Posts Tagged ‘Sattari’

Tarini, the boat-Devi

June 20, 2008

Pratima Kamat writes about Tarini, a goddess worshiped in Goa, and the shared, syncretic ethos of the region that gave rise to the goddess and her worship:

The worship of Tara and Tarini is found in Orissa’s Ganjam district (which has the famous Tara-Tarini temple), Ghatgaon and Ratnagiri (where the Astamahabhaya Tara is worshipped). These are the patron deities of sailors and merchants. Tara is worshipped by sailors for safety and success at sea along the Orissa coast. The Ratnagiri Tara is believed to save her devotees from eight great fears, one of which is of shipwreck. Yet another fear, jalarnavabhaya, is of drowning in a sinking vessel.

Unlike in Orissa, the ‘boat deities’ of Goa, Tarini and Tar-Vir, are found away from the coast, in the sub-Ghat talukas of Sattari and Sanguem, against the backdrop of the Sahyadri mountains, in the villages of Keri, Bhuipal, Nagvem, Zarme, Sonal, Sanvarde, Bhironda, Dhamshe, Guleli, Shayll-Melauli, Malpann in Sattari; Ganjem in the Ponda; and Barabhumi, Surla and Talldem of Sanguem.

The spots where the sculptures have been found are almost always located along the banks of the Mhadei and its tributaries, lying either inside a temple or, weather-beaten in the open, amidst lush greenery, in the vicinity of a stream, and often in the periphery of the devarai or the sacred grove, and, in one instance, outside the Bondla wildlife sanctuary.

The boat-Devi is most commonly found to possess the attributes of an eight-armed Mahishasuramardini, though a couple of sculptures that contain interesting maritime information are chaturbhuja — with four arms. She is either seated on an asana in a boat, or on the boat itself, or is depicted standing in the boat. Almost all the sculptures exhibit human heads in the boat, with boatmen on either side of it, and in the Nagvem sculpture, the oarsmen are actually shown in the act of rowing the vessel.

Other than the ubiquitous boat, most of these sculptures contain related nautical and marine motifs, such as oars, anchors, mast, sail, pennant, fish and crocodile.

The Tarini and Tar-Vir sculptures of the Mhadei, Ragada and Valvanti river valleys provide valuable clues about ancient trade routes and practices, manufacturing centres, riverine ports, types of watercraft used, boat-building traditions and locations, trading communities and cultural interactions that took place as a consequence of thriving commerce.

The discovery of these sculptures has helped me give visibility to the hitherto-largely-undocumented contribution of the talukas of Sattari, Bicholim, Sanguem and Ponda to the commerce of ancient and early medieval Goa and the Konkan coast. Links may even be established between the east and west coasts of India on the basis of the resemblance of the Goan Tarini to Orissa’s Tara-Tarini. The similarities are not confined to the concept of a saviour-deity and the iconography of a goddess-in-a-boat, but extend to other cultural parallels such as boat festivals, and derivation of place-names.

The Tarini and Tar-Vir not only provide valuable clues about the Western Ghats-Arabian Sea trade, of which Goa (Sattari, in particular) had served as an important conduit, but also about the coming together of folk, Sanskritic, Buddhist and Jain traditions, as locally crafted syncretic saviour-deities for the river traders and boatsmen of the Mhadei.

Influenced by the play of varied cultural elements, the Mhadei river valley serves as the crucible of the syncretic Tarini. The goddess who is depicted as either standing or seated in a boat, is a rarity in Indian art. The commercial worthiness of the Mhadei, the Buddhist and Jain settlements that dotted the trade routes in the sub-Ghat region, the presence of the local Chari community as divine sculptors — all these contributed to the creation of the unique representation of the goddess-in-a-boat.

The Tarini is thus a syncretic vision of the Shakti of the Mhadei river valley, a saviour-goddess epitomizing the “shared faith” that characterized the cosmopolitan Sattari in the early medieval period. This taluka brought within its fold a surprisingly wide range of local, Sanskritic, Buddhist and Jain traditions — yet another reminder of the inclusive civilization that India once was.

A wonderful, and must-read essay!