At the southern end of Bicholim Taluka, far away from urban life, lies the quiet and still village of Naroa or Narve. Interestingly, it is situated opposite the village of the same name in the island of Divar, Tiswadi Taluka. However, except for the name, the two villages seem to have little in common.
Lying at 15.33° North latitude and 73.56° East longitude, Naroa is located at a distance of about five kms from Bicholim. It can be reached either via Divar from whose north shore a ferry chugs across the Mandovi River every hour or via Bicholim. But often public transport to Naroa is fiendish with buses few and far between. A lush patchwork of paddy fields, thickly wooded valleys and hills, Naroa consists of five wards –Deulwado, Gaonkarwado, Murdiwado, Talewado and Marma wado – spread over an area of 715.6 hectares and a population of around 1863. A predominantly Hindu village, Naroa has many temples such as those dedicated to Saptakoteshwar, Laxmi Narayan, Kal Bhairav, Bhagwati, Xetrapal, Shantadurga, Ram, Kethoba, Hanuman Ganesh and others. The name Deulwado has been derived from the term ‘deul’ or temple.
The Saptakoteshwar Temple in Naroa is of historical significance. It is regarded as the oldest temple in Goa. The temple deity – the Linga (a phallic shaped object) of Lord Shiva is believed to be made of seven metals and hence the name Saptakoteshwar. However, according to material in the Archives, Saptakoteshwar has been linked with the folk deity, since he is believed to have crossed swords with demons – many and Mala – with his powerful army of seven crores. Another belief is, since he recited seven crore mantras he is called Saptakoteshwar.
The linga has a long and turbulent history. Patronised during the fourteenth century by the Kadamba royal family, it was originally enshrined in the locality of the same name near the island of Divar. When the temple was demolished in 1560 by the Portuguese, (and a chapel dedicated to Nossa Senhora De Candelaria was erected in its place) the linga was used as a well shaft until some Hindus managed to rescue it. The idol was then smuggled across the river to Bicholim where it was installed in a brand new temple and revamped in 1668 by the Maratha Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj.
With its shallow Moghul dome mounted on an octagonal drum sloping tiled roofs, European style mandapa, or assembly hall and tall lamp tower or deepastamba, the temple is situated in an archaelogically important area. The surroundings of the temple are tinged with several Brahminical laterite and stone caves. In the vicinity of it existed a Jain Math, the ruins of which are still visible. It was probably an important Jain temple patronised by the Kadamba rulers prior to their shifting loyalty to Sri Saptakoteshwar. In front of the temple towards the right side of the Deepastamba is a shrine of Kalbhairav and outside it are seen the padukas of Dattatraya carved on the stone. Little ahead of the Deepastamba are seen two huge laterite pillar like structures buried deep. Probably they maybe stone henges. Behind the temple are seen carved stone walls with niches. It may have been an ancient Agrashala. Similarly, close to the temple there is a man-made tunnel like structure which is presently silted. Near the temple site there is a sacred tank known as Panchaganga Tirtha which is used for ablutions by the devotees during the occasion of Gokulashtami, the birth day of Lord Shiva.
Ashtami is celebrated with great splendour in Naroa. On this day, in the morning, men from the different wards go towards the river carrying the murthis (idols) of various Gods and Goddesses in palkis – a flat wooden plank with a covering on top and protruding poles on either side. The palki is usually decorated with fine wooden carvings. On reaching the river the devotees bathe themselves with water as part of the moral cleansing ritual. Ashtami is celebrated on the third day of Shravan and often coincides with the popular Masandevi Zatra.
The Masandevi temple is situated atop a small hillock towards the South East of the village. Locals firmly believe that the entire hillock is haunted by evil spirits. One of the villagers, an elderly man of about sixty years, says that after the Zatra all the dirt on the ground like grain skins, paper etc mysteriously disappears and the place is cleared by next morning. Eerie indeed! Many villagers also claim to have heard human voices coming from the deserted hillock during the night.
Close to the temple there is a tree where a person believed to be possessed by the spirits is taken and a nail hammered into the trunk. It is believed that such an act removes the demon from the person’s body and sticks him on the tree.
Another belief of the Masandevi followers is: If a pregnant woman dies, the body should be buried on the temple hillock in order to prevent her spirits from harassing her family and others. It is perhaps the simple god fearing nature of the people belonging to a typically agrarian society that has led to the perpetuation of various superstitions, beliefs and customs. The village is well known for its Naroa Tertha where the bones of the dead men who have no heirs are immersed in order that their souls may have eternal rest.
The distinctively rural and comparatively backward society consists mainly of poor, honest and hard working people. Their humble dwellings – small white-washed mud houses with tiled or thatched roofs and dung flooring – blending perfectly with the rustic surroundings. If you want to get a taste of rural Goa a trip across the Mandovi is worth considering. Passing through a string of tranquil farming hamlets in picturesque country side, their peaceful lanes are perfect for a leisurely walk through nature, atleast for the time being, a new road and the KRC rail line complete with cuttings and huge concrete bridges look set to shatter the serenity of the area. The villagers, however, seem unperturbed by the KRC developments – the massively excavated hills, grime and dust that has been disturbing the ecology of the place in recent years.
