Rāmnāthi Devasthān, A Konkani Temple

Main entrance and Deepa Sthamba (light tower) at the Ramnathi Devasthan, Goa
Main entrance and Deepa Sthamba (light tower) at the Ramnathi Devasthan

The Shanteri Kamakshi Ramnath Devasthan (place of God, or Temple) in Ponda, Goa is our family's ancestral temple. Millenia ago, groups of Konkani families settled in extended family-based communities in Goa. Each community had their own spirits, which protected them from evil and satisfied their spiritual curiosity. The spirits and associated deities also received gratitude for agricultural and female fertility. With time, these spirits evolved into a full-blown God. Ramnath was the benevolent God of our community. His two spouses (Shanteri & Kamakshi) probably represented the heightened fertility required for survival in those days. And we have our own ferocious spirit – Betal, who is responsible for ‘taking care’ of evil.

When members of the extended family leave the community in search of opportunities, they maintain connections to their family gods, also called the Kuladevata. “Kula” refers to the home-base of the extended family community, where the lineage of the family can be traced back to. Thus the Ramnath deity is our family’s Kuladevata. All members of the original community and their descendants are called Kulavis (core family members). All Konkanis will have a Kuladevata Devasthan and are in turn kulavis of that temple.

Ramnath Dev at the Ramnathi Devasthan
Ramnath Dev
pics of Devi Shanteri at the Ramnath Devasthan, Ponda, Goa by Arun Shanbhag
Devi Shanteri at the Ramnath Devasthan, Goa
pics of Devi Kamakshi at the Ramnath Devasthan, Goa by Arun Shanbhag
Devi Kamakshi at the Ramnath Devasthan, Phonda, Goa

When Madhvacharya’s fervor spread through Karnataka in the 12th and 13th century, the Ramnathi Devasthan became incorporated into the Vaishanava tradition and became part of the larger Hindu Dharma. Thus Ramnath Dev became a local incarnate of Vishnu, and his spouses Shanteri & Kamakshi became incarnates of “Lakshmi.”

During the Portugese Inquisition in the 1500’s, all Konkani (and Hindu) temples in Goa were destroyed, and churches built in their place. Many Hindus were forced to convert and many others sacrificed their lives for their faith. Libraries, scriptures and literature were systematically destroyed. Devotees smuggled temple deities to safe haven across the Zuari River in what was then part of Goa ruled by a Muslim Sultan from Bijapur. Many Konkanis escaped with few belongings to start new lives elsewhere. Some migrated north to Maharashtra, and most migrated south and settled along the Karnataka Coast. Konkani communities also settled in Cochin and other parts of Kerala.

Note: See this post on Revisionism of the Portuguese Inquisition

Devout Konkanis built small temples in each town they settled and kept their faith alive. With the literature destroyed, a dispersed and migrant community maintained the konkani language as an oral tradition. In the 1700s, the Portuguese ended the Inquisition under threat of the British taking over the colony. A status quo was maintained till 1961 when the Portuguese finally left Goa and it became an Indian state. Konkani is now a recognized distinct language in India.

Konkanis dispersed all over the world, thronged to the remote corners of Goa to pay their respects at their Kuladevata temples. Many maintained in wooden shacks were refurbished. Konkani temples are now thriving complexes, representing a symbol of a resilient people; hard working and god fearing.

Considering the circumstances, Konkani temples rebuilt over the decades are not architectural masterpieces. Further, all modern Konkani temples are not where their original communities grew, but clustered across the Zuari River, within 10 miles of each other.

Under the Portugese rule, devotees visited clandestinely from the surrounding states, often involving day-long walks through forests. Appropriately, Konkani temples provide basic accommodations to their devotees. Today, accommodations have been upgraded, but are still spartan. Devotees can get a very basic room at the temple for between $1-$2 per night. One of Goa’s best kept secrets, I’d say. The temples in Ponda are about an hour from Panji the capital, or from the airport near Madgao.

Every time I visit India, I make a beeline to our kuladevata Ramnathi Devasthan in Goa. It is the tradition at Ramnathi and other Konkani temples, for kulavis to visit the deity as soon as we arrive – even before we wash our feet. We leave our footwear at the door and with dusty feet rush inside to pay homage to our father protector, guardian and closest confidant. Akin to the return of a prodigal son (or daughter); our father wants to see us ASAP, even before we wash our feet. This first visit is thus called “dhool bhaet” (dusty meeting). Only after we have visited the temple, do we visit the office, rent a room, freshen up and come back into the temple for a proper service.

Due to the remoteness of the area, there are no restaurants around, but for a small shack serving bananas and cold drinks (see pic of shack in this post). We usually ask and are invited to the priest’s house for a delicious konkani vegetarian meal – served on a banana leaf. Per tradition, we leave a small donation for the priest’s family. On many occasions, temple has open meals sponsored by devotees.

I usually spend a few days resting in divine grace, before heading south to visit our relatives and friends.

After learning the history of the Konkani temples, my visits to our kuladevata have more fervor and passion. A recognition of the sacrifices made by our ancestors, so that we may live with their chosen faith; A re-affirmation of my own faith and importantly courage ~ courage to defend my faith. Never again will our homes and places of worship be ransacked, and we be forced to choose between the sword or the cross.

