As you enter Goa’s capital, Panjim, after sunset, you simply cannot miss the stunning sight of a temple, way above sea level, beautifully lit up in the dark. This is the iconic Maruti Temple, one of Goa’s most famous temples, and it is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, also known as Maruti.
The temple sits atop a little hillock, from where one can get a bird’s eye view of the eastern section of Panjim, as well as the nearby villages of Ribandar and St Cruz, in addition to the River Mandovi with its mangroves.
The famous Latin quarter of Fontainhas and Mala is situated at the foot of this hillock, just below the temple.
The Maruti Temple is one of five major temples in Panjim; the others being Sri Mahalaxmi Temple (Mahalaxmi is the officiating deity of Panjim and the goddess of wealth), Sri Sai Baba Temple (near Boca da Vaca Spring), Sri Apteshwar Ganapati Temple (St Inez) and Sri Sati Temple (Bhatlem).
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
In 1818, the liberal Portuguese Governor of the time granted permission to Panjim’s affluent Hindu community to construct a temple, as a result of which, Sri Mahalaxmi Temple was built.
By the early 1900s, some people from the city felt the need for another temple, thus sowing the seeds of the Maruti Temple at Mala. To that effect, a group of distinguished individuals, including Nanu Tarcar Pednekar and Jano Redkar, met at a small shrine, dedicated to Sri Vithoba or Sri Vithal Rakhumaie, in Mala.
The late Jano Ram Redkar purchased the lease of the afforamento (land) from the Portuguese, and also shouldered the expenses of constructing the (old) temple, deepstambh and sabhamandap (hall) nearby.
Construction on the temple began in 1931 and was completed by January 1934. The original statue of Lord Hanuman is believed to have been donated by a local businessman, Ramdas Gokuldas Xete Gujir. The modern style of temple was designed and executed by Panjim-based architect, Bhaskar Wagle, in the ‘90s.
There is a staircase from the base of the Altinho hillock and a winding road leading to the temple.
Within the premises, there are two idols of Lord Maruti — one of white marble and the other in black marble.
Saturday is the day of this deity, and so plenty of devotees visit the shrine on this day. But, there’s even more buzz around end January, or the beginning of February, at the time of the annual zatra.
During the zatra, there is a palanquin (palki) procession and several festive stalls.
The planning of the Maruti Temple was done in Sri Vithal Rakhumaie Temple of Mala, and so, during the zatra, the palki starts here and then proceeds towards the temple on the hill.
This zatra was first held in 1944, when the Portuguese government became a little liberal about permitting public Hindu events.
On the occasion of Hanuman Jayanti, lunch is served to devotees visiting the temple. Hanuman Jayanti is around April.