What is the best thing about an obscure temple in a thick forest? Well, it survives the deadliest of the attacks through the centuries to become a symbol of reminiscence of a glorious past that it witnessed, mutely telling the tales it has beheld for eight centuries straight.
This is the story of Mahadev temple in Tambdi Surla, the oldest temple of Goa.
I had never heard of this temple until recently. One day during my last visit to Goa, I befriended a cab driver from Karnataka who has been living in Goa. I was looking for new experiences in Goa and I asked him about the places that are hidden away. Tambdi Surla was the first of the things that he mentioned. Being a history buff, I got hooked to it as he told me about the connection of this temple with the kingdom that ruled the neighbouring state Karnataka. So, I planned my trip around this south-east region of Goa in this visit.
When I mentioned this to Ashok, my host and owner of Dudhsagar spice plantation, he offered to drive me this temple, which is about 20 km from his place in Karmane village.
Honestly, I was in for a surprise. The drive to the place is itself through a thick forest, which began off the main road in Valpoi near Sattari. The early morning sun rays tried to make way through the dense trees on either side, and cold breeze accompanied as we drove inside the protected area.
A bridge led me to the gates of the temple. Located at the foot of Anmod Ghat, Tamdi Surla is blessed with a scenic landscape. Tall mountains form the backdrop and the canopy of Anmod Ghat looks lush green. I heard the Surla river that flew very close to the temple. You can reach the banks of the stream by walking over a cobbled path downhill close to the gate of Tambdi Surla. I saw a few wonderful birds that chirped, a few that I had never seen before!
Tambdi Surla – History & Architecture
Now a protected heritage site, Tambdi Surla is a monument constructed in the 12th century. It is considered as the most ancient temple of Goa, which was actually built far away from the areas where civilisation flourished.
It is built in the Jain style of architecture, and the sculptures with intricate design resemble the ancient historic temples of Karnataka, also built by the Kadambas, a prominent empire that ruled these provinces. The temple is surprisingly small in area, and interestingly, the top portion of the temple was never built! Entirely made of black basalt stone, this ornate temple faces east, a sacred direction for temples to receive the first rays of the sun.
Tambdi Surla is dedicated to Shiva and there is a Linga inside the sanctum. A statue of a headless Nandi or a bull stands inside the corridor, which is surrounded by stone planks all on sides, with a pillared hall in the centre. The black basalt stone, which is used in all the Kadamaba style of buildings was sourced from the Deccan Plateau, which was regarded as a treasure house of precious minerals during that period.
The stone pillars are carved with intricate designs – a mixture of abstract structures, animals and characters from the Mythology. Bas-reliefs of the Hindu Gods are at display around the corners, another signature style of Kadamba architecture.
Tambdi Surla – A Survivor of Times
Apart from the Hindu temples in Goa, there is no trace of any historical monument in the state at present, which makes Tambdi Surla special. The fact that the Mahadev temple has survived the test of times for this long is something to wonder. Thanks to its secluded location, it has escaped the attacks of the Muslim kingdoms and many others that followed during the centuries including the Portuguese, Dutch and the others.
I was for sure happy to visit this little piece of history on that morning that was loaded with brilliant architecture and the beauty of nature.
Recommended: What to eat in Goa? Some great local cuisines
How to Reach Tambdi Surla?
The best way to reach Tambdi Surla is by your private vehicle – cars are the best. Although a two-wheeler will do, it’s a long ride down here if you are based close to the beaches during your trip. Tambdi Surla is present in the Google Map, and it should not be hard to locate.
Other possible ways to reach: The closest major town to Tambdi Surla is Kollem, located about 22 km. The Mahadev temple is located about 65 km from Panaji. Public buses run from Panaji and most of the beach areas including Calangute. So you can take a bus up to Kollem and go for a taxi from there to reach Tambdi Surla. The border of Karnataka is just 12 km away and you could drive down if you are planning to visit from the Karnataka border.
Do you like history? Then you should check out my post on the 8 historical destinations of Karnataka, which is a must-visit.
For some more offbeat experiences of Goa, check these:
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