Friday, August 8, 2008

Mahadayi/ Mandovi River Valley - Part VI

By Mohan Pai


Caranzol forest with a stream - Pic by Mohan Pai


Dry-throated, foaming at the mouth,

maddened by the sun’s sizzling rays,

tuskers in agony of growing thirst,

seeking water, do not fear even the lion.

Tormented by the hot sun, a herd of wild boars

rooting with the round tips of their long snouts

in the caked mud of ponds with swamp-grass overgrown,

appear as if descending deep into the earth.

A cobra overcome by thirst darts his forked tongue out

to lick the breeze; the brilliance of his crest jewel

flashes struck by brilliant sunbeams; burning

from Summer’s heat and his own fiery poison

he does not attack the assemblage of frogs.


Rivers swollen by a mass of turbid waters

rush with impetuous haste towards the seas,

felling trees all around on their banks

like unchaste women driven by passion-filled fancies.

Infuriated by the thunder of the first rain clouds,

wild elephants trumpet again and again;

their temples spotless as bright blue-lilies are drenched

by the flow of rut with bees swarming over them.


The breathtaking beauty of rippling lakes

breathed on by a passing wind at daybreak,

where lotus and lily glow brilliantly

and pairs of live-drunk geese float entrancing,

suddenly grips the heart with longing.


Fields richly covered with ripening rice

where charming does roam in herds

are sonorous with the calls of damsel cranes,

Ah! What restlessness they arouse!


Cold, cold, with heavy dews falling thick,

and colder yet with the moonbeams’ icy glitter,

it with ethereal beauty by wan stars,

these nights give no comfort or joy to people.

From Kalidasa’s ‘Rtusamharam’ translated by Chandra Rajan


“Biodiversiy” encompasses the variety of all life on the earth. It is identified as the variability among the living organisms and the ecological complexes of which they are part, including diversity within and between species and ecosystems. The Mahadayi/Mandovi river valley which is part of the larger Sahyadri ecoregion and is a major centre of diversity.

Dense Forests of Chapoli - Pic Srihari Kugaji

The Mahadayi/Mandovi river valley comprises the Western Ghats zone on both Karnataka and Goa side across the crestline of the Sahyadris including Madei Wildlife Sanctuary and Molem National Park with an area of about 750 sq km. However, the Madei/Mandovi river basin in Goa comprise a much larger area of 1,580 sq. km. about 42% of Goa’s total geographical area.
On Goa side the narrow coastal plains lead eastward to hills ascending about 1,200 metres. The isolated peaks are Sonsagar or Sosodurg (3,827 ft.), Catlanchimauli (3,633 ft.), Vaguerim (3,500 ft.) and Morlemchogar (3,400 ft) all in Sattari taluka of North Goa falling in the Mahadayi valley region.

The coastal plains traversed by estuarine rivers of which the Mandovi river has the largest river system network with several estuarine and riverine islands. The Mandovi plains of Goa comprise an intricate system of wetlands, tidal marshy areas and cultivated paddy fields (Khazans), all intersected by canals, inland dykes, bays lagoons and creeks. The Mandovi and the backwaters in the hinterland are governed by regular tides which go up to 36 km upstream (beyond Ganjem).

While some protection has been afforded to the Madei Valley on Goa side through the creation of Molem National Park (240 sq. Km.) and Madei Wildlife Sanctuary (211 sq km.) The Karnataka side of the valley remains without any protection the area remains wide open for destruction.

Madei Wildlife Sanctuary - view from Parvad, Karnataka - Pic by Mohan Pai


Generally, the Sahyadris contain three distinct forest type - montane rain forests, moist deciduous forests and dry deciduous forest and all the three types are represented in the Mahadayi/Madei river valley.

Dense tropical evergreen forests of the valley - Pic by Srihari Kugaji

The montane rain forests support the highest level of biological diversity in the Mahadayi/Madei valley. They are extremely rich in endemic species, which occur nowhere on earth. These evergreen forests thrive in areas with high rainfall (more than 2000 mm), mostly along the western escarpment of the Ghats. The Mahadayi and its tributaries originate in these forests. At low and medium elevation, this region typically features towering evergreen trees up to 45 m tall, draped with climbers, woody vines and epiphytes. Bamboos canes and palms make up the thick, dark under story and the forest floor supports dense ground cover.

Fungal diversity - Pic by Srihari Kugaji

Like the montane evergreen forests, the moist deciduous forests occur in areas of high rainfall (more than 1500 mm). These forests contain primarily deciduous species, which lose their leaves seasonally. This is the main forest type of Goa, covering more than half the catchment area of the Madei river (Molem, Valpoi, Anmod Ghats).

