Kurdi was once Upon A Time, A Village…

The tiny coastal state of Goa is the land of enchanting beauty and serene beaches, though the true beauty of Goa lies in its traditions and cultures entwined in its rural villages. One such stunningly beautiful little gem is Kurdi. Like Atlantis, Kurdi sank beneath the waves three decades ago, but unlike the Atlanteans, the people of Kurdi lost their homes to the Salaulim dam development project. The dam project was envisioned by Goa’s first Chief Minister Dayanand Bandodkar in 1965. The building of the dam required sacrifice. The twin villages of Kurdi and Kurpem had to be relocated. As the dam work commenced, the villagers were offered compensation and relocation. The Kurdikars moved to Vaddem and Valkinim, two tiny hamlets near Sanguem town. They left their beloved ancestral land behind to make way for the dam that stands mighty and tall till date. At the end of an acrid summer, in the scalding hot months of April and May, when the waters recede, Kurdi resurfaces majestically, proclaiming its imposing presence and enticing nostalgic memories of their motherland, amongst the locals.

The archaic village was a flourishing settlement, in the days of yore, with verdant coconut groves, vast stretches of rice fields and blooming cashew plantations, aided with abundant water supply from the adjoining Salaulim River. Neatly cushioned in the valley, towering hills across assured a cool climate year round in Kurdi. The self-sufficient village had a high school, church, temple, police station and even an irrigation canal which dated back to the Portuguese era.

Even now, the relics of the decrepit village are surreally beautiful. The steeply cut banks of a stream show strange parallel marks and deep burrows. Mud walls of abandoned houses still stand weirdly ubiquitous. A stone pedestal without its cross appears as desolate as the barren land around. Stumps of coconut trees stick out everywhere, with unusual nest-like cavities. The terrain in this valley is barren and scorched, but only up to a distinct line in the distance, beyond which lush greenery abounds. Little ahead is the dazzling water body of Salaulim Dam, stretching right up to the horizon. The mud walls of some houses still stand strong, in spite of braving deep waters throughout the year. Pieces of clay roof tiles and shards of pottery lie around, giving the place an appearance of an archeological dig. And yet, although it is only for a month, new shoots of grass emerge on the dry cracked bed.

The decrepit structure of the old post office still stands strong, its cubicles and concrete lintels defying decades of submersion under water. Some of the visitors’ children play hide and seek in its encrusted walls, probably unaware of the letters of love and longing that once went out to the world from this once living village.

Though the Kurdikars are spread all over, what unites them is their love for their land and culture. This ensures that they pay homage to their lost land through the annual festivals – the pilgrimage to the relics of Lord Someshwar Temple and the Eucharistic celebration at the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church. A grand feast is organized at the temple and also at the chapel constructed over the ruins of the church.

The most prominent resident of Kurdi is the legendary Hindustani classical vocalist Mogubai Kurdikar. Having grown up in Kurdi, she often expressed her love for her village and shared fond reminiscences of her life there. Her daughter, renowned vocalist, Kishori Amonkar and her son were known to periodically visit Kurdi to keep in touch with their roots.

Kurdi village has an important footprint in the Goan history. The submerged village was home to the Kurdi Mahadev Temple, an 11th century temple believed to be from the Kadamba dynasty period, who ruled Goa back then. The construction of the dam had threatened the submergence of the temple and hence it was systematically dismantled and reconstructed at this place providing similar topographical setting. The whole process spanned a period of 11 years! The markings on the rock are still visible. This temple consists of a square sanctum sanctorum and porch in the front, where some preserved relics are displayed. The main idol is presently under worship in Someswara temple at Kurdi Angod. A museum in the precinct provides details of how the dismantling and reconstruction took place. The present location of the temple is at a distance of 17 kilometers from Kurdi Angod, on the way to Salaulim dam.

Kurdi is steeped in invaluable and bountiful history, ethos and culture. There are groups of regular enthusiastic explorers, who state that each year there is something more waiting to be discovered in this mystical land. And when June arrives and when the storm clouds come and the rains lash the land, Kurdi returns to the embrace of the deep waters.

Text & Pics: Anuja Mavinkurve

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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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