BY ASAVARI KULKARNI
Goa, the land of sun, sea and sand is home to many age-old traditions and cultural rituals. There are temples, churches, mosques, etc. that hold legends and myths of the past.
One such temple is Shree Pandurang Devsthan Vithalapur, in Sankhali, dedicated to Lord Vitthal and Rakhumai, and situated on the right bank of the Valvonti river.
HISTORY OF THE TEMPLE
The temple is said to be 550-years-old and was built by the famed Rane family. The present-day temple was built by Gajraraje Scindia of Gwalior, daughter of the Rane family.
The day on which the idols of Lord Vitthal, Rakhumai and Satybhama were installed is observed as the anniversary day of the temple. Chaitrotsav begins on the tenth day of the bright fortnight of the Chaitra month, and ends on the full moon night which is also called Hanuman Jayanti.
Thousands of devotees visit the temple during Chaitrotsav. During this celebration, various religious activities that take place including abhishek, puja, palkhi procession as well as the performance of Dashavtari.
On the last day of the Chaitri is the performance of the famous Virabhadra, which is followed by a chariot procession.
Virabhadra is a traditional dance, which is an enactment of the famous mythological character, called Virabhadra, who was said to be created by Lord Mahadeva.
THE STORY OF VIRABHADRA
According to mythological, goddess Parvati's father once organised a yadnya, wherein all the gods were invited, except Lord Shiva as he was poor and stays with bhoothas.
A disgusted Parvati (sati) visits her father and questions him about not inviting her for the yadnya. Daksha, her father, insults her and her husband. As a result, Parvati jumps into the yadnya in disgrace and ends her life.
THE CREATION OF VIRABHADRA
Hearing this, Lord Mahadeva gets furious and decides to destroy Daksha and the entire kingdom.
From his hair strands, he creates Virabhadra, a fearsome warrior ready to kill anybody who comes in his way. He goes and kills Daksha and takes revenge for Lord Mahadeva.
TRADITION IN GOA
This art form is said to have come from Karnataka during the rule of the Vijayanagara Empire in Goa. Virabhadra is also known as Kailasvalige, Houdu and Virabhadra Anna in the Kannada language, indicating its roots in the Kannad state.
Now, when Virabhadra is the attendant of Lord Shiva, why is it performed in the Panduranga (Lord Vishnu) Temple?
Legend states that earlier, Shree Vitthal helped in bridging the gap between two sects, that is Shaivaites and Vaishnavaites, and hence, this dance is performed during Chaitrotsav at Sankhali. In Goa, people worship Lord Shiva, and hence, this popular form of Virabhadra is performed in many places apart from Sankhali.
WHEN VIRABHADRA COMES TO LIFE
Every year, a person from the Shirodkar family enacts the Virabhadra folk dance. Before playing the role of Virabhadra, the performer goes through strict observances such as fasting. He is decked in royal costumes and makeup depicting Virabhadra.
He holds two swords in his hand and takes a couple of rounds of a burning pyre. He slips into a trance and becomes aggressive. The whole scene creates fear and terror in the minds of the spectators.
The huge crowds run behind him to prevent him from getting too aggressive. He is not allowed to touch his back to the floor as it is believed that if he does that, he will go out of control and may start attacking the spectators surrounding him.
After a few rounds, he is taken to the temple and holy water (tirth) is sprinkled on his face, following which, he regains consciousness. A procession of the lord, in a big chariot, is held early in the morning after the Virabhadra performance.