Dry deciduous forests occur on the leeward side of the Sahyadris with lower precipitation and the eastern part of the Mahadayi valley in Khanapur taluka exhibit this type. Trees here grow to a height of 25 m. And the vast majority of plant species lose their leaves during the dry season. These forests may not have high biodiversity but they provide valuable habitat to large herbivores like elephants and bisons and carnivores such as leopard and tiger.

Sapium insinae - one of the most poisonus plant in the Sahyadris - Pic by Mohan Pai

The valley is a scenic treat and one of the richest reservoirs of biodiversity in the world and reflects the complexity in plant animal and bird life and is home to endangered bat species. The valley is comparable to the Silent valley of Kerala in its significance and an important biological and ecological remaining pocket in the Western Ghats.

Utricularia reticulata - Insectivorous plant. Pic by Mohan Pai

Goa’s four wildlife sanctuaries are located on the eastern flank of the state in the Western Ghats section covering an area of about 750 sq km which makes Goa the only state in India which has protected the complete Western Ghats section within the state.

Entrance to Bhagwan Mahveer Wildlife Sanctuary, Molem - Pic by Mohan Pai
While the Madei Wildlife sanctuary (Sattari - 208.48 sq km) and Bhagawan Mahavir wildlife sanctuary and Molem National Park (Sanguem - 240 sq km) fall within the Mandovi basin all sanctuaries are but a contiguous belt on the eastern border of Goa.
Molem Sanctuary - Pic by Mohan Pai

These are all thick monsoon forests that hold a great reservoir of biodiversity. The forest type include montane rain forests, moist deciduous and dry deciduous forests.

Mappia foetida - Pic by Mohan Pai

The whole area is a rich repository of medicinal plants and herbs wich are in great demand by Pharmaceutical MNCs abroad e.g. Mappia foetida used for the treatment of ovarian and colon cancers.


Mangroves are highly specialised ecosystems, which grow salt water resistant plants in the inter tidal areas along sheltered seacoasts and estuaries in the tropical region.
Mangroves of Cumbarjua Canal - Pic by Mohan Pai

Various biotic communities associated with mangroves form a complex food web and provide wide services to the livelihood of coastal people.
The most prominent and extensive back-waters with mangroves are located to the east of Panaji. The total area of mangroves along the Mandovi and Cumbhajua canal is about 900 ha. Mangroves harbours some wild life which includes otter, fishing cats, monkeys and snakes.

Mangroves of Chorao Island - Pic by Mohan Pai

More common are birds like herons, storks, sea eagles, kites, kingfishers, sandpipers, tits,bulbul and whistlers.
The dominant trees in the swamps are species of Myristica. Wild relatives of species that yield nutmeg and mace. The swamps are also richly endowed with wild relatives of other plants. Unfortunately Myristica swamps are highly threatened due to human intervention. In Valpoi there exist a few patches of Myristica swamps and this endangered ecosysyem needs to be conserved.

Sacred Groves

Forests have been the lifeline fo tribals and other forest dwelling communities since distant past. Communities have been setting aside certain patches of land or forest dedicated to a deity or village God, protected and worshipped called Devachirai in Goa.

Niramkarachi Rai - the sacred grove at Nanode, Sattari - Pic by Mohan Pai

Goa had an extensive distribution of the sacred groves and few have survived till today. Most of the sacred groves that have survived are in Sattari and Sanguem talukas. Ranging in size from less than a hectare to many hectares, sacred groves are often the only remaining haven for plants and animals in areas with destruction of their natural habitat. Ajobachi Rai in Sattari taluka is the largest sacred grove in Goa spread over 10 ha.

Icons worshipped in a sacred grove in Sattari - Pic by Mohan Pai

Traditional Horticulture

“The main crops of the traditional horticulture of the valley are Coconut, Betel nut, Cashewnut, Banana, Jackfruit, Mango, Bhirand or Kokum, Pineapple and a variety of gourds.

CASHEW APPLE: The nuts are first removed andprocessed and have a large local as well as exportmarket. The cashew apple is first smashed, and then fermented to be made into the famous liquor- the Cashew Feni.

Goa is associated with a large variety of choicest mangoes. These include Mankurad, Mussarat, Fernandin, Hilario, Xavier, Bishop, Afonso, Furtad, Costa, Sakri, Rosa,Goa Alfonso, etc.

