Chandreshwar Bhootnath temple is one of the oldest temples in Goa. This is a temple that lent its name to the ancient capital of Goa – Chandrapur, which is now called Chandor. The temple itself is located in Paroda.
Legends of Chandreshwar Bhootnath
Chandreshwar means that the lord of the Chandra or moon, another name of Shiva as he wears a crescent moon on his forehead. The mural of Sagar Manthan or Churning of the ocean at the entrance of the main temple indicates the origin of the moon. It came out as one of the many things that came before the Amrita or nectar came out.
Goa has other moon connections too. Krishna and Balram fought Jarasandh in Gomantak hills. Krishna’s conch or Shankh is supposed to be from this region. As we know Krishna is Chandravamshi.
Incidentally, many rulers of Goa were named after Chandra like Chandragupta Maurya and Chandraditya. The temple is attributed to Bhoja king Chandravarman. Now if the kind lent his name to the deity or the deity lent his name to the kind and his capital is anyone’s guess. The temple finds mention in the oldest copper plate inscription of the region dating back to 5-6th CE. This means the temple was built at least in the 4th CE.
I am told it is also mentioned in the Sahayadri Khand of Skanda Puran, though I am yet to read it.
Visiting Chandreshwar Bhootnath Temple
Temple is located in the Quepem Taluka in South Goa about 26 km from Margao. The Mahadwar or the temple arch is visible right from the main road, and this is where one has to take a detour. Mahadwar is beautifully adorned with Murtis of different deities like Bhairavas, Skandhas, and the Shiva himself on top. It is lit in the evening, making it visible from a long distance.
Shankh Bhairav Temple
After crossing the Mahadwar, the first temple you see is the Shankh Bhairav Temple. It is built in a typical Goan style and is dedicated to Shankh Bhairav who is worshipped in the form of a Shivalinga.
This temple is closed on Purnima and opens only for morning and evening Puja on other days.
From here the gentle hike starts towards the hilltop.
Do read: Shantadurga and other Saraswat Temples in Goa
Siddha Bhairav, Kaal Bhairav, and Kamandalu Tirtha
After reaching roughly midway up the hill you reach a place where there are marled parking slots next to a big building. This is a part of the Chandreshwar Bhootnath temple complex. It is the place for the devotees to stay and eat. Here you can see an old Tirtha or a temple tank next to two small but very old temples. The temples, literally a small room each standing next to each other are the two Bhairav temples called Kaal Bhairav and Siddha Bhairav. The tirtha is called Kamandalu tirtha. Water from this Tirtha is used for the Abhishek of Chandranath.
There are two more Tirthas associated with the temple called Kapil Tirtha and Ganesh Tirtha, but Purohit Ji told me that they are deep inside the jungle and not easily accessible.
This is also the point where the stairs to climb the hill to reach the main temple begin. The stairs are well laid out, not too high, and with a railing on either side. However, you can also take the road to the next point where there is another Bhairav temple. Be aware there are a lot of monkeys around, so open your food packets carefully.
Right at the beginning of the staircase, you can see old stone sculptures. I could not make out most of them but they indicate an ancient stone temple.
Do read: Chorla Ghat – Drive through Goa hinterlands
Bhairav Temple and Tea Shop
Midway on the staircase, you find another small Bhairav temple with just a stone in the shape of a linga. It is an open temple with just a canopy on top. Fresh flowers, an oil lamp, and incense sticks tell me that regular worship is performed here.
Opposite it a modern-day pump house.
The teashop next to it is a popular stop to recharge oneself. However, at this point in time, it was closed primarily due to a smaller number of visitors’ courtesy pandemic.
You can choose to climb stairs from here or still take the car to the next level.
From the highest point where you can take the car, you still have to climb about 100 odd steps. It is not difficult to climb but it is good to be aware of it.
After the steps, you reach a small arch in bright yellow color. Do not forget to look at its base, you will see the base of an old stone door. Step inside and you see a typical Goan temple on your right-hand side.
On the left are two large tin sheds that I would later discover are the parking slots of temple chariots. Temple is famous for its chariots with horses and elephants, and the silver horse. An old banyan tree with a small Deepastambh next to it stands on one side of the temple. Next to it, some newly carved stone statues were lying, I assume they are a part of some new project. Next to it, there is a huge boulder and a covered Yagnashala, which was closed when we visited.
Sagar Manthan mural at the entrance is the distinctive feature of this temple. It depicts all the things that came out of the churning. Step inside and you have a large hall leading to the main mandapa of the temple.
