The temple of Damodar on the Swatantra Path in Vasco is the venue of the biggest festival in the town called the Vasco Saptah and the Hindu religious life revolves around it. In the Hindu month of Shravan (August), this week long celebration coincides with the festivals associated with the lord Shiva, Nagapanchami.
The story is such that in 1896 when people began dying due to an epidemic that broke out in Vasco, the local turned to an avatar of Shiva, lord Damodar for help. A sacred coconut, which was installed at Vasco as a divine symbol to be worshipped, was brought from the famous Damodar Temple at Zambaulim (22km from Margao). The epidemic abated as their devotion bore fruit. The residence of a leading citizen was donated to install an idol of lord Damodar. Even now this small temple attached to the original house is the main venue during the celebration.
The festival begins at the old Mata high school with prayers being offered. Before being immersed in the sea, the last year’s coconut is taken out in the procession, which is followed by a troupe of dancers as it visits Vasco’s prominent citizens. With the spectators throwing buckets of water and also by the monsoon rain, the dancers get fully drenched.
The devotees return to the temple after the immersion ceremony and while singing devotional songs that continue non-stop for 24 hours, the new coconut is anointed. There is a parade of tableaux in the night and during the entire week culture and religious programs are held. The vendors along the roads and streets of Vasco put up stalls selling everything from toys to clothes. The best time to visit the temple is on any Monday or Thursday at around 9 pm when lamps are lit and devotional songs are sung.
When Lord Damodar first stepped into Vasco in 1899, the first lucky home that he stepped into was Joshi’s. A year later Shreedhar Joshi took over as fulltime Bhatt (Priest) and the legacy still lives on.
Shreedhar Joshi is believed to be his direct descendant or relative who served as Vasco’s Damodar temple’s fulltime priest.
Shreedhar Joshi, who dedicated his life serving lord Damodar since his inception had strongly desired his three sons to forward his legacy. But his sons opted for some other profession.
However, since Shreedhar wished to carry on the legacy with his descendants or relative, he decided to honour his cousin brother Vinayak Joshi popularly known as Babu Bhatt.
Babu Bhatt served tirelessly for lord Damodar. The people of Vasco had very high regards for his devotion . It is said that Babu Bhatt had a very charming personality and was well respected among the people of Vasco.
The lure of Vasco’s patron God is amazing. Whether it is Vinayak Joshi popularly known as ‘Babu Bhatt’ among devotees, his son SCC pass Govind alias Ramesh Joshi or MBA post graduate Bhushan Joshi.
However, Babu’s elder son Govind, better known as Ramesh Joshi is presently serving as a priest in the temple. He along with his father in year 1970 had performed the ritual, when the idol of Lord Damodar was installed and subsequently next year the ‘Nandi’ was installed in temple.
“Since my father and uncle had served tirelessly for Lord Damodar, we feel proud being the priests of Lord Damodar temple,” said Ramesh Joshi.
He said that they are fortunate to serve Lord Damodar as priests and keep their tradition alive. His son Bhushan after his MBA, has dedicated to himself to helping his father at Damodar temple.
Ramesh has pursued the Veda Paathan from his Gurus – Shree Haribhau Borkar, Krishan Kelkar, Kashinath Marathi and Ganesh Behare, while his son too has pursued the Veda Paathan before dedicating himself as priest of Lord Damodar and keep the tradition alive to serve the devotees of Lord Damodar thorough out the year.