The Kadambas (1000-1350 AD) and later the Governors of Vijayanagar promoted mango orchards in Goa close to temple complexes and in their capitals. The local village associations- the gaunkaris also brought large areas under mango cultivation. Although crude methods of grafting were already known in India, the Jesuits helped perfect the art of mango grafting in Goa. Bernardo Francisco da Costa founded the first canning factory in Goa, the first in India in 1882 and exported Goan mangoes ias slices in syrup as well as in jelly form. The area under cultivation of mango in Goa is 3,700 hectares, yielding about 35-40,000 MT

Cashew is one of the largest plantation crops in Goa. They are grown on hilly sides, mixed with other vegetation or scattered on open pastures. The largest size is reported from Sattari, Bicholim and Bardez talukas. Cashew was introduced in Goa by the Portuguese during 16th Century basically as a soil conservation crop. Today a total of 44,520 hectares (28%) of the total crop area is under cashew plantation. About 10 lakh litres of cashew feni are produced annually which fetches the State of Goa around Rs. 80 - 90 lakhs / year.
The second major plantation crop in Goa is the coconut. Most families in Goan villages rear coconut trees. The staple diet of Goans being Fish Curry & Rice, coconut curries are an essential ingredient of the daily diet and Goans are generally incapable of making curries without the use of coconut. Most sweets in Goa are generally made out of a mixture of rice and coconut. The other element of the coconut tree is that the toddy is used in the production of jaggery and vinegar as well as in the manufacture of feni, another variety of liquor.Coconut is one of the nature's wonder trees and is responsible for a sustained generation of a varied number of biodegradable products, still largely used in the villages. Besides oil and oilcakes, which are fed to the animals, the trees produce fibres for ropes and matting. Coconut tree trunk is used to make rafters for roofs. Leaves both dry and green are used for making baskets and thatches to protect Goan homes, particularly windows and balcaos during heavy monsoon. The ribs of the leaves are used to produce brooms.
The area under arecanut is around 2000 hectares and almost half of it is in Ponda Taluka. The areca palm is much more delicate than the coconut tree. It requires abundant irrigation during the hot summer months and could therefore be beneficially cultivated in kulagars. Areca is basically a shade loving tree and grows best in the company of other fruit bearing trees.
Other plantations
Other plantation crops grown in Goa are the bamboo, the banana and mango. Bhirand / kokum is also an important plantation crop which forms a part of daily diet. It is used as a garnish to give an acidic taste to curries and vegetable as well as in the preparation of cooling kokum syrup during the hot summer months.
Bhinnas or Kokum is a very sourfruit which is used as an ingredientin the local curries.Picture shows‘Sollas’ (dried condiments) from Kokum, Otomb and raw mangoes.

Wildlife in the Valley

Thickly forested area of the Mahadayi/Mandovi valley cover about 750 km on both Karnataka and Goa side. The wildlife in the valley more or less represents that of the Western Ghats with some species of bats which are endemic to the valley. According to a study carried out by Belgaum Nature Lovers’ Club , the fauna of the area includes 25 species of mammals including tiger, black panther, bison and elephant; 15 varieties of reptiles including King Cobra, 128 varieties of birds like the Malabar whistling thrush and Malabar pied hornbill; 29 varieties of Butterflies and moths that include the largest butterfly in the subcontinent - the Southern Birdwing.

Theobald’d Tomb Bat is a rare species of bats found in Krishnapur caves in the Mahadayi Valley - Pic by Srihari Kugaji

The valley is home to two rare species of bats - Wroughton’s Freetailed bat at Barapedi caves and Theobald’s Tomb bat at Krishnapur.

Krishnapur Caves, just 2.5 km from Goa border - home to the endangered Theobalds Tomb Bat - Pic by Srihari Kugaji

Wroughton’s free-tailed bat


Thomas (1913) was the first author to describe the species found only at a single site in India - Barapedi Caves at Talevadi in the Mhadei River Valley in Karnataka - Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat which are peculiarly structured and highly specialized species belonging to the order of Chiroptera.

Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat of Barapedi Caves - Pic by Niranjan Sant

It is a large sized insectivorous molossid bat with a stout tail projecting conspicuously and with large ears of variable forms. Its colour is rich, glossy dark brown with white border on each flank. The population of these rare and endangered bats is very low. The species has been brought recently under Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act - Schedule I and a complete ban is imposed on its collection for any academic or research purpose.

The Barapedi cave in which it resides is located at an altitude of 800 m. (2,600 ft.) And the cave itself is small - only about 40 m deep, 25 m wide and 6-7 m high with corners, permanent patches of water and high degree of humidity. These bats take shelter in small or big groups of 2 to 15 or even more individuals deep in the crevices, cracks or holes. They remain silent and hence it is very difficult to locate the groups and determine the colony size. This bat was thought to be restricted to only Barapedi habitat in the entire world but recent research has revealed the presence of this species in north-eastern India and Cambodia.

