Friday, December 28, 2012

The Roopnarayan Temple at Dive Agar

Sunrise and Sunset at Dive Agar beach: The first rays of the sun give an ever so slight golden tinge to the white coats of the oxen. The ox teams are headed to the southern end of the beach to load up with sand. The sunset does not need description. On a beach with few people and no noisy distractions, you have no choice but to give the sight your full attention.

The beaches of Konkan Maharashtra are, for the most part, spectacularly pristine even to this day.  They stretch– almost uninterrupted– for several hundred kilometres of coastline which is dotted with hundreds of little fishing villages. If you are intimidated by (or tired of) the high decibel fame Goa’s beaches, the understated beauty of Dive Agar’s nearly six kilometre beach is just the place for you.

The waves of the Arabian Sea break gently on the sands of Dive Agar beach. It was everything that I had looked forward to- no crowds and no pesky hawkers. Just beautiful. But the surprise package was a place that is mentioned only in passing- the Roopnarayan Temple. The finely sculpted statue of the temple’s presiding deity, Vishnu, is an aesthetic delight.

Statue of Vishnu in the Roopnarayan            
Temple: The Dashavatars are not difficult    
to recognise. At the bottom, right, is the       
figure of Hanuman kneeling at Ram's feet.    
Parashuram is on the left, axe over his           
shoulder. Kalki is the small figure at Para-    
shuram's feet. The other avatars just as      
easily recognizable.                                           
A flex board inside the temple provides some information about the statue. It is made of black marble and believed to have been sculpted sometime between the 9th and the 12th century CE (Konkan was ruled by the Shilaharas about this time). The statue was found in a nearby forest and installed in small enclosure before being shifted to the present temple. We are also informed that the Portuguese had tried to take the statue away (we do not know when this happened), but the locals put up a stiff fight and foiled their plans. The statue suffered some damage during the struggle, but it is hard to tell where. 

There is something about the statue that makes it hard to turn your gaze away. Vishnu is standing and, unlike in most representations, His consort, Lakshmi, is not shown. It is the face that first catches one’s attention. The eyes are somewhat closely set, benevolent and watchful. The nose is sharp. The lips are slightly parted with just a hint of a smile.  

The four arms are in perfect proportion and are holding a conch, chakra, mace and lotus. The headgear is elaborate; the ornaments around the neck and torso are shown in minute detail. The figure is lifelike, yet more than human. It is obvious that the statue was a labour of love for the sculptor.

The Dashavatar-  the ten reincarnations of Vishnu- are beautifully carved in an arch behind Vishnu. From the first, Matsya ( Fish), to the tenth, Kalki, every one of the avatars is  recognizable. It is almost as if the stories told by your grandmother have come alive. You are in the presence of the Lord, in all His forms and glory.

Roopnarayan Temple, Dive Agar: The top of the dome takes  
on a golden hue in the early morning sunlight. The temple is  
a fairly recent structure though there is no sign to tell us when 
it was built. The idol was earlier placed in the the small, domed 
enclosure  (back left). The path to the seashore is to the left     
and the Arabian Sea- just behind the trees.                                   
The Roopnarayan Temple is located just a hundred metres from the beach and is on the path that leads to the seashore. Yet, except for a hurried prayer from a few of the many who are on their way to the beach, it does not attract visitors.

But Lord Vishnu understands. He pervades the world of beings. He is always there and everywhere- watching, protecting and preserving that which is needed.  

Dive Agar: Dive Agar is a charming little fishing village and the muted roar of the sea is a constant accompaniment to life here.  Just 170 kms south of Mumbai (nearly the same distance from Pune), it is an ideal getaway for stressed out city folk.  The accommodation and food available in Dive Agar are mostly basic and homely, which actually enhances the place’s USP. (It is hard to imagine anything better than a clutter-free weekend).