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In Session: Narrating Goa: Intersections of Linguistic and Literary Traditions from its Different Cultural Communities
1: Goddess Śāntādurgā goes to Goa: Sacred Topographies and Tropes in the Nāgāvhayamāhātmya of the Sahyādrikhanda
Friday, March 26, 2021
8:30am – 10:00am EDT
University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
This paper discusses the Nāgāvhayamāhātmya or “The Glory of Nāgāvhaya”, from the Sahyādrikhaṇḍa of the Skāṃdapurāṇa, that I translated into English and Portuguese from the Sanskrit original edited by J. Gerson da Cunha, in 1877. To begin with, the intriguing metathesis – a reversal of contiguous sounds – present in its title will be addressed. Next, as the primary remaining account on the arrival of goddess Śāntādurgā in Goa, I intend to focus on two of this poem’s main narrative aspects: first, the topographies (topoi), that is, the geographical marks associated with her appearance in the region; and second, the main tropes used while telling the story of this deity. When thoroughly interpreted, these narrative devices can throw light on how, centuries ago, the Hindu gods and goddesses were brought to the Konkan, therefore providing important clues on the ways the local deities were assimilated into the Hindu fold. More specifically, this Māhātmya – a special category of Sanskrit literature giving an account of the praises and merits of a sacred place – reveals how goddess Śāntādurgā, called Śāntādevī in its stanzas, settled in the village of Nāgāvya, present Nagoa in Salcete taluka, before she had to flee to Ankola, in the neighboring state of Karnataka during the Portuguese conquest in the 16th century, and where she is currently venerated as goddess Mahāmāyā. Thus, this sacred narrative embedded in the Purāṇas is a crucial source for understanding the socioreligious interdiscursivity that permeates the history of Hindu culture in Goa.