Saptakoteshwar Temple

Introduction

India is a land steeped with spirituality made holy by its sacred rivers. The glory of its rich historical past has been marked by a number of holy temples known for their architectural splendour and legends from mythology. One of the six great temples of Lord Shiva in the Konkan region is the temple of Saptakoteshwar, an incarnation of Lord Shiva which is located at Narwe – Bicholim about 35 km from Panaji, Goa. The ancient rulers from the Kadamba dynasty built the temple and held it in great veneration.


History of the temple

The history of the temple dates back to the 12th century and was said to have been built by one of the Kings of the Kadamba dynasty for his wife Kamaldevi who was a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. The Kings of the Kadamba dynasty used the title Birudu, Shri Saptakotisha Labdha Varaveera. It was revered as their family deity and coins of that period which were referred to as Saptakotisha Gadyanakas have inscriptions reading ‘Saptakotishwaralabdha Varaprasada’ meaning ‘with the grace of Lord Saptakotishwara’. In the 13th century, the Kadamba kingdom including Goa was conquered by the Bahmani Sultans who ruled for 14 years during which a number of temples were destroyed and the Linga of the Saptakoteshwar temple was dug up by the troops. Later, the Vijayanagar King defeated the Bahmani Sultans and managed to restore most of the temples including Saptakoteshwar to their former glory. By the end of the 14th century according to records, the temple was reconstructed by Madhav Mantri.  The temple was demolished by the Portuguese in the 15th century and the Linga was rescued by some Hindus and later after a period was installed in a new place and a temple constructed by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in the 16th century.

Legend behind the temple

According to legends, the seven holy sages or Saptarishis prayed for seven crore years at this place and Lord Shiva appeared to bless them and grant them their wishes. Hence, the Lord is known as Saptakoteshwar with ‘Sapta’ meaning seven and ‘Koteshwar’ meaning Lord of crores.

Architecture of the temple

The architecture of the temple is typically Goan with the distinctive tall lamp tower or Deepasthamba, the European style Mandapa or assembly hall and the Mughal style dome and octogonal sloping tiled roofs. There is a shrine of Kalabhairav in front of the temple and outside it are seen the Padukas of Lord Dattatreya carved on the stone. Two huge laterite pillar-like structures can be seen buried deep at a little distance of the Deepasthamba. The temple has a small entrance hall with bells and the main five pillared hall is decorated with arches. The wall of the sanctum sanctorum is made of wood and the ceilings of the temple are designed intricately and have chandeliers.

Behind the temple, there are carved stone walls with niches and near the temple site there is a sacred tank known as Panchaganga Tirtha in which devotees can offer ablutions especially before holy festivals like Mahashivaratri. The surroundings of the temple have several laterite and stone caves. The Shivalinga is made of polished stone and is faceted and called Dharalinga. The temple has vast courtyards and many small shrines for all the other Shaivite Gods. A stone plaque seen near the temple entrance mentions the order given by Chhatrapati Shivaji (on one of his many expeditions to Goa against the Portuguese) to rebuild the temple which was destroyed by the Portuguese and also reinstall the Linga.

Pujas and Festivals

The most important festival celebrated in the temple is Gokulashtami as it is considered to be the day on which Lord Shiva appeared to grant the wishes of the seven holy sages. Mahashivaratri and many other festivals too are celebrated in a grand manner in the temple. Amavasya and Poornima days are marked with prayers and rituals and devotees flock from many parts especially from Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra as the temple is considered a wish granting temple among devotees which fulfils desires of childless couples and unmarried youth.

How To Reach

By Air

Dabolim or Goa international airport is the nearest airport to Narve- Bicholim at a distance of 29 km.

By Rail

The nearest railway station is the Chandor railway station which is at a distance of 4 km.

By Road

The nearest interstate bus station is at Mapusa, the KTC bus station. A number of government and private buses run from Mapusa and Panaji to Bicholim.

By Boat

The village of Narve is located about 35 km from Panaji and can be reached by ferryboat from the island of Divar.

Conclusion

One of the major features of the rich Indian heritage includes the ancient religious monuments. Temples are found everywhere, in villages, cities and towns and the construction of these temples were greatly influenced by the dynasties which built them. In ancient times, the temples were the storehouse of knowledge and culture and were the hub around which life evolved. The various temples and the fairs and festivals associated with them also greatly influenced the life of the people.  In spite of being affected by the ravages of time, weather and invasions, many of the temples have stood the testimony of time and remain the greatest legacy for the forthcoming generations.