Friday, March 17, 2017

Where time stands still

f you’d like to know what it means to soak in silence, visit Tambdi Surla, a Mahadev temple on the outskirts of Goa

We first read about Tambdi Surla in Manohar Malgaonkar’s Inside Goa. He says in the book: “A tour of Goa’s temples should appropriately end with Tambdi Surle or Red Surle. Red Surle is no more than a hamlet with perhaps a hundred inhabitants and it is called red because its earth is red. But the temple which is about half a mile away from the village is black, which means that the stone for its building must have been brought from some distance away. It is by far the oldest temple in Goa, perhaps built in 12th century or even earlier. Up until a couple of years ago, it was all but inaccessible.”

So having read this and the description of the Mahadev temple, accompanied by the detailed illustrations of the site, by cartoonist Mario Miranda, we were keen on visiting Tambdi Surla. This summer, as we drove down to Sacordem and then through the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, we got an inkling of how the temple remained standing, undamaged throughout the Portuguese reign of the island state.

It’s so far away from habitation that possibly everyone forgot that the temple existed. While driving through the wildlife sanctuary and the smattering of hamlets and post offices announcing the names of villages that we were passing through, we often wondered if we had lost our way. And, no GPS could have guided us, because there was this dense foliage around us. As far as spotting wild animals or birds in the sanctuary was concerned, we only got lucky with langurs who lined our path all the way to the Tambdi Surla temple.

On reaching our destination, we spotted two men running respective stalls — one sold puja paraphernalia and the other was a gola and sherbetwala with colourful bottles stocked on his cart.

Inside the temple precincts, a serene silence engulfed us. And what lay before our eyes was something straight out of a picture postcard. A stone structure (the temple) was a few yards away, surrounded on all sides by manicured green lawns, lined with bushes. A tiled path led to the structure, which stood out against the green hills and blue sunny skies. The only thing missing in this picture-perfect image was a gurgling stream or a brook. Well, Tambdi Surla does have a stream which flows along the temple, but in summer, it dries up.

It’s one of the cleanest and efficiently-maintained temple precincts and gardens that we have seen, mostly because not many are aware of its existence. In a state known for beaches and booze, a temple so far from the main city, surely doesn’t figure in anyone’s must-visit list.

The Archaeological Survey of India board mentions the construction date of the temple as 12th century, perhaps built by the Kadamba dynasty, which ruled Goa. The lone structure is plain to look at, but its engineering is something to marvel at. No brick or mortar has been used in its construction. It’s just stones placed on top of another, like an octagonal puzzle.

After spending about 30 minutes in and around the temple, soaking in the splendorous beauty, we stepped out to chat with the vendors. The temple now had a few visitors besides us. The golawala told us that the temple sees a huge crowd on Mahashivratri, else it’s all quiet. And we thoroughly enjoyed the quietness because it was a huge refreshing change from the city’s din and rattle.

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