Most of the village people are engaged in agriculture or horticulture (Bhagyaadori). Paddy is the main crop grown in the village. The secondary crops being arecanut, coconut, nachane, black pepper, cardamons, cocum, cashew etc. Water for drinking and other purposes is obtained by the villagers from the wells. Only a handful of houses have government water connections. Almost all of the houses in the villages are electrified. The supply, however, is erratic and unreliable. In such circumstances the villagers often depend on the traditional lamps.
Educational facilities to the village population are provided by two Marathi medium primary schools and one English medium middle school, run by the government. The local children usually go to Bicholim for their high school and college education. The health facilities include an empty primary health centre. Recently, the Narve Vikas Co-operative Society has opened a bank counter to provide banking facilities to the villagers. There are no facilities for sports and extracurricular activities in the village.
Besides the light and water connections and a few tarred roads the village doesn’t seem to have made any progress since yesteryears. There are no telephone lines or cables here! The village has a mill and a co-operative society providing certain basic commodities. For any other provisions or services the villagers go to Bicholim. Besides Ashtami and Zatra, Mahashivratri and Tripuri Poornima are some of the other festivals celebrated in Naroa. Thousands of people from different parts of Goa gather here during these religious celebrations to pay homage to the deity.
Besides the Saptakoteshwas temple, Naroa has little to boast of in terms of places of importance. Perhaps you would say, it’s just another village until you experience its rustic surroundings, idyllic charm and indolent pace. Naroa has two famous springs – Vhoddli Zhor and Dhakti Zhor. Ensconced in a thickly wooded valley amid areca plantations and other fruit trees lies the Vhoddli Zhor called Kapil Teerth which is also known as Peltodi in Divar and Dudonya in St. Estevam.
Many years ago the spring used to flow through the mouth of a stone sculpted bull nandi which is worshipped by the Hindus and hence the name Kapil Tertha. However, due to a storm the nandi got dislocated and was removed (it is now kept in the Archaeological Museum at Panaji) since then the water flows through the bark of an areca plant.
The two springs particularly the Vhoddli zhor, is a favourite picnic spot for the people of the neighbouring villages. Goeant Vhoddli Zhoriye bhashen anik Zhor nam (there is no other spring in Goa like the Big spring), Opine picnickers. The other spring is located in the property of the C M Menezes family. They have a beautiful country house built above the spring.
The villagers use the spring water for bathing, drinking and washing purposes. It is also used to irrigate the areca plants. Mud pits are dug parrallel to the areca plantations. The water from the springs is directed into these pits through small channels. It is later sprinkled on the plants with a Kullem a boat shaped hollow wooden object. Come March and the place is buzzing with activity and strong smells of cashews. Ladies and children can be seen picking ripe cashews while the men are busy with the extraction of the juice and distillation.
Preparation of Urrack and Feni is a secondary occupation of the people in this village. There are approximately twenty distillation centres here. The beverages are sold in the neighbouring villages. However, this year there has been a steep fall in cashew production which has severely affected their operations, laments Dattaram Narvekar who has been producing soro for several years now.
Among the well established families of Naroa are the Bhate’s, one of the biggest plantation owners in the village. Their blue and white ancestral house stands out as perhaps the only mansion in the village. Ramchandra Narayan Bhate is the proud recipient of the ‘Agricultural award of the Atmaram Mayekar Society.
Chandrashekar Narvekar, alias N Chandran, Bollywood’s well known Producer-Director, is originally from Naroa. Though the family moved out of the village for better prospects several years ago. Chandran occasionally visits his native place for darshan at Saptakoteshwar, informs one of the temple priests Prasad Sanzgiri.
“Throughout the year we receive pilgrims from neighbouring states”, he adds. There are a few guest rooms available near the temple. One of the village panchas (Deulwado), Damodar Mashelkar voiced the urgent need for development in the village. “The village has a strong potential for the establishment of certain industries like cashewnut for instance”, opined Mashelkar. He regrets the lack of the necessary infrastructure which has always been a detrimental to any step in this direction.
While another person opines that the village with its beautiful spring and historical temple could be an ideal tourist spot. But for a few individuals, concerned about the lack of development and progress in the village, most of the people here seem content to carry on the same life style.
A certain atmosphere, undefinable yet distinct, gives character to some places and sets them apart from others. The simple society and rustic scenery of Naroa lends that special touch which is appealing to the heart!
Roll Of Honour
N Chandran – Film producer – director
Gurudatta Sanzgiri – Architect.
Jaiwanta Ras – Advocate
Ramchandra Bhate – Plantation owners