Bwetween the 21st and 26th of May, 2002, the University of Victoria, B.C., Canada, witnessed a most significant event, the International Children’s Conference on the Environment 2002. Eleven-year old Vivek Danewale came half-way around the world from Belgaum, India with his campaign to save the Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat.


Of the 48 species of mammals identified in the Western Ghats, the Mahadayi/Mandovi Valley has a fair share of the mammals diversity. The main species are:

Primates ( Common langur, Bonnet macaque, Slender loris, etc),

Cats: (Leopard or panther, Jungle Cat, Leopard Cat, Rusty Spotted Cat)

The Civets: ( Small Indian. Common Palm Civet, or Tody Cat)

The Mongoose (Common Mongoose, Stripedneck Mongoose, Brown Mongoose)

The Dog Family ( Jackal, Indian Fox, The Dhole or Indian Wild Dog)

The Bear Family ( Sloth Bear)

The Ground Shrew, The large Brown Flying Squirrel, The Three Striped palm Squirrel, The Five Striped palm Squirrel,. Funambulus PennantiGiant Squirrels.The Indian Giant Squirrel, The Indian Porcupine, The Blacknaped Hare

The Indian Elephant

The Gaur or Indian Bison

Deer: (The Sambar, Chital or spotted Dear, The Muntjac or Barking Deer, Mouse Deer)

The Indian Wild Boar

Gaur is Goa's State Animal



Indian Rock Python, Whitaker’s Sand Boa, Common Sand Boa, Red Sand Boa, Common Wine Snake,Beddome’s Keelback, Striped Keelback, Checkered Keelback, Banded Racer,Common Indian Cat Snake, Collared Cat Snake, Sri Lankan Cat Snake, Ornate Flying Snake, Copper headed Trinket snake, Indian Trinket Snake, Common Bronzeback, Tree Snake, CommonWolf Snake, Yellow Spotted Wolf Snake, Taravancore Wolf Snake, Banded Kukri Snake, Streaked Kukri Snake .

King Cobra

Indian Rat Snake, Indian Krait, Black slender coral Snake, Monocled Cobra, Spectacled Cobra,King Cobra, Brahminy Blind Snake, Russell’s Viper, Saw Scaled Viper, Hump nosed pit viper, Green Pit Viper, Malabar Pit Viper, Ocellate Shield Tail .

Lizards Skinks and Geckos

Chameleon - Pic by Amrut Singh

Green Forest Lizard, [Sourthern], Elliot’s Forest Lizard, Roux’s Forest lizard, Common Garden Lizard, Western Ghats Flying Lizard, Fan Throated Lizard, Bronze Grass Skink, Keeled Grass Skink, Dussumier’s Litter skink, Beddome’s Cat skink, South Indian Rock Agama, Asian House Gecko, Termite Hill Gecko, Spotted Rock Gecko, Reticulated Gecko, Kollegal Ground Gecko, Bengal Monitor.


Goa is called ‘the Birdwatcher’s paradise’ The valley has more than 350 species of birds which include jungle fowl, woodpeckers, barbets, Malabar grey hornbill and Malabar pied hornbill, kingfishers, cuckoos, owls, nightjars, gulls, cormorants, egrets, herons, orioles, minivets, thrushes, bulbuls, magpies, canaries, robins, swallows, warblers, etc.

Indian Flying Fox, False Vampire bat, Short nosed fruit bat, Painted Bat, Wroughtons Freetailed Bat, Theobald Tomb Bat.

The area is home to innumerable species of invertebrates which include ants, bees, wasps, beetles butterflies, etc. Southern Birdwing, the largest butterfly of the subcontinent with a wing span of 19 cm is commonly seen in the valley. Grass Jewel, the smallest butterfly with a wing span of 1.5 cm is also found in the valley.

Tailless Whipscorpion - This is not a true scorpion and appears more like a spider. It is an arachnid (anthropod with eight legs and 2 body parts) and a cousin to scorpion and spider. There are about 60 species worldwide generally found in warm climate


The total forest cover of the valley between Karnataka and Goa is approx 750 sq km of which more then 50% lies (450sq km) in Goa. The reduction in the waters of Mahadayi will not only decimate all these forests but will also affect the remaining forests especially in terms of the wildlife of the south eastern forests of the Sahyadris in Goa consisting of Netravali and Cotigao sanctuaries (297 sq km) as this forms a contiguous belt of forests in Goa. In other words the entire belt of protected forest areas that form the contiguous area amounting to 755 sq km will be decimated. The same fate is likely to befall the Bhimgad forests and the protected forests of Anshi National Park and Dandeli located in Uttara Kannada district just south of the Mahadayi river and valley in Karnataka and Amboli forests of Sawantwadi in Maharashtra to the north.

