Tiger worship in Goa
26 Apr 2009, 0010 hrs IST, Rajendra P. Kerkar
Tigers were once an integral part of Goa’s rich forests and roamed freely in the wild. However, over the last few decades, due to degradation of their natural habitat and poaching there is a sharp decline in the tiger population in the state.
Tigers occupied an important place in the cultural and religious traditions, and even today the big cats are worshipped in various parts of Goa. There are many shrines where a tiger is worshipped as a deity. Goddess Durga is shown mounted on a tiger and Lord Shiva is called as vyaghrambar.’
According to Puti Gaonkar from Bandhwada, Netravali of Sanguem taluka, “Worshipping a tiger iconographically is a tradition among the forest dwelling communities. We worship a tiger’s sculpture with the hope that our cattle and family will get protection from the tiger.” Netravali was a densely forested area and wild animals like tigers roamed freely without any fear from human beings. Besides, there were hardly any incidents of tigers attacking humans or humans attacking tigers.
In Vaghure near Pissurle in Sattari taluka, there is a temple of Vyaghreshwar. “In this area no one dares to kill a tiger fearing the wrath of vyaghreshwar. Tigers were revered as gods,” says Sanjay Sadanand Tendulkar, a resident of Khodiye-Sattari.
In Gaodongrem in Canacona taluka, Uguem, Colamb near Rivan of Sanguem taluka and Avachitwada of Bicholim taluka there are shrines of Vaghrodev. Lamgao near Bicholim town was once a forested area with several tigers inhabiting the area. But mining activities have totally disturbed the habitat of the big cats leading to their extinction.
There is a beautiful temple of Vaghrodev in Dongurli, inside the Mahavir national park near Collem. This temple is in a totally neglected condition and was built by using laterite bricks. Near Collem, there is another temple at Shirsode on the banks of Kale river dedicated to the tiger. This area is isolated and far away from human settlements. There is an urgent need to protect these shrines and sculptures as they are heritage sites inherited from our ancestors.