Never Again!

Contact Details for Shree Ramnath Devasthan
Ramnathi, Ponda, Goa 403401
Tel: (0832) 2335281; 2335041; 2335174
Email: ramnathd07 AT gmail DOT com

My Posts Related to Ramnathi Devasthan and other Konkani Temples:

148 thoughts on “Rāmnāthi Devasthān, A Konkani Temple

Add yours

  1. the contact numbers of the Devasthan is not getting through.. All the three numbers keep ringing. I am trying since yesterday! I want to contact for booking rooms for my stay during this year end. am desperately trying… somebody help!!

  2. Dear Arun

    Excellent and noble work done by you . Please update on management structure of the temple enable kulavis to contact and suggest few lines for betterment

  3. Sir iam from bangalore i will to visiting temple on october 20th so please do the need ful details of staing rooms pls send me the details

  4. Hello Arun sir, I would like see u over what’s up or face book no is 9886819941 pl mail me your photograph I will be highly thank u you sir for doing such a noble things on lord Ramnath for our kulavis’well being

  5. Dear Arun Shanbhag sir, namaskar this is Suresh Prabhu from Mangalore contacted you earlier, I pleased to inform u that we have been blessed with baby boy secondly by the grace of lord Ramnath and his blessings, we are very happy with complete family of two children

  6. Hey Arun ,

    U got nice sets of pics on ur blog ..
    A silly question but, R you a Pro-Photographer.. nd how did u captured d pic of Ramnath Statue inside the temple..??

    1. Hi Ajay,
      Was traveling and thus the delay in my response.
      I am a hobbyist photographer; but persistence pays off and I ask the priests all the time. That works. And I am there a lot.
      I notice by your last name, you may be a Kulavi as well.
      Dev Barae Karo.

  7. Dear Arun

    I stay at Mumbai and have booked tickets for attending the Shivratri Festival. Please let me know about the accomodation. I understand that there are common rooms been organised for the same. I will be coming with my family (4 members including me)

    1. First, Congratulations. Unfortunately, this year I will be unable to attend.
      If you don’t have a private room, you will have to stay in the Hall. Other than privacy, it will be fine.
      Other options – see if you can get a private room at the Shanta Durga Devasthan next door. You will have to ask the Ramnathi office for the Shanta Durga temple phone number. They usually have a lot of rooms; A few years ago, I stayed there for MahaShivratri at Ramnathi. You can even try for the rooms once you get to Ramnathi.
      It will be a fabulous experience. I urge you to do ALL the sevas/activities, including the palki at 5 am; late night konkani drama, just chat with the various bhatjis and do upvaas. The meals are fabulous in the temple. The canteens are great too. Please remember, this is not a family vacation at a resort, but a true pilgrimage to an uplifting experience.

      And, usually on the second day morning, Swami of the Partagali Math will be giving tapt (hot) mudras at 10 am. Please get five mudras for your self; 2 for your wife and small kids get one. Even two year olds get mudras. And do Abhishek ‘every’ morning. If you have any questions of what you should do, just ask Prakash Bhat (he is the head priest there). Or Yogesh Bhat, or Vasant Bhat. They all know me (Colaba Vithoba Shanbhag’s grandson Arun, who lives in Boston).

      have a great time and do as much seva as you can.
      Dev Barae Karo!

      1. hi Arun

        Thanks for your reply, I had been there last to last year and it was a fanatabulous experience thats the reason this year I am going. I did check with the office @ Ramnathi but there are no rooms available and nor @ shantadurga. Will be looking for the one without privacy. Anyways going there for enjoying festval and looking for all this just because my mom and dad are with me so was looking for some accomodation for them

        Thanks once again and it was a nice to go through your reply. A flashback of the event.

  8. Hello Arun,
    Your blog on Ramnathi is very good. I knew about Mangeshi, Shanta-durga but not much about Ramnathi. I would be going through each and every post by you on Ramnathi.

    I would be attending a wedding at Ramnathi in december.

    Could you please guide me on travelling to Ramnathi from Pune. Please let me know nearesr railway station, also let me know if it is convinient to travel via Road or Railway.

    I also plan to stay there for 3 days, so if possible please suggest decent place to stay where vegeterian food is available.

    Ajay Godbole

    1. Verna is the closest train station to Ponda, where all the temples are located. It is just before Madgao.
      SInce you will already have to travel from Pune, it may be easier to travel by car for you. Also, you will need a car to get around Goa. So a car may be ideal.
      I suggest you stay at the Ramnathi Room or next door at the Shanta Durga Temple rooms. There are nice vegetarian canteens attached to the temple.

      Dev Barae Karo,

  9. Dear arun shanbhag i very happy for your sportive effors for developing the sight by updating the information on lord Ramnath. Pl keep in touch may lord ramnath bless u and your family bye.

  10. Dear arun shanbhag, i am pleased to know about the love and devotion about our dearest and nearest Lord Ramnath and others to bless us grace us in well being of our kulavis,konkani communities accross the world.

  11. I’m frm mangalore.. actually there isnt a website on our kula devtas in whole internet.. once again good job.. keep it up.. 🙂

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