Environmentalists, conservationists and various groups and NGOs have been crying hoarse for decades over saving the Mahadayi River Valley on the Karnataka side. And the valley remains without any protective measures from the Government side and therefore wide open for destruction.

Non-governmental organisations and peoples’ groups in the three states proposed that the entire area along with other contiguous forests of Karnataka, Goa and Maharashtra be declared as the Sahyadri Ecologically Sensitive Area as it is very fragile and under various threats. However, there are no signs of the MoEF taking any decision on this issue. There has also been proposals for setting up a biosphere reserve or designating the Mahadayi Valley in Khanapur as Bhimgad Wildlife Sanctuary but these proposals are also facing considerable resistance and the files are gathering dust.

At a smaller level, groups such as Paryavarni, Nature Lovers’ Club in Belgaum, the Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya in Dharwad and Madei Bachao Andolan and Vivekananda Environment Brigade in Goa have been raising concerns and so have villages like Nerse in Khanapur who have now formed the Nerse Parisara Samrakshana Samiti.

On Goa side, the Valley is protected to some extent through the creation of Bhagavan Mahavir Wildlife Santuary and Molem National Park(Total protected area: 240 sq km) in Sanguem taluka and Madei Wildlife Sanctuary(Protected area: 208.48 sq km) in Sattari taluka and Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary (Protected area: 8 sq km) in Ponda taluka. Fortunately for Goa, the entire eastern Sahyadri zone is protected through the creation of two more Wildlife Sanctuaries along the eastern border - Netravali and Cotigao. There is now a contiguous strip of protected forests stretching along the entire length of Goa which act as a corridor for the movement of wildlife.

Goa has also set up a bird sanctuary - Dr. Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary on Chorao island with an area of 1.8 sq km. The whole area has mangrove vegetation.The sanctuary has colourful resident and migratory birds and it is a habitat for plankton, shrimps, prawns and small Fish.

Protected Areas of Goa.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Mahadayi/Mandovi River Valley - Part V

By Mohan Pai

The Madei/Mandovi River in Goa

The Madei in Sattari

The Mahadayi river enters Goa near Khanapur taluka border below Sosodurg (called Dara Singha peak on Karnataka side), the highest peak in the Sahyadris (1019 m.) in Goa. In the upper reaches of the river in Sattari valley the river is called Madei and it flows for about 20 km westward till it reaches Bembol, the point of its confluence with Khandepar river. From here the river is called the Mandovi till it meets the Arabian sea ahead of Panaji.

Sattari taluka is crisscrossed with innumerable streams flowing from the Western Ghats from the Maharashtra state in the north and Karnataka in the west. Prominent among them are four streams: Surla (or Nandode Nadi), Volvonta, Kotrachi Nadi and Ragoda.

Farmer of Sattari - Pic by Mohan Pai

Surla River (Nanode Nadi): Surla river originates in the dense forests of Surla and Kankumbi in the Western Ghats of Karnatak. Kalasa nala joins it before it enters Goa. Two main streams join Surla river in Sattari - Mandrichi Nadi and Deuchi Nadi.

River Surla (Nanode Nadi), a tributary of Madei in Sattari - Pic by Mohan Pai

Surla river joins Madei near the village of Nanode above Valpoi. The length of this stream in Sattari is about 20 km.

Anjunem Dam Reservoir in Sattari - Pic by Mohan Pai

Volvonta river:The Volvonta (Haltar Nala) rises in the Western Ghats and enters Goa at Shiroli and it flows south for 21.5 km and joins the Mandovi at Sarmanas. The river is subject to tidal influence upto Sanquelim. River Volvonta has three main tributaries: Costi Nadi(8.5 km) joins the Volvonta at Ghoteli in Sattari. Cudne Nadi (17 km) joins the Volvonta at Karkhajan. Dicholi (15 km): originates in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra and enters Goa at Kudchirem to join the Volvonta at Karapur.

Arvalem Waterfalls on Bicholim River - Pic by Mohan Pai

Kotrachi Nadi: This stream emerges from the dense forests of Golali and Ivrem-Budruck. It flows southward and joins Madei at Velguem in Sattari.
Ragoda River: Originates in the Western Ghats and flows north-west over a distance of 35 km and joins the Madei at Guleli. The Ragoda itself has a tributary - Jamboli which starts at the Karnataka border runs westward till Jamboli and then north-west to join the Ragoda.
The other important streams that join the Madei in Sattari are: Kumbhtol (10.5 km), Patwal (10 km), Zarme (11.5 km), Khotodem (9.5 km) and Advoi (8 km).

