Somewhere in the heart of the Bhagwan Mahaveer National Park lies a small, 12th century Mahadeva Temple that has survived the ravages of time, and escaped being destroyed by the Portuguese, and Mughal invaders. The oldest temple in Goa, it is the only remaining legacy of the Kadamba Dynasty in this land.
We visited the temple at around 6.30am, a time when dawn was just about breaking. We drove for about half an hour from the entrance of the Park until we reached a clearing where we parked our car and continued on foot.
Past a small bridge across the Surla River, the temple lies at the end of a tree-lined path.
We found it surrounded by a high fence with a gate that was inconveniently locked, but then again, why would that hold us back?! We scaled the fence, and landed in the midst of a clearing in the forest, with the temple in the centre, and the mysterious hills beyond. It felt like being part of a beautiful painting.
The temple itself is quite small, beautifully carved, and dedicated to Lord Shiva. It has a pillared porch with three entrances, a beautifully carved ceiling and a headless Nandi placed in the centre of the porch.
A three-tier tower surmounts the shrine. It is said to be incomplete.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a glimpse into the inner sanctum as it was locked, but we did get to admire the beautifully carved stone screen framing the door that led to it.
There are other smaller shrines housing other deities right outside this door, on either side.
Intricate carvings adorn the sides of the temple as well as the interiors.
The grounds surrounding the temple are well maintained and immaculately clean. A pond heron seemed to be enjoying an early morning stroll here!
We came across these rocks that seemed to have some significance, although we didn’t know what.
A Tulsi plant with an incense-stand occupies a small space in the garden in front of the temple.
The river Surla flows past the temple, and may be reached by a short flight of stone steps beyond a gate, near which stands a signboard with details about the temple.
The gate leading to the river was locked – no surprise there – so we had to jump over this one too, to get to the river, and to the other side of the fence surrounding the temple.
The sun was beginning to make its slow ascent in the sky as we drove away from the temple, retracing our path through the cool greenery of the Park, and back onto the narrow, dusty roads of Goa.