Its been just over a year that I have been able to visit Goa very frequently and this has resulted in me looking at Goa from a viewpoint which now extends beyond the beaches and the beach life that it offers( Lets look at Mandrem beach ) . The Goa away from the coastline is a different world and one will find it hard to believe that this is the same Goa which is portrayed in so many forums as being the epitome of hippy culture and beach life.
This article I would be talking about the region of Ponda , which is a municipality of Goa located in the southern part of the state. The region of Ponda is famous for its numerous acclaimed temples and rich cultural heritage. These temples have come a long way since time and may of them date back to even before the arrival of the Portuguese and have survived through centuries of adversities to flourish now in these modern times.
This region is predominantly Hindu but also showcases some very beautiful churches primary amongst them being St Anne’s Church and Mt Carmel Chapel however, in this article I would be speaking about some of the iconic temples of this region. The temples are characterized by a grand central structure along with multi-tiered lamp towers known as “deepa stambha”. These temples are brightly painted and stand out magnificently against the green foliage backdrop of the town.
So let’s begin our journey!!!
“Sree Kapileswar daevasthan”. The main temple of Ponda , Kapileswar temple is dedicated to the “Destroyer “ of the holy trinity – Lord Rudra . This temple built in the 18th century has flowing lines of architecture in a relatively large green courtyard which has a peaceful aura and far removed from the hustle n bustle of the outside street. The prominent feature in the courtyard is the small altar adorned with the Tulsi plant (basil) which is considered very auspicious in the Hindu scriptures. On one side of the courtyard steps lead to a water tank whose still green waters speak of the history that has been witnessed.
The main temple which houses the inner sanctum has intricately carved architecture and contains the shiva linga which is the main idol and brightly lit by oil lamps. there is ample space to sit and immerse oneself in the vibes that emanate out here and when I visited there was hardly any devotees rush. On the either side of the main sanctum we have smaller shrines dedicated to Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya who are the sons of Lord Shiva. The idol of Lord Ganesh is particularly striking as it is made of black granite.
Legend says this place was the birthplace of the Sage Kapila who was an acclaimed sage in the Hindu mythology. Whatever the legends might state this temple is definitely a worth visit.
“Sree Shantadurga Devasthan”. A unique incarnation, Shree Shantadurga signifies a combination of peace (shanta) and Durga (fierce). The patron deity of the Gaud Sarawat clan, the Shantadurga temple was built in the 17 century by the Marathas. The temple is dedicated to Maa Santheri as she is known who is the adishakti herself.
The temple is built in a imposing architectural style with a big pond on one side as the devotee reaches to the main archway which leads to the temple courtyard which houses an immense light tower and the main temple. At the fringes are several guest rooms run by the temple management for the stay of devotees. The main sanctum of the temple is surrounded on immediate three sides by other deities while the main idol of the goddess is intricately decorated and kept in an inner sanctum within the main temple and devotees can circumbulate around the inner sanctum within the temple.
The temple roof is intricately adorned with scriptures and depict the legends of the Goddess. The light tower on the outside of the main temple is very imposing and prominent in the entire frame of the temple and when fully lit would definitely project a grand image. Extremely clean temple precincts the temple is open to people of all faith and is visited by many devotees. Definitely a must visit .
“Shanteri Kamakshi Ramnath Devasthan”. Another gem of a temple located just a few odd kms ahead of the Shantadurga temple, this nondescript temple from the outside does not proclaim the grandeur inside. Built in an oasis of peace and tranquility, the temple is dedicated to the ling made by Lord Rama on the shores of the sea at Rameswaram to pray to Lord Shiva for atonement. Hence the main idol was called Ramnath. There are also installed the deities Goddess Kamakshi , Goddess Santheri , Lord Ganesh and Kaal Bhairav , the protector .
All the other deities mentioned above are installed to either side of the main idol of Lord Ramnath. The devout Saraswat goud pay special significance to this temple and it is said that they visit Lord Ramnath prior to paying obeisance to the goddess at the shantadurga temple.
“Mahalakshmi Devasthan”. Again a few kms away and one can visit the Mahalakshmi temple, the abode of Goddess Shakti (pure power) herself. The temple precincts is very large and houses many idols in addition to the main idol of the Goddess herself. there is magnificence in every creation out here and one can feel the presence of the deity as one walks through the courtyard with an unhurried mind and open heart.
I spent quite some time in this place just sitting and listening to the hymns being chanted by the head priest as it was the time of the offering of daily [prayers to the goddess. There are two idols of the Goddess installed which are worshiped with equal fervor. In addition, there are also idols of other gods that are also installed and worshiped by the devotees. On the occasion of Mahashivratri there is a huge celebration out here.
“Shree Nagesh Maharudra Temple”. The Nagesh Maharudra temple is one of the oldest surviving Hindu temples of this region and is dedicated to Shri Nagesh Maharudra, Lord Shiva. The other idols worshipped are Shree Lakshmi Narayana and Shri Ganapati.
Apart from the striking architecture of the temple and the Light tower the main temple stands facing East and has the Nandi (bull) paying obeisance to the idol of