The Mandovi

In Goa, after a restricted course through the flat-topped range, while receiving waters of the Volvonta coming from Ambekhol of Chorla Ghat and as many other smaller streams join in, the Madei emerges into a more open valley and from Bembol to Pilgao takes a north westerly course for about 17 km. swinging towards the west to join the Arabian sea at Panaji. From Bembol, where it meets the river Khandepar the Madei becomes the Mandovi. River Khandepar meets Madei at Bembol.The Madei becomes the Mandovi from this point of the confluence. Pic by Mohan Pai

As the tributaries join in, in it’s estuarial region it develops a broad and slow moving course accompanied by remarkable changes in the landscape and drainage characterised by the typical features of a drowned topography with the island of Divar standing prominently in mid-course with its northern counterpart, the island of Chorao, not looking so prominent as an island because it is on the right bank of the Mandovi encircled by the small but complex network of Mapusa river drainage. Khandepar river in the south and Mapusa river network of drainage in the north are the important tributaries of Mandovi in Goa.

Khandepar River: Khandepar river originates in the Western Ghats on Karnataka side and enters Goa through the Castlerock heights and plunges down as the beautiful Dudhsagar waterfalls.

Dudhsagar Waterfalls - Pic by Uttam

It is also called the Dudhsagar river in this stretch. After the falls it runs in a deep valley for some distance till the village of Colem turning north. Calem Nala, its tributary which originates on the Karnataka boudary in the Western Ghats and runs westward till Pimpalquin and then turns north till it joins the Dudhsagar (Khandepar) river with a total length of 29 km. Khandepar river valley is broad with alluvial embankments and is dominated by plateau heights occasionally showing peaks. It has a large drainage area through its tributaries in the south, draining the area of north Sanguem and Ponda talukas in its wake.
Mapusa River: Mapusa river originates in the dense forests of Dumacem and Amthane and flows southward for 26 km and joins the Mandovi at Penha de Franca. The Moide, a tributary of river Mapusa originates in Guirim flows northeast for 17 km and joins the Mapusa river at Sircaim. The Mapusa river drainage consists of threaded and ill-defined streams in broad, flat and in some places marshy levels skirted by the Nandoli-Porvorim-Mapusa-Assonora-Sirigao plateau heights and shows that the whole low level tract is infilled alluvium, fed by waters as well as debries by the steep down cutting rivulets of the plateau rims, of which the Assonara stream is the longest.
Sinquerim: The river starts from Alto-Porvorim hillock in Bardez and flows westward through Pilerne, Verem, Nerul, Candolim and joins the Mandovi at Sinquerim. The river length is 11 km.

Penha de Franca - Pic by Mohan Pai
The church at the confluence of the Mapusa river and the Madovi riverstands very prominently on the river bank of the Mandovi. According to the story, Ana de Azavedo, a wealthy widow, who was a devotee of Nosa Senhora de Penha de Franca in Portugal bequeathed all her estates to the Franciscans and this church was built on her property during herlifetime and hence the name ‘Penha de Franca’.

Aguada Bay near the mouth of the Mandovi - Pic by Mohan Pai

The Mandovi is the widest, approximately four km. at the Bay of Aguada and river Sinquerim joins it in this bay. The Mapusa river joins the Mandovi at the upstream end of a 6 km stretch. Divar island, approximately 11 km long, bifurcates the Mandovi into two channels. Before joining at the upstream end of the island, the two channels lead into an extensive network of narrow channels in a marshy area. The Cumbarjua canal joins the Mandovi about 4 km upstream of the Divar island. The 30 km stretch of the main channel of the Mandovi, from the eastern edge of the Divar island to Ganjem, gets progressively narrower and shallower in the upstream direction. Rivers Dicholi, Volvonta, Kudnem and Khandepar join the Mandovi along this stretch, Khandepar being the largest of the four streams which is fed by the river Dudhsagar at its upstream end.

View of the Mandovi from Our Lady of the Mount Church, Old Goa. In the foreground is St. Cajetan’s Cathedral and St. Francis of Assisi rise above the groves of palm

Goa’s Riverine Civilization

Mauxi Rock Engraving

The prehistory of Goa is intrinsically meshed with the ecological history of its rivers. According to historians, the nomadic humans descended down the river valleys of the Western Ghats and dispersed along the estuaries and the coast some one hundred thousand years ago.

Archeologists have found tools that suggest occupation of sites in Goa along the upstream Mandovi river that date from early palaeolithic to mesolithic stages. Rock engravings have been found at Mauxi in Sattari taluka and in Usgalimol in Sanguem taluka, some of which belong to Mesolithic period of the old stone age (8,000 to 5,000 BC).

