Shri Chandreshwar Bhutnath is the most famous and ancient temple in Quepem taluka. Perched on the Chandranath Hill in Paroda, the temple has stood for over 1,500 years, undergoing many transformations and renovations. And just like the parvath which is full of green cover and rich in flora and fauna, the temple too has a tremendous wealth of history, inspiring devotees, history-seekers and nature lovers to embark on a journey to pay their respects to Lord Chandreshwar Bhutnath.
The recently-built, magnificent Mahadvar (entrance gate), off the Quepem-Margão route, waits in welcome to lead one to the foot of the Hill at Mullem. Here, where the gradual climb towards the temple begins, one encounters the first Shrine of Shankabhairav. Moving higher, through dense foliage and small streams of cascading water, breath-taking glimpses of the villages below can be seen. Parvath is not only full of many herbs with medicinal properties, there are many tirthas (sacred water springs) as well, whose perennial water is sweet and cool. Kapil tirtha, Ganesh tirtha, Kamandul tirtha are a few springs which have been named after the rishis who had once sanctified them with their presence. The Hill is so large that circumambulating it from the foothill takes one through the villages of Mullem, Paroda, Ambaulim, Tolvode and Solvode.
The old and the new ‘steps’
Arriving at the end of the tar road, one is greeted by a steep flight of stairs numbering more than three-hundred. There is also a lesser known and less travelled route to the top, made of rough stone-steps and stretches from the foothill to the top. During one summer camp, this was the ‘trekking-route’ that we students had used. Many devotees still prefer this path even today.
The history and architecture of the temple
At the top in a small clearing stands the Shri Chandreshwar Bhutnath temple. The edifice has a roof of Mangalore tiles, which is split in two levels. It has a pillared mandapa (hallway) with side entrances and a vestibule that leads to the garbhakudd (sanctum). The interior ornamentation is minimum and chaste. A dome rests on a hexagonal drum, which gives it a slender appearance. The kalash perched on the sikhara has been done in gold some years ago. The mural above the lintel of the main entrance depicting the Amrut Manthan makes a striking statement, although this seems to be a later addition. Under the shade of a peepul tree, one finds a deepsthambha or lamp tower on a raised platform. There is also an old Nandi bull – which was worshipped earlier – in the vicinity of the temple.
There have been many Chandras in Goa’s history. Right from Chandragupta Maurya to Chandraditya who was put on throne by his father Pulekesin to rule Goa on its behalf in the 7th century AD. All these have had the name of the nearby city of Chandrapur attributed to their honour. It has also been suggested that Chandra may have given his name to this deity on the hilltop, according to Maurice Hall’s book, Window on Goa.
The temple was established by king Chandravarman in the 4th century AD, possibly a Bhoja ruler. The deity is mentioned in the 5th or 6th century copper plate inscription grants of the Bhoja king, Prithvimalla Varman, found at Bandora. Dr. Olivinho Gomes in his book Goa also mentions, “… Shri Chandreshwar Bhutnath at Paroda, that being the original deity of the Kadambas…” It is believed that the Kadambas renovated the temple in the 10th or 11th century AD.
The importance of Shri Chandreshwar Bhutnath Temple also finds mention in one of the chapters titled Chandrachundha of the Sahyadri Khand, written in Sanskrit and claimed to be a part of the Skandapurana.
In his book, Hindu Temples and Deities, Rui Gomes Pereira says that the temple was founded by the ancestors of the present Mahajans. The affiliates of Lord Chandreshwar are Bhutnath, Sidhabhairav, Kalbhairav, Shankabhairav and [Brahma temple at] Mulguddi. The first four have temples located at the Chandranath Hill and the last at Katta-Amona, Quepem.
About Lord Chandreshwar
Chandreshwar, an incarnation of Shiva, is worshipped as the Lord of the Moon. It is believed that the lingam oozes out water when the rays of the full moon fall on it. Consequently, the temple is so constructed that the full light is cast in the sanctum. The lingam is called svayabulingam, one raised from the ground. The lingam and the sanctum are carved from a single natural granite stone, which was in the same place and has never been moved. In the sanctum known as Panchayat sthan five gods and goddesses are worshipped: Chandranath, Ganapathi, Navdurga, Mahalaxmi and Vishnu.
About Lord Bhutnath
There is another shrine near the peepul tree dedicated to Lord Bhutnath, main Pradhan of Lord Chandreshwar. The temple hence is called Shri Chandreshwar Bhutnath. The shrines of both the gods are so arranged that each god can view the other through the window opening called zharukha.
The temple possesses four raths: the Vijay rath (horse), the Ambari rath (elephant), the Chandi rath (silver) and the Maha rath (the greater chariot). The temple has a body of eight representatives from an equal number of villages and together they form the Vangodd. The villages are Xeldem, Quepem, Avedem, Paroda, Cotombi, Assolda, Xelvona and Mullem. Some of the religious ceremonies celebrated with pomp are Shravan Somar, Navratr and Dussehra. During the ‘dusro’, a palkhi (palanquin) procession from the top of the Hill to the Paroda bazaar is held. Here, an annual tradition takes place where Shantadurga Chamundeshwari of Guddo, Avedem, sister of Lord Chandreshwar, meets her brother. The annual zatra (feast) is celebrated for five days during which devotees from Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra throng to the temple.
The temple of Shri Chandreshwar Bhutnath stands invitingly, in a perfect setting where scenic beauty, faith, myth and history blend together.
The Temple Committee of Shri Chandreshwar Bhutnath Saunsthan is headed by Dr. Venkatesh Prabhu Dessai. Nilesh Raut Dessai is the treasurer, Sanmer Gauns Dessai is the Attorney and Sanjay Gauns Dessai is the secretary who furnished valuable information.
(A Version of this article appeared on Gomantak Times, dt: October 17, 2009)