The Goud Saraswat community of Goa is mainly divided into two sects, Dwait and Adwait. The Dwait are the followers of the Madhvacharya philosophy of dualism The Kula Devta and the Guru Peetha are the poles on which the community revolves. The Kula Devtas are family deities worshipped through the ages and through adversity with great reverence. Guru Peethas as centres of spiritual leadership to the community came much later, in response to the need to protect the sanctity of religion and culture. The temples of family deities are affiliated indirectly to one or the other Peetha. The pontiff of the mutt, the Swamiji, guides the religious affairs of the community and temples, and his decision is binding, an arrangement formally respected by the Portuguese in Goa. The Dempos are followers of the Shree Samsthan Gokarn Partagali Jeevottam Mutt from the time of its foundation itself, one of the few families supporting it wholeheartedly. The Saraswats landed in Gomant some 2500 years ago. The Partagali Mutt was established in 1475 AD at the time when Goa was under Adil Shah. With the landing of the Portuguese, the tribulations of the Hindus began. Forcible conversions, followed by the infamous Inquisition led to the mass migration of the Saraswats. This was when the Dempos stepped in to protect the Mutt. The headquarters of the Mutt were shifted to Partagal, Canacona in 1666 AD providing succour to members resettling after the trauma of persecution. Meanwhile, the Dempos had shifted their family deity, Devi Mahamaya from Nagoa to Ankola in 1566 AD. They maintained a reverential relationship with the Mutt, and came to be recognized as advisors to the pontiff in social matters, representing it at governmental levels.
Over the generations the Mutt-Dempo relationship grew deeper. Itis on record that the Dempos helped keep the Swamiji in touch with his flock scattered throughout India. All vinanti patras to the Pontiff used to be signed by a Dempo patriarch. All matters relating to the community as prevailing in and around Panaji were conveyed by the Dempos to him. Whenever the Swamiji set out on pilgrimages, he would carry with him hundis guaranteed by the Dempo name. These negotiable instruments were as good as legal tender owing to the Dempo renown and reliability. Vasantrao S. Dempo came into contact with the presiding pontiff of the Mutt for the first time as a child of five, when he was taken to Shree Indirakant Teerth Swamiji. The child was given strict instructions on do’s and don’ts while in the presence of His Holiness. Vasantrao remembers the deep impression the meeting had on him, and the extraordinary power he felt upon receiving the holy man’s benedictions. Shree Indirakant Teerth Swamiji had a special fondness for Vasantrao. He advised the child to seek the blessings of the pontiff of the Kavalem Mutt with equal reverence. He also asked him to revere Shree Naguesh Maharudra, their adoptive/ second family deity at Bandora. Vasantrao grew up in the family home at Calapur, whose sanctum sanctorum was utterly holy, with daily prayers and worship, vegetarian meals, and orthodox ritual. These observances under the influence of his family elders and the pontiff had the impact of making Vasantrao the deeply religious man he was.
The Temple of Shree Lakshminarayan Mahamaya at Ankola is surely the most sacred space for the Dempos. Vasantrao continued with the same piety as his forefathers to pay obeisance here, serve the temple trust in its religious and socio-cultural activities, and be a devoted servant of Devi Mahamaya in thought, word and deed.
Vasantrao in his lifetime saw the ascendancy respectively of Shree Kamlanath Teerth in 1942, Shree Dwarkanath Teerth in the same year and Shree Vidyadhiraj Teerth Swamiji, the present pontiff in 1973.
While the Dempos had been functioning as the Mutt’s Trustees,involved in all its activities, it was Vasantrao who was formally named president of the mutt committee, when the current pontiff was anointed in 1973, and it was under him that the Mutt celebrated its five hundredth anniversary. The choice of a stalwart of the community for headship was welcomed by all. Several activities came to be undertaken by the Committee including the instituting of the Vidyadhiraj Award to an individual of the community for meritorious services to society. Vasantrao himself was chosen for the award in the year 1990 on his seventy fifth birthday, an apt choice of a man who had made the Mutt the cornerstone of his life.