The recorded history of Goa goes back to 300 BC when it was part of the Mauryan Empire followed by the rule of a series of Hindu dynasties through the ages which included the Bhojas, Satvahanas, Abhira, the Kalachuris, the Chalukyas of Badami, the Rashtrakutas, the Silaharas and the Kadambas until the fourteenth century when Mohomedans invaded Goa, followed by the rule of Vijayanagar empire for nearly a century and then a brief spell of rule by the Bahamanis of Bijapur until the Portugese conquered part of the territory in 1510 AD and stayed for 452 years until 1961.

Goa became a flourishing riverine civilizaton from early times when it had become an important entrepot of ancient and medieval world, mentioned in historical text as “Gouba” by Ptolemy (2nd century AD) and as “Kava Sindabur” (Goa Chandrapur) by the Arabs. During the fifteenth and sixteenth century its prosperity brought fame and it was called “Goa Dourada” and “Rome of the East.” Decadence hadset in during the later part of the Portugese rule but since the independence in 1961, Goa has prospered with its mining, fisheries and tourism. Goa has one of the highest per capita income among the Indianstates. Tourism now is a major industry as Goa is now an international destination and the number of annual tourist arrivals (2.3 million) now far exceeds the population of Goa (1.3 million)

Over the centuries, Goa has developed its own riverine culture and society; its own agricultural systems like Khazan fields and ‘Puran Sheti’; its fishing expertise and horticulture; its religious and folk traditions;its art forms, music and cuisine;

Now the future of this ancient riverine civilization and a vibrant and prosperous state which has become an international tourist destination is at stake because of the so called ‘‘Development” schemes of the neighbouring state.

The Temple District

Majority of the famous sixteenth and seventeenth century temples are located in the Mandovi river basin in Ponda taluk. Most of them are the temples of the escapee Gods shifted across the river because of the religious persecution by the Portugese.

Intricately carved doorway - Shri Mahalkshmi Temple, Bandode - Pic by Mohan Pai

The temples include Shri Mangesh, Shri Nagesh, Shri Mhalsa, Shri Shantadurga, Shri Mahalakshmi, Shri Laxminarsimha, Shri Kamakshi and many others.

Kamakshi Temple, Shiroda - Pic by Mohsn Pai

Away to the south of Ponda taluka, far from the main concentration of temples at Shiroda is located the temple of Shri Kamakshi. Originally from the village of Raia, the deity was transferred here when the temple at Raia was destroyed by the Portugese.. The temple has no domes and its tiled roof has the concave profile of a Buddhist Pagoda, projecting beyond a two-storied octagonal tower with a golden filial.

Arvalem Caves: These are 6th century caves locally known as Pandava caves. They have long been thought to be of Buddhist origin, with the lingas installed in the four shrines after the decline of Buddhism ...but this is not altogether certain and they may have been Brahminical from the start.

Aravalem Caves - Pic by Mohan Pai

The Mahadeva Temple at Tambdi Surla is the only structural temple of the Kadamba period belonging to the 13th century which has survived. The temple is built of black basalt with slab roof design over the main hall and a typical Dravidian style Shikara and carved ceiling.

13th Century Mahadeva Temple - Pic by Mohan Pai

A Vibrant Civilization Steeped in Tradition

Ghodemodni, a martial dance performed during the festival of Shigmo. The dancers tie wooden horses at the waist and wear bright costumes and colourful headgears and march towards the village temple. The dance probably came to Goa from Saurashtra.

Cities & Settlements on the banks of the Mandovi

Right Bank of the Mandovi


Mandovi at Panaji. Idalcao Palace in the foreground - Pic by Mohan Pai

PANAJI - the capital city of Goa State housed only a tiny fishing village amongst the swamp lands and palm trees.

Idalcao's Palace, Panaji - Pic by Mohan Pai

It was Yusuf Adil Shah, the Sultan of Bijapur who selected this site and built a fortified palace around 1500 AD. After more than 500 years the palace still stands as the most prominent structure on the banks of the Mandovi and is known as Idalcao Palace.

Blue-tiled murals which line the entrance hall of the Menezes BraganzaInstitute. It’s a uniquely Portugese art form ‘azulezos’ which depictscenes from the great poem by Luis de Camos, ‘The Lusiads’ whichtells the story of the adventure of the Portugese Empire in the east.

In the 1820s and 1830s, streets, lighting, public buildings and housing were rapidly developed and in 1834 its official status was raised by the government in Lisbon to that of a city with the title Nova Goa and in 1843, it was declared the capital of Goa by royal decree.

