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TEMPLES - GOA


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The Goan modification lies in the assimilation of local building traditions into this rigid architectural style giving it a special local flavor. One of the special features of Goan temples is the Lamp Tower or "Deepmal" or the "Deepa Stambha" rising anywhere from two to six storeyedhigh. This is said to be a Maratha influence. On festival days the "Deepmal" or the "Deepa Stambha" or the Lamp tower is decorated with hundreds of oil lamps and the effect is spectacular.

Another distinctive feature of a traditional Goan temple is the Dome that covers the main shrine instead of the traditional Shikara. This is said to have been a Muslim or Mughal architectural influence.
Another Muslim or Mughal influence is said to be the "Naubat Khana" or the small tower over the entrance to the courtyard where the temple drummer sits and beats the drum to the music of religious hymns especially on auspicious days.

The curvilinear roofs of the Mandapa is said to be of Christian / Portuguese architectural influence.

The oldest temple in Goa is said to be the rock cut caves at Aravalem known as "Pandava Caves” dedicated to Lord Shiva and dating back to the 1st century AD.
Goan temples today are more modern as compared to most of India's ancient temples, mostly because these are second homes to most deities that were re-established outside of Portuguese controlled areas during the early days of Portuguese invasion and the dreaded Inquisition.

The edict of 1540 gave the Portuguese Viceroy the authority to destroy all Hindu temples and shrines within the area of Portuguese control, "not leaving a single one on any of the islands" He was also ordered to confiscate temple estates for the maintenance of churches that were ordered to be built on their sites. This was meticulously carried out by many loyalists including the famous "Temple destroyer" Diogo Rodriguez, buried at Rachol. In the areas under the Old Conquests, all traces of any temples have vanished without a trace. They even forbade Hindus to cross the border to worship at shrines and temples outside of their areas.

The first temple to be approved for construction by the Portuguese in their 300+ years of control was the Mahalaxmi temple in Panaji, approved in 1818 after bitter opposition.

Here is a table showing a list of famous temples at their current location with their original sites, almost all of them were moved during the early Portuguese rule and during the infamous Inquisition.


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In the 16th century, after the arrival of the Portuguese, at the peak of the catholic missionaries’ zeal to convert the local populace to Christianity, the religious administration passed a decree to destroy all Hindu temples and deities. While some converted to Christianity, others fled with their deities, worshipping them in secret in forests and later installing them in existing or new temples.

The detailing and embellishments of these temples display both Christian and Muslim architectural influences. During this period, craftsman and artisans were building churches. The same artisans were engaged to build Hindu temples; and incorporated these styles into the temples, which gave rise to a unique blend, the Indo-Christian style of architecture. For example, instead of traditional shikaras that usually crown garbhagrihas, in the 18th century, temples were octagonal drums crowned by tapering copper domes and over the rest of the temples is the red tiled roof seen in houses everywhere in Goa. Often Chinese ceramic dragons would be preached on the top of the roof.

The arched entrances, niches and pilasters that feature in most of temples of this period display a distinct European influence. Inside the temple too the, the mandapa often had a carved ceiling with columns. Sometimes the mandapa or garbhagriha would be decorated with cusped arches, flying angles and bunches of grapes as in Christian churches. The temples were often embellished with baroque-styled balustrades.

Traditionally, it was graffito art that decorated the walls but the recent trend is to have the walls painted in bright colours. The motifs commonly seen were lions, peacocks, rosettes, or simple heart shaped papal leaf borders.

Traces of Muslim influences are also seen in the Hindu shrines built in this period. Cupolas all inverted lotus flowers embellished the domes of temples; or Islamic cinquefoil arches span wooden pillars in a mandapa. The window arches in many of these temples also bear a distinct Muslim influence.

Therefore it is elements of both cultures, Islam and Christianity that have been harmoniously incorporated in Goan temples built from 17th century onwards.
Over the years these temples have been metamorphosed and expanded to some extent.
What stands now are fairly modern temples, with deities that have been venerated for centuries. They still draw devotees, descendants of the original worshippers, who come to seek the deity’s blessings before an auspicious moment in their lives.


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