Dec 18, 2008

Singular pre-Portuguese monument crumbling from neglect

Barely three kms from Farmagudi hillock on the way to Ponda, a diversion to the right takes one past the Nagueshi temple to the Jain basti at Bandora. Though overshadowed by the construction of a few neat looking villas, disrespectfully close to the protected monument, the grandeur of the crumbling vestiges of the pre-Portuguese era do stand out.

Existence of ruins of bastis, especially in Kudnem, Bandora and Naroa serve as testimonials to the influence of Jainism in Goa during the early period. All great dynasties such as Chalukyas and Kadambas, patronised Jainism. It also prospered in Goa which came under the sway of these dynasties. Neglect and ravages of natural elements have taken a toll on this monument extended protection by state archives and archaeology department.

After the department cleared the debris and vegetation at the site in 1993, its officials found a mutilated image of Lord Ganesh, a torso of Thirthankara and an "amalaka " (carved slab of the ceiling). But this was not followed by any effort at conserving the monument, which has irked heritage lovers.

They are concerned about the lack of conservation effort to stem the rot and its silence in opposing the construction activity, barely five metres from the Jain basti.

"The department only clears the vegetation, but no conservation work has been done," said Prajal Sakardande, executive member of Goa Heritage Act I o n Group.

After the department took over maintenance of the site, it has not initiated measures to stop its disintegration. "The only worry is that if steps are not taken immediately, it might come down totally. Whatever remains should be conserved," Sakardande added.

"I will look into the matter," was all M L Dicholkar, Archives director said. The bungalows at the site had been constructed a couple of years back.

In addition to the ruins at these three sites, evidence in museums, especially at the museum of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Old Goa helps in piecing together a history of the period. A Kannada inscription dated 1425 AD at Old Goa, refers to the Jain Basti of Bandiwade (Bandora ), and throws some light on the origin of the village. Bandora was established by King Sripala Virugappa, son of Mangananda, who built the temple of Neminath.

"The Jain basti was constructed in 1425 during the Vijayanagara period and repaired 27 years later in 1452," Manguesh Deshpande, assistant superintending archaeologist said.

Jain bastis catered to various needs, including religious, of Jain monks (shravaks) and disciples (shramans). "There were study halls for shramans and lodging for wandering monks to stay in," Deshpande said.The basti appears to have had a rectangular plan (12 metres by 10 metres), while laterite with lime and mortar was used as a durable and reliable binding material. Behind the crumbling structure, three vaulted roof shrines without images could be seen. Leading to them were huge arches. "The front hall had also three arches and they rested on four massive pillars measuring 1.25 metres by 1.25 metres," Deshpande said.

The present Jain basti may have been a smaller structure during the Kadamba rule and may have been extended during the Vijayanagara regime. Evidence of this is the 12-tiered "shikhara" on the western side of the edifice, which is typical of Kadamba architecture. Windows with stone grills etched with diamond motifs and ceiling slaba depicting floral design were found at the site. "The statue of Neminath, a thirthankara was kept inside the basti," Manguesh said.

The inscription at Old Goa also talks about the grant of two villages, Vagurbem and Akshaya (Agassaim) to the Jain Basti of Neminath at Bandora during the rule of Tryambaka, son of Lakkappa on behalf of Devaraya II. Interestingly, a sculpture of one of the thirthankaras, Jain prophet, was found at Cortalim , across the river from Agassaim and is displayed at state archives and archaeology museum at Panaji.

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