Offbeat Goa: Hidden Gems of Veling - A walk with Soul Travelling
Goa, an Indian state famous for beaches and booze attracts travelers from India and abroad. While the many happening beaches, cafes, casinos and some forts are the primary attractions visited by most, we have seen in this series Offbeat Goa that there is so much more to Goa than what meets the eye. In our endeavor to discover unexplored Goa, we came across a startup named Soul Travelling whose core mantra is to provide a platform that enables one to discover hidden gems of Goa. Eager to see Goa through their eyes, we joined them on a walk to a village named Veling. In this article we take you through this quaint little village in Goa and our experience of going on a walk with Soul Travelling.
Read other blogs of the series ‘Offbeat Goa’ by clicking on the link or photos below:
Hidden Gems of Veling – A walk with Soul Travelling - This article
Soul Travelling is the brainchild of Varun Hegde who quit his well-paid job in Europe and returned back to his birthplace in Goa to explore places in a different light. No one has ever seen Goa in a way as Soul Travellers do and that is all made possible by Varun and his team. From heritage walks of Mapusa, Vasco and Veling to pub crawl of Panjim, these guys know the hidden stories and untold mysteries of all these places. Each walk is guided by a local, making the walk more informative and personal. The walks are very well curated, researched and beautifully presented by the local guide.
We are not particularly religious types nor do we prefer visiting religious buildings unless there is something interesting visually worth seeing or clicking. We had our doubts when we realized Veling would offer plenty of temples to see. But through this walk we realized that understanding the religious stories and beliefs gives a unique perspective. All you need is someone who can enlighten you on whats around. We have been to Goa quite a few times before but we never saw it in the way Soul Travelling made us see it.
Though not a touristy spot, Veling in Goa has a lot to see and explore. It is a small village located in Ponda taluka and is located about 45-50 kilometres from the capital city of Panaji, Goa. A couple of temples of high religious significance are located in Veling that helped in moulding the rich history of the village. It is believed that all the deities in the temples of Veling were brought here somewhere around 16th century from other places in Goa. This was done to preserve the shrines from destruction by the Portuguese during inquisition. The shrines were shifted to new temples just outside the borders of the Portuguese controlled territories.
Our heritage walk with Soul Travelling was named - Hidden gems of Veling and was hosted by Bhavesh. Bhavesh spent his entire childhood in Veling and knew every nook and corner of the village. He had witnessed all the festivities of the village firsthand and knew the cultural importance of the monuments present in the village.
Our walk started with visiting the sacred Shri Laxmi Narasimha temple. According to history, the original temple of Shri Laxmi Narasimha was built in Salcete, Goa and the shrine was later shifted to Veling. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Laxmi and Lord Narasimha (4th incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Lord Narasimha is half human and half lion and the carvings in the temple depicts his story called the Narasimha Purana. The temple also displays colourful paintings of other incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Simple and plain from outside, the temple glistens with bright colours on the inside. A small step-well type tank right in front of the temple is used by devotees for bathing. The water tank is filled by an eternal spring with fresh water and is surrounded by coconut and palm trees. Bhavesh gave us many insights into the history of the temple, how it is managed now and what cultural significance it holds.
Bhavesh next took us to Aapto tree thriving in the middle of a crossroad in the village. This particular tree holds high significance as every year deity from Shri Laxmi Narasimha temple is brought to this tree in a palanquin in a grand procession. The leaves of this tree are exchanged as a custom during Dusshera festival in India and are considered to be equivalent to gold. Bhavesh narrated stories of how this tradition started and how thousands of people gather around Aapto tree for the procession and exchange of leaves during Dusshera. This tradition is followed by Maharashtrians all over India and was very thought-provoking to know.
We slowly walked towards Shri Shantadurga Shankhwaleshwari temple while listening to various other stories of Veling. Shri Shantadurga temple is dedicated to Goddess Shree Durga who is believed to have stopped a fierce-full war between Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Goddess Durga is in a calm composure in this temple; hence known as Shanta Durga. On festive occasions, a large golden palanquin placed in the temple courtyard carries the deity in a procession. Shri Shantadurga is Kuldevi (revered deity) to Hindu Goud Saraswat Brahmin community. The original place of this Shantadurga deity was at Quelossim, Goa. The Goddess was shifted to the new temple in Veling during the rule of the Portuguese government.
The highlight of our heritage walk was visiting a 200-year-old house where Bhavesh and his family used to live till few years back. The two storey house is huge with a central courtyard that provided a lot of natural ventilation. The spacious house was once built with an intention to spend more time outside socializing with other family members rather than what is seen these days. The thick walls of the house ensured that the temperature inside the house remained cool throughout the year. The age-old wooden carvings over the ceilings and pillars were still intact. Bhavesh took us on the first floor narrating stories of how he used to have fun with his siblings and friends in the house and how the house used to function with so many people staying together as a joint family. We were fortunate to be in Veling during Ganesha celebrations. We witnessed making of Makhar - A seating made for Lord Ganesha in the form of a temple or a chariot. Makhars are made across Goa and Maharashtra using colourful paper, thermocol or tiles.
Bhavesh invited each of us to play Goa's oldest musical instrument - Ghumat. It is a kettle-shaped instrument covered with goatskin membrane. The beats of ghumat were loud and the sound echoed in the big house. We also drew water from an open well at the rear end of the house using the traditional method of pulling bucket with a rope. The well has never run dry through the years and is surrounded by a small garden with mango trees. The elders in the house told us about Veling's famous festival - Jagor. Jagor is celebrated during the night and is also called as Night Vigil' or 'Staying awake for the Gods'. Musical drama and dance performances are staged all night to please God. We later visited the hall where Jagor takes place each year. Post that we savoured on the local breakfast arranged by Bhavesh.
Veling certainly is a hidden gem of Goa with so many stories, beliefs, history and tradition. Our supposedly 2-hour walk turned into a 3-hour frenzy without our realization and we still did not have enough. Bhavesh was extremely patient and allowed us to soak in the essence of the village experience without any hurry. Everyone in Veling seemed to know him and that itself gave an authentic touch to the whole experience. No one else but a local would have made our walk such an enriching experience.
Even as our walk ended, Bhavesh took us to Sateri temple located on the same road as Lakshmi Narasimha temple. There was no deity in the sanctum sanctorum of the small temple; rather an anthill is worshiped. It is believed that a snake lives inside the anthill and only comes out when someone behaves inappropriately or when someone with impure heart enters into temple premises. Scary to know!
Veling is just one such small village. Goa has so many more towns and villages and local traditions that still remain to be unfolded. Walk with Soul Travelling was an eye-opener that Goa is much much more than beaches and booze. We now know what to recommend friends and fellow travellers when they ask for offbeat experiences in Goa. We highly recommend walks with Soul Travelling as we ourselves look forward to many more of such walks with them.
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What do you think about our walk discovering Veling? Would you like to join Soul Travelling for one such walks? Soul Travelling organizes such walks to Margao, Rachol, Mapusa, Moira, Chandor and more every month. Book your walk with Soul Travelling here. Let us know your thoughts about this article in comments section below.