The main Chandreshwar temple is a beautiful temple with colorful wood carvings all around the mandapa. The main temple has a Shivalinga which is covered so you only see the cover. Linga is Swayambhu that is self-manifested. Behind is the Murti of Chandranath. Surrounding the main temple are the stone Murtis of Navadurga, Ganapati, Vishnu, and Mahalakshmi.
It is believed that the moon rays fall on the linga here on a full moon night. I was also told that the water oozes out of the laterite linga. In fact, I had planned my visit on a Purnima evening to see this phenomenon. However, Purohit Ji told me that this used to happen only on Chaitra Purnima. It no longer happens since the mandapa and the hall have been appended to the original small stone temple.
One wonders at the engineering marvels that are getting lost due to unmindful expansions.
The main temple is made of stone but the only part you can see is the doorjamb.
In the mandapa, there is a beautiful silver Palki that is taken out every Monday. All around you see scenes of Ramayana, Vishnu avatars, and different avatars of the Goddess like Mahishasurmardini. The black and white chequered floor provides a contrast to the colorful stories above.
Hexagonal cylindrical Shikahara has a golden Kalash on top along with a saffron flag. Shivalinga with a human face of Shiva and Bhootnath have been carved on top of Shikhara.
Bhootnath temple is located right next to the Chandreshwar temple but in a room of its own. This temple is closer to the original temple with a tall triangular stone still worshipped as Bhootnath. It is surrounded by a wood-carved frame. Bhootnath is a Gana of Shiva. A hookah is placed next to the deity and lovely bright brass lamps hang around. Behind it the Trishul or trident of Shiva.
Original temples were built in such a way that the two deities could look at each other.
Tulsi Chaura and Old Stone Murtis
The other side of the temple that you see when you do the parikrama has a large Tulsi Chaura. Close to it is an old Shivalinga and fragments of an old stone temple. A small ancient Hanuman Murti in stone is embedded on the wall of Tulsi Chaura.
Beneath a tree in the corner, I found an ancient Nandi broken into two pieces.
Temple celebrates festivals like Shivaratri, Navaratri, Shravani Somvars and Dussehra.
Rath Utsav or the chariot festival happens from Chaitra Shukla Ekadashi to Purnima for five days. Every day a different rath or chariot comes out. On the last day, Maharath is taken out.
View from the Chandranath Hilltop
Walk around the temple and lookout, for you are on the highest point in Goa. You will get a breathtakingly beautiful view of nature’s blessings that Goa has. The hill is surrounded by valleys on all sides, which in turn are surrounded by layers of hills. You can look at them for a long time. Being on top, the air is always there.
Chandranath hill is huge and I have a feeling in the good old days, people may have done parikrama around it. It is full of thick foliage. I was told that you find a lot of herbs on this hill. Let’s hope someone designs a botanical trail to identify these herbs and wild plants. I am sure there are many wild animals as well, but we found only monkeys jumping around.
I am told there is an old route to climb the hill but it suitable only for people with good fitness levels or hikers.
Khushawati river flows close to this hill.
Chamundeshwari Shantadurga Temple
This temple dedicated to the twin goddesses Chamundeshwari and Shantadurga is about 2 km from the Mahadwar of Chandreshwar Bhootnath temple. You need to cross the bridge over the Khushawati river to reach this temple in Ghudo-Avedem village.
We landed in this temple by chance and the annual Jatra was going on. This is a fairly large temple and the two Goddesses are installed side by side. Murtis are simply beautiful and would bind your eyes as soon as you glance at them.
In the same complex, I saw a unique temple called Sri Uddangi Prasanna. Here there is a large termite hill and in front of it, a huge Naga Murti is installed. I know Shantadurga or Sateri has its roots in anthills but this is the only temple where I have seen a real one being worshipped.
This temple is related to Chandreshwar Bhootnath temple as the deities visit each other during their annual festivals.
A new Sateri temple is coming up very close to the Mahadwar. It was closed by the time we reached it, so we prayed from the outside and headed back home.
Travel Tips to visit Chandreshwar Bhootnath Temple
- You need at least 2 hours to see the hill and its temples. If you climb the stairs, it would take a little longer.
- If you want to see the Palki, visit on Mondays or during Chaitra month that roughly falls in March/April.
- There is no public transport. You need to either walk or have your own transport.
- Food facilities are also minimal so plan accordingly.