About the murti of Sri devi

The sculpture of Gajantlakshmi is a symbol of creation. The Lakshmi seated on a full blossomed lotus, and holding lotuses or a sheaf of grains in her hands represents ,mother earth and the natural wealth, who is also called ‘’Bhudevi’’.Gajantlakshmi is always attended by two water-showering elephants on her either side. The showering of goddess Sri Lakshmi by cloud like elephants with celestial waters are symbolically related to the dark clouds which send down the fertilizing rains. The murti of the Goddess is inside Garbha Gruha of the temple is also depicted holding ‘’Bilva’’(‘’bel’’ in Konkani and Marathi)fruits in her lower hands.Bilva tree is considered as a symbol of prosperity since ancient times and hence is believed to have born out of Lakshmi.Associtaion of Lakshmi and Bilva is also mention in Sri Sukta of Rigveda. On her either side are two attendants holding ‘’Chamara’’(Chavri in Marathi and Konkani) or fly-whisk which is associated with material wealth.

Such a depiction of Lakshmi in the form of Gaja Lakshmi is a result of primitive worship of the Earth goddess, assimilated with Vedic,Brahminic and Puranic ideas. It is also said that Gaja Lakshmi was very popular amongst people of Merchant and trading class, (like the Sreshthis or Shetis of Goa) and also farming communities. The worship of such icons was popular since antiquity and was at its heights during Buddhist era and was also accepted and patronized by Buddhists.

The original image of Gajant Lakshmi which was brought from Caraim was a masterpiece of Kadamba sculpture and was made of schist stone. The new icon was later consecrated in 2000s,as the older sculpture was worn out.

History of the temple

As per oral traditions of some of the Mahajana families,the Kulapurusha brought the idols of Sri devi from the banks of Ganga,as they migrated from North to South via Dwaraka.The deity was then installed on the island of Chudamani(Modern Chorao in Portuguese,or Chodne in Marathi and Konkani) on the banks of river Gomati(modern Mandovi) in a place called as Karai(modern Caraim,Caroi,Carem).The ancestors cleared the land for settlement with the help of native fishermen and established the Gramasanstha(comunidade).The comunidade was an autonomous body that looked after the agriculture, and also they were vested with several powers such as municipal,judicial,fiscal and those of public welfare.The Chorao island consisted of three comunidades namely,Chorao,Ambelim and Caraim.The Gauncars of Caraim belonged exclusively to the caste of Daivadnya Brahmin,who are also known as Sheti(in Konkani).They excelled in trade and commerce for centuries and organized themselves into guilds(or Shreni),thus knows as Shreshthi(modern day Sheti or Shet).They organized themselves into three groups or vangods,and practiced jewelry trade, and many were engaged in overseas trade, and some were also engaged in clerical jobs(Culancharins or Kulkarnis).

The Vangods of Gauncars worshipped the deity Gaja Lakshmi whom they referred to as ‘’Vanadevta’’,as her shrine might have been in a sacred groove or ‘’Devrai’’,hence they called their deity Vanadevta.They also installed the deity Ravalnath as the guardian of the fields and village, known as ‘’Kshetrapala’’.Small shrines were also built for the ‘’Kulapurusha’’ and the ‘’Panchishta’’.Some of the gauncars were also organized into a group of patrons who were called Mahajana,and offered financial assistance to the temple,ther religious activities.The expenses of the temple, and maintenance of body of servants composed of Bhats(priests),Devadasis,musicians etc was also born by the Mahajanas.

Nothing much is known about the shrine that existed in Caraim.But like most of the older temples in Goa the Shrine at Caraim might have been made of laterite stones, the walls being plastered with limestone and sand and decorated with ‘’Kavi murals’’, the roof of the temple was always made of wood and covered with clay tiles, and netted palm leaves(‘’Malla’’ and ‘’Chudta’’ in Konkani) .

Until the 15th century, the islanders of Choaro were literally untouched by the foreigners,who visited the islands for trade,who were the Moors,the Arabs,the Turks(all Muslims) and the Portuguese.But later the Moors having gained the monopoly of the trade started harassing and vexing the natives.Thus Afonso the Albuquerque was invited on the island of Tiswadi as a Protector of the Hindus.After conquering the island,Albuquerque.in fact persecuted the moors,forced them to quit the island, confiscated the property and returned it to the Hindus those that had been taken away from them by the moors. Ravala Śeṭī from Caraim who was summoned to Lisbon by the king of Portugal,was a collaborator with Afonso de Albuquerque and retained a high office in Goa.

These promises however were forgotten and the island of Tiswadi was conquered by the Portuguese in 1510.In the year 1541 the Portuguese king ordered demolition and destruction of all Hindu shrines on the island of Tiswadi,and orders were issued to eradicate Hinduism.The temples of Chorao including that of Gajant Lakshmi was demolished between 1541 to 1546.But the Mahajanas had already transferred the deities to the neighboring village of Vargaon, Bicholim. When the orders were issued which was controlled by the Sawant Bhonsle kings.Nothing is known about the period in which deities existed in Vargaon, Bicholim.In the year 1781, the province of Bicholim(Bhatagrama) was conquered by the Portuguese from the Bhonsles.The deities were then taken to Machala(modern Mashel,Marcela) by the Mahajanas and Kulavis along with all other deities of Chorao island that were transferred to Vargaon, Bicholim in 16th century. The deities were installed in a small shelter at Marcela in a place called ‘’Deulvaddo’’.A small laterite temple was then built by the Mahajanas in the early 19th century.



Address & Contact

Marcel - Goa