present-day Chandor) became very rich. Kadambas shifted the capital to Gopakapattanam thus reducing the importance of Chandor area. Then came the 14th-century raids by the marauders and destructive army of Delhi Sultanate and others. This kingdom suffered quick raids by Malik Kafur, Muhammed bin Thuglak and Nawab of Hanovar, all in less than 40 years. The destruction was so systematic and thorough that nothing survives of the great city, its bazaars, houses and most importantly, religious places. In 1510, Goa was conquered by the Portuguese who launched the infamous inquisitions, which is known to the historians as one of the most bloodthirsty inquisitions anywhere in the world. Most of the inhabitants converted under this relentless pressure. Consistent with the pan-Indian tendencies of forgetting our history, Chandor had to wait for a long time to get its due place in history.

The severely damaged Nandi at Chandor)

A site called Isharochem was excavated in 1930 by Fr Henry, discovering the remains of a Shiva temple in the centre of the town. Nothing remains at the site and the only memory of the actual status is from an ASI report of 1974, showing the presence of a Sanctum, Pradaksina Path (circumambulatory passage), an assembly hall and a small intermediate Mandapam. The relics have been shifted to the museums and the solitary evidence is maintained in the form of a solitary Nandi, heavily mutilated, kept on a small pedestal in a desolate field fenced with barbed wires. One has to see this lonely stone monument to believe the extent of vandalism by the looters of the invading army.

Tambdi Surla Temple

The Tambdi Surla Temple is the oldest surviving extant temple of Goa with Kadamba-Yadava architecture that dates back to the 12th Century CE. It is located in the Bhagwan Mahavir National Park  and the fact that it was built within a forest area has ensured its survival. It stayed unnoticed and survived the colonial cum religious onslaughts. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and a Shivlinga adorns the sanctum. The temple faces the east and is a place for regular worship by devotees.

The temple is made out of Basalt stone. The four pillars in the Ardhmandapam are intricately carved. The roof has beautiful lotuses facing downwards. The walls are adorned with geometric cum floral motifs. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma also find a place along with Lord Shiva amidst the carvings. The Trinity has been depicted along with their consorts. Pairs of Naga Serpents adorn both sides of the door jamb. The roofed cum pillared mandapam is beautiful and devotees sit and relax amidst the green surroundings. This temple stands as a reminder of the amazing craftsmanship and architecture of those times.

Tambdi Surla Shiva Temple)

Shri Mangesh Temple

The Shri Mangesh Temple is situated at Mangeshi village in Priol, Ponda Taluk of Goa, 21 kms from Panaji. This is one of the largest and most frequented temples by Goan Hindus. It is a Shiva temple wherein Lord Mangesh, an incarnation of Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of a Shivlinga. This temple has seen numerous onslaughts by the religious fanatics and invaders. It was originally located in Kushasthali Cortalim village in Murmugao. This village was invaded by the Portuguese in 1543. In order to protect this sacred temple, the temple priests moved the Mangesh Shivlinga from the original site at Kushasthali on the banks of the river Juari to its present location at Mangeshi in Priol village and a new temple was built here. This village was then ruled by the Kings of Sonde.

Thereafter the temple was rebuilt and renovated during the reign of the Marathas. The Peshwas donated the village of Mangeshi to this temple in 1739. The temple was again rebuilt in 1890 and the final renovation took place in 1973 when a golden kalash was mounted on the top of the temple Shikhara.

Legend has it that once Lord Shiva took the form of a tiger to scare his wife, Goddess Parvati. Parvati was frightened at the site of the tiger and she ran in search of her Lord Shiva. She cried out ‘Trahi mam girisha’- Save me, Oh Lord of the mountains! Lord Shiva realised what he had done and so came back into his normal form. Thereafter the words ‘mam girisha’ became associated with Lord Shiva and with time the words became abbreviated to Manguirisha, then to Manguesh and the present term Mangesh. The present temple complex also has shrines for Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesha. There are subsidiary shrines that are dedicated to Nandikeshvar, Gajana, Bhagvati, Virbhadra, Lakshminarayana, Suryanarayana, Garuda, and Kalbhairava.


Compared to the more recent colonial structures and the ever-crowded beaches in Goa, there are hardly any visitors to these sites. The grand churches and other modern monuments are magnificent structures, but these mute testimonies to a civilisation long forgotten are no less significant.

This article was first published by Pragyata