Kankumbi: Tucked away in this sleepy village of Kankumbi is a small Mauli temple. From ancient times, it has been a popular pilgrimage centre of the region with pilgrims from three states—Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra—congregating for a holy dip in its sacred tank. Today, after Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd started its excavation to divert the Kalsa tributary of the Mhadei, the centuries-old tank has turned into a pit.
In less than a year, in 2019, pilgrims will again converge here for the 12-year zatra.

But to find the sacred tank today, one has to look beneath the heaps of mud that has been accumulated from excavations for the canal. The mud buried and destroyed the smaller tank adjacent to the temple, the heavy blasting caused cracks to develop on the temple walls, while the sabha mandap collapsed during excavations. The bigger sacred tank, a little further towards east, was also swamped by mud and damaged.

Last time over a lakh pilgrims took a holy dip in the tirtha was in 2008—believed to be more propitious once in 12 years, when Jupiter enters Capricorn. It is said that a stream from the Malaprabha pours milky waters into the tank and bathing in it is considered most auspicious.

“We pay homage to Mauli deity during the zatra along with villagers from our locality,” says Mahadev Gaude, a resident of Gawali, a village deep in forests, south of Kankumbi.

The zatra is culturally significant as it brings together people from a region that was part of the Kadamba dynasty, centuries ago. In the past, the mother goddesses’ idols from Kapoli and Gunji in Karnataka and Poriem in Sattari, Goa were brought here in the palki (palanquin).

“Culturally, Goddess Mauli temple and the rituals associated in its worship have similarity with those in north-eastern part of Goa, Satari and in folk belief, there is mention about people migrating from one village to another across the ghats,” says Varad Sabnis, an archaeologist.

But sadly, the muddy run offs from the excavated earth defaced Kankumbi’s priceless heritage and cultural assets. Karnataka Neeravari Nigam Ltd has commenced work on reconstructing both the smaller tank near the temple and the bigger one that is the zatra spot.

The mud has been cleared from both sacred tanks but the slow pace of work has disappointed the devotees and villagers, as they are uncertain about the future of this unique fair.

“We are sad about the damage to the tanks and worried about the present condition. We want the restoration to be done before the next zatra,” says Nagesh Dalvi, a member of the Mauli temple committee.

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