The taluka of Sanguem once consisted of two administrative units, which were known as mahals locally. They were Hemadbarce and Ashtagar. The village of Verle in Ashtagar Mahal is the biggest village in Goa. A major portion of this village still remains under the cover of lush green forests.
As this village is situated in the remotest corner of Goa, in the hilly regions of the Sahyadri, very few Goans are aware about of its ecological richness.
From Quepem, one can reach Verle via Rivon, Vichundre and Neturli. In the past, Verle was economically important as it was situated on the ancient trade route connecting Karnataka. This village has one of the biggest, well-protected sacred groves of Goa.
Verle’s main population consists of people of the Velip community who were forest dwelling tribes earlier. For many generations they have guarded a large patch of forest known as the Bhui Pann. Ramnath and Paik are the main deities of Verle. The velip community of Verle however celebrated Dussera in honour of Chandreshwar-Bhutnath of Parvat.
The sacred grove is situated at a distance of 2 kilometres from the village temple of Ramnath. In the past, villagers of the eight villages namely Verle, Salgini, Tudov, Bilaye, Madvo, Fatorle, Kupator and Kunage assembled at this grove to pay their respects to the god Zalmi and other affiliated deities, during important religious ceremonies.
Inside this grove, there are remnants of an ancient temple, lying in the most neglected and dilapidated condition. A beautifully carved sculpture of Betal who is shown with a sword and shield is also broken.
However, the uniqueness of this grove is that it is the only place in Goa that has a Saptalingeshwar. There are seven independent Shivlingas lying in the open air. It appears that once this sacred grove was one of the important centres for Shaivites, worshippers of lord Shiva. During that time these Shivlingas were installed in the shrine. As per the local tradition, there was a hilly tribe called ‘Hemad’ who were the first settlers in this area. The ancestors of the present inhabitants wiped out these Hemad tribals and then established their way over this area. The sacred grove along with the shrines might belong to these tribals. Later their ownership was transferred to the velip community.
Before the Navratri festival on the sixth day of the new moon, the villagers came to the sacred grove and plucked the leaves of medicinal trees, which were then brought to the temple and distributed among the villagers. Early on the morning of the seventh day the village prepared a juice out of these leaves applied oil on the body and took a bath.
Inside the grove, there is a stone known as the Gurulo Fator. Earlier there was a sacred place called the Mand where the eco-feministic festival of Dhillo, which consisted of dance, drama and folksongs was held. All the women used to take part in the Dhillo at night inside the jungle. Near the Mand, there is a shrine of Udengi where eight stones are arranged in a circle.
This sacred grove has a very dense forest cover characterised by tall trees with huge trunks. The creepers are thick and elongated. The forest is inaccessible. Trees like Mango and Devil’s Tree are found along with the local varieties of Yaghrukh, Pakshi, Jarmal, etc. The locals strongly believe in the presence of the holy forest spirit and hence no one dares to cut a single twig of the trees in the forest. A perennial spring quenches the thirst. This sacred grove has the trees of the evergreen forest species. Besides, Bhui Pann, Verle has two more sacred groves namely Paika Pann and Sinyapurush Pann. But these two sacred groves are smaller in size in compared to Bhui Pann.
By Rajendra P Kerkar
The Navhind Times, Panorama
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Posted By : The Navhind Times, india on 03/10/2007