Dramatic statue of Abbe Faria in Panaji - one of the most fascinating of Goan exiles was born in 1756 in Candolim village in Bardez. His father took him to Lisbon and he was ordained in Rome as a priest. He lived in Paris and was involved in the Pinto revolt in Goa as well as the French revolution in France actually leading a battalion of revolutionaries in 1795. He became famous as the originator of hypnotism through suggestion. Pic by Mohan Pai

Dona Paula

Legend says that Dona Paula was the lady in waiting of the Governor General’s wife and the Governor fell for her beauty and charms. The governor’s enraged wife had her stripped and bound and thrown over the cliff into the sea. However, the governor’s wife allowed Dona Paula to keep her necklace of pearls, a gift of love from her confessor. The local fishermen believe that at the stroke of midnight, Dona Paula rises from the sea and roams the area wearing the pearl necklace and nothing else, leaning on the arm of the priest - her confessor and lover.

Image of India - white statue at the tip of the promontory - Pic by Mohan Pai

Dona Paula is located at the western end of Panaji and has a beautiful bay and a beach. The white statue called ‘Image of India’ by Baroness Yersa Von Leistner portrays a man and a woman.

Dona Paula Bay. Pic by Mohan Pai


Flock of sea gulls at Ribander - Pic by Mohan Pai

At the end of the causeway from Panaji is Ribander, the name meaning “Royal landing place” is a long rambling village on the banks of the Mandovi between Panaji and Old Goa. It was home to Goa’s historic hospital - the Hospital of the Poor which was the successor to that first famous Portugese institution, the Royal Hospital of Old Goa tranferred at Ribander in 1851

OLD GOA - “ The Rome of the East”

The Basilica of Bom Jesus was built by the Jesuits between 1594 and 1605. This building is perhaps the finest example of Baroque architecture in India. The relics of St. Fancis Xavier lie in this Basilica and the expositions of the bodily relics of St. Francis Xavier are held at ten-year intervals. Pic by Mohan Pai

Old Goa, the capital of the Portugese Empire, a city of prosperity and splendour, had become one of the wonders of the Orient “the Rome of the East” with a population of well over 2,00,000 in the first half of the 16th century.
The city was already doomed, cholera first struck in 1543, as the population grew, the primitive drainage system unable to cope. A whole series of epidemics occured and the city’s population was decimated time after time. But it was not until 1759 that the Viceroy moved to Panjim, a healthier site nearer to the coast.
Hundreds of buildings including dozens of huge and magnificent structures have disappeared without a trace totally submerged by the returning jungle, and yet in the midst of this vanished city, a small number of buildings remain perfectly preserved.

The Arch of the Viceroys, which once was the main gateway to the city was built by Vasco da Gama’s great-grandson. On taking office, all Viceroys made their processional entrance with great ceremony through this archway where they were presented with the keys of the city. Pic by Mohan Pai

AdilShah's Palace Gate - Pic by Mohan Pai

Doorway to Yusuf Adil Khan’s palace has been preserved in the premises of St. Cajetan’s Church. The gate is all that remains of Adil Shah’s palace today which was built with building materials from the Saptakoteshwar temple built here by the Kadambas when Govapuri was their capital in the 12th century. The gate itself is so intricate that one can imagine the magnificence of the temple that the stone came from.

Madhav Tirtha - Pic by Mohan Pai

This is the only monument to Madhav Mantri, the Vijayanagar General, who restored peace and prosperity after conquering Goa from the Bahamanis in the 14th century. A Vedic scholar, an ardent Shaivite ans apatron of learning, Madhav Mantri not only restored the images of Saptakoteshwar and other deities to their new shrines but he also revived the tradition of Vedic and Puranic learning in Goa.

Safa Shahouri Mosque - Pic by Mohan Pai

Safa Shahouri Mosque, Ponda was built by Adil Shah in 1560It is an unusual prayer-hall standing on a high plinth with a picturesque tank that bears closer resemblance to a Hindu temple tank. The building is now being preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India.

Reis Magos Church - Pic by Mohan Pai

The church of Reis Magos in the village of Verem (Bardez), situated on the right bank of the river Mandovi near its mouth was built in 1555 AD and is dedicated to the three Magi. This was once the residence of all dignitaries and also a mission of the Franciscan order.
The fort of Reis Magos was first built by the Portugese in 1551 and was again completely rebuilt in 1739.

Ramparts of Fort Aguada - Pic by Mohan Pai

FORT AGUADA: the largest and the best preserved of Goa’s forts and is one of its best known landmarks. The headland on which it was built offered an ideal site, superbly located for both seaward and landward defence shielding the most vital access to the heart of Portugese territory.
The oldest, one of the first lighthouses built in Asia was commissioned here in 1864.

Fishing boats at Betim - Pic by Mohan Pai

Gurudwara at Betim - Pic by Mohan Pa

Historical Mosque at Surla, Bicholim with a dried up water tank in front. Pic by Mohan Pai