Arvalem Caves
Category : Articles
Location  : Arvalem

Goa possesses a very rich 'cave heritage'. Speak to any villager in villages like Harvalem and you get to hear the legend of the five Pandavas- Yuddhistir, Bhim, Arjun, Nakul and Sahadev having resided in the five caves at Harvalem. The Rudreshwara temple at Harvalem displays a signage which speaks of the so-called Pandavanchyo leni or Pandavanchy Houryo. History speaks otherwise.....

The etymological roots of the village name Harvalem stands asfollows: Hara is shiva and Valem has come from the Kannad word for village ‘halli' - thus Hara-hallibecame Harvalem, a village very close to the town of Sanquelim or Sankhalim which again has evolved from Shankar - halli which again is a reference to Shiva, Hara or Mahadev. The village of Harvalem in the Bicholim Taluka showcases a beautiful serene, calm and green environs very much desired by the antient Buddhist monk in their journey of the attainment of peace, truth, bliss through deep contemplation and meditation. Close by is a beautiful waterfall, the famous ‘Harvalecho dhabdhabo‘ and the famous Rudreshwar temple.

The Buddhist monks have carved these five caves out of a sigle hard laterite rock. Here again we find that these Buddhist caves have been converted to shaivite caves. Shivlings of different shapes and sizes have been placed in these caves. These shivlings are carved out of granite. On the ‘ling' (phallus) which is aniconically representing the sun (Surya) has one line inscription which reads ‘Sambalur Vasi Ravih'. This inscription is palaeographically dated C 600 A.D. However, says the late Dr. V R Mistragotri in his book Socio- Cultural History of Goa from Bhojas to Vijayanagar, the date of the above inscription may be one century later i.e C 700 A.D. In the inscription Sambalur is nothing but Shivapur which means Hara-halli or Harvalli i.e. Harvalem. It could also be a reference to the bigger of Sankhlim or Shankar-halli lying next to Harvalem. Shambhu means Shiva and ‘ur'or ‘pur' means a town or a city in Sanskrit.

The Shivling and the inscription is assigned to the Bhoja period, the period of the Bhoja King Kapalivarman. As mentioned in my last piece on Lamgao caves the Shivling in the first Lamgao cave is also a assigned to the Bhoja period. There is another ling with an inscription in the Harvalem caves. In the copper plate inscription of the Bhoja king Kapalivarman there is mentioned of the Harvalem village. There is also mentioned of ‘udakapata' which means a waterfall which is none other than Harvalem water fall. The cells in the caves have pillars. The Shivlings are placed on raised platforms. These caves makes a interesting sight-seeing. On my journey through Goa's pre-portuguese past, I have realised that Goa inspite of having a very reach pre portuguese built and unbuilt heritage has been projected only as a Portuguese heritage destination. Our Buddhist and Jain heritage sites should also feature prominently on our tourist itinerary. Lamgao, Harvalem, Rivona, Kudnem, Bandoda which showcase our Buddhist and Jain heritage respectively should be promoted as Heritage Tourism sites.

Sources: Mitragotri, L K Pitre's article, Anant Dhume, field studirs at Harvalem.

Visitors should not expect grand architectural designs which are regular features in many Buddhist and Hindu temples. The caves are absolutely simple and rustic in its appearance. The importance lies in its ancient and historical value which presents the modern day traveler a perspective of Goa's rich and diverse history and cultural transitions it went through.

 

 


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