There is a village named Harvale next to Bicholi village in North Goa district of Goa. It is also called Arvalem. Situated here, a group of ancient caves, 60 feet high, perennial waterfalls and associated with many legends, are not only the pride of this village, but also the main symbol. This is all I knew about this village before I moved to this peaceful village in Goa. It was raining heavily the day I reached Harvale village for observation.
We were on our way to the village of Harvale, through the rural areas of Goa, covered with greenery. The mind was filled with joy from the enchanting scenes. We reached the village of Harvale on a winding path, absorbing the beauty of nature, passing through many small and big villages of North Goa.
Exploring Goa’s Harvale Village
Ancient Rudreshwar Temple
As soon as we entered the village of Harvale, we first came across the ancient caves. But the torrential rain was incessant. So after delaying the visit of the caves we proceeded and reached Rudreshwar Mahadev Temple. The name of this area was inscribed on the information plate of the temple as ‘Tirth Kshetra’. This means that this place is very important for the followers of Sanatan Dharma. As soon as we entered the temple, our eyes were focused on a unique Shivling which had a silver cover, like the Shivling of Mangeshi Temple in Fonda. For the purpose of conversing with Guruji, I sat there near him. Guruji told me that this is Swayambhu Shivling, that is, not man-made, but a self-emergent linga.
This temple is believed to be thousands of years old. The temple certainly looks ancient. A new auditorium is under construction in front of it. On one side of the temple is the residence of the Guruji of the temple. His residence is a spacious and beautiful residence built in the typical architectural style of Goa.
I entered inside and requested Guruji to tell a story related to the temple. I came to know from him that this temple is dedicated to the Rudra form of Lord Shiva. Another feature of this temple is that the followers of Hindu religion come to this temple for the funeral rites of their deceased relatives. The ashes of the deceased family members are immersed in the water of the river created by the nearby waterfall. Further he told me many stories related to these heritage heritage of Goa, ancient caves and waterfalls. Thereafter, he pointed to a temple at the other end of the river which belongs to the Jain Gujarati community. I realized that there are many places under rural tourism in Goa, which I am getting the privilege of visiting.
Video of Harvale Falls
The rain had taken a break for a few moments. So I decided to head towards this perennial waterfall of Goa. Climbing a few steps, I reached an observation platform. The platform appears to be specially constructed for viewing the waterfall at the best observation point. From here one gets a great view of the waterfall. As soon as we reached the stage, the drops of frost rising from the waterfall welcomed us.
The water of the waterfall was falling with great speed from the height and was playing a game with the falling drops. Due to the frost produced by their confluence, a smoky atmosphere was created at the bottom of the waterfall. Due to the noise of the waterfall and the blowing frost all around, our whole existence had become unconnected with the atmosphere elsewhere. For a few moments, I kept looking at the waterfall and its surroundings in a mesmerizing way. After that, he started churning his image in his camera permanently. Due to the water droplets flying from the waterfall and the frosty atmosphere, photography was becoming difficult.
Nevertheless, with an effort I have compiled this short film for you. Whenever you come to Goa for tour and if you are interested in rural areas of Goa, then this video is for you. Must see it.
Water from a waterfall falls into a reservoir. A water stream emanating from there circumambulates the Rudreshwar temple. After that, through the forests and villages, that stream joins my favorite river Mandvi. The Guruji of the temple had told that this reservoir was created by Pandava Bhima. While living in the caves of Harvale, he had diverted water from another water source towards here.
Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya meeting
After crossing a small iron bridge, I reached across the river. Climbing a little higher, I reached another temple. Officially this place is known as the meeting place of 43rd Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharya who was a Gujarati saint. I was told that this place has been extensively mentioned in the ancient texts of more than 500 years of Gujarati language. Rudreshwar temple, waterfalls and caves are also mentioned in them. Due to the closure of the temple on that day, initially, I was instructed to attend on some other day. But on request, the priest came out and opened the doors of the temple for darshan.
No idol is worshiped in this temple. Rather, the footprints of the Guru inscribed on the laterite rock are worshipped. Guru Mahaprabhu Vallabhacharyaji had come here at some time and gave discourses. Who can imagine that a fraction of Gujarat is alive in some remote village of Goa. If you are interested in heritage heritage, then definitely visit the heritage of Goa. There is an unlimited wealth of such heritage in Goa.
Harvale Caves – Goa’s Unique Heritage
By the time we reached back near the caves of Harvale, the rain had done us a favor. This is the most common and plain excavated caves among the many caves seen in India. 6 chambers have been created by cutting a huge rock of laterite. There is no engraving or carving of any kind on them. The main reason for this may be the type of rock because any kind of fine engraving on laterite rock is difficult.
There are 5 Shivlings built in black granite rock in 5 chambers. According to the legends, at the time of their exile, the Pandava brothers came here and stayed for some time. They used to worship Shiva separately in 5 rooms. The sixth room was Draupadi’s kitchen. This sixth room generates immense curiosity. As for any modern kitchen, this room also has a kitchen platform on one side. On this platform there are 8 pits of equal size and at the same distance, which appear to be like stoves.
These are pit stoves, this is just a guess. These pits may have been formed by the impact of water dripping from above. But as soon as we enter the room, at first glance it appears as if we are entering a modern kitchen.
Read more: Prehistoric artefacts of Pansoimol
Are the caves Hindu or Buddhist?
Whether these caves were Hindu or Buddhist from the beginning, it is a matter of discussion. From the Shivlings installed inside the chambers, it appears that the past and present times of these caves are related to Hindu religion. But it is also said that the bust of Buddha was also found near the caves. Another similar bust of Buddha was also found from the Rivona Caves in South Goa. These are the only known signs of Buddhism in Goa. But in the neighboring states, Karnataka and Maharashtra, the signs of Buddhism are visible in abundance.
Read More: Chorla Ghat – A Wonderful Glimpse Of Goa’s Green Countryside
According to my estimate, most of the caves present in India were excavated in 3 BC. It happened only after The Barabar Caves of Bodh Gaya are the oldest cave group in India. The cutting of Harvale caves is also similar to those caves. These caves may have been used by the nomadic singers who followed the religion prevalent at this place during that period. In ancient times, they must have been used by those pilgrims who would have come to the Rudreshwar temple to perform religious rituals in the memory of their deceased relatives. During that period, they may have been used by the merchants going from this area as well.
If you are interested in the culture and history of each place and want to visit Goa, then definitely include the name of Harvale Caves in the travel list of Goa tourist places.
Traveling in a small area of only a few square kilometres, I came across many historical elements. Many stories, different religions and natural beauty were encountered simultaneously. My great India is always on the move to surprise me.
Translation: Madhumita Tamhane