A Trail To Hero Stones and Other Historic Vestiges from Bandora, Goa

EXPLORING a village is always exciting but when a native leads the walk one can expect a different experience altogether. So this time when ‘Soul Travelling’chose a local young woman – an English literature lecturer –Tanvi Bambolkar to lead the walk in Bandora, expectations ran high.

And sure enough, the group stood mesmerized when Tanvi led the way into an open field and pointed to what looked like a short, vertical stone. On closer inspection, one could observe that the stone was divided into three panels, with figures in bass relief in each panel. “Does anybody know what this is?” she questioned. The group probably had never seen anything like this and stood quiet. “Well then,” she explained, “This is a Hero Stone, locally called as a Vir Gall. These were the memorials erected usually on the borders to immortalize the sacrifices of those who died in Wars. As you can see, it has three layers each signifying three stages of the the warrior’s death. The lowest part signifies his death on the war field, second one is where he is being taken to the heaven by celestial nymphs. And the third one denotes the warrior being one with the God or him finding Moksha since he lost his life in a War.”

She then walked a little further and pointed to yet another Hero Stone. One of the walkers who hadn’t had enough asked whether there were any more in the vicinity. “As a matter of fact there is a cluster of Hero Stones close by,” she replied and led the way through a private compound and after taking due permission walked into their back yard.

And there, under an old tree, stood not one or two or three but seven memorials! The walkers were dumbfounded! Tanvi explained that on an earlier walk, one enterprising local girl had pointed out to this hoard of our heritage. The trail led to the Nagueshi Temple where the group explored its sacred environs. The temple was roofed with Mangalore tile pyramids and blended well with the Goan architecture. A lamp tower that stood tall nearby drew the attention of the visitors. Tanvi narrated a brief history of the temple: Most of the temples in Ponda have deities which were brought from some other parts of Goa during the Inquisition period but Nagesh is a Swayambhu deity. It belongs to this land. A legend narrates a story of a cowherd stumbling across a linga on which his cow would shed milk every day and that is how people discovered the Nagesh deity’s presence. The temple has been restructured several times and has found patronage from various wealthy families.

Tanvi then walked to the temple lake where she informed that she had learnt her swimming and in the summer heat was tempted to take a head on plunge into its cools waters! Behind the lake one could see a large shaded to enter the palace. The golden Ganesha idol is worth seeing and also the immersion procession to the holy tank of Nageshi is fun to watch.”

The scene shifted from the palace of a living king to the site of ancient Jain culture, once practiced fervently in Goa. Thankfully, the site, a mound of ruins a few years ago, is under restoration and one could walk around and within the ruins. The majestic archways and the old niches spoke of the architectural style of that era. Tanvi enlightened the group further, “These are the ruins of a Jain Basadi, areca nut plantation. The entire ambience was a soothing experience to theses Travelling Souls! Just outside the temple compound, stands a grand mansion, almost a palace. And much to everybody’s surprise, our hostess pointed and said “This is Shivteerth Palace, abode of the King Saundhekar.

Although the present King visits this place during festivities, the palace is under care of local caretakers. The palace has several arms and ammunitions used by various generations of Saundhekars. They still have a significant role to play in the festivities of Nagesh deity. During Ganesh Chaturthi people are allowed which can mean either a settlement or a living area of Jains. Very few people from Goa are aware about the presence of Jainism at some point in Goa. Probably during Kadamba rule in Goa the Jain monks would have come to preach about the religion. They must have meditated in such structures. This particular structure was in complete ruins in my childhood but thanks to the efforts of Archaeology Department it has seen some restructuring and now people can witness what exactly lay hidden behind those bushes ages ago.”

After trudging through all this history, a surprise itinerary awaited the explorers. A local house opened its doors to the group and everyone followed the owner Mrs. Namshikar to a balcony upstairs. ‘Sasay’ is the name of their house which means legacy. And truly this family holds the legacy of serving in various fields such as art and education. A rare case of a happy joint family in the times of small families is what the Namshikars are.

What is truly mesmerising is their collection of antique tools and traditional games. Some of these were even brought by the daughters-in-law as a gift from their maiden families. They have displayed all these items in a very creative manner and they even had an exhibition of the same in one of the art galleries in Ponda.

For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.



Author: Planet Goa Team
For us at Planet-Goa, our team is driven by that feeling of exhilaration that one gets when discovering that something ‘unique’ and ‘new’ about Goa for our ever-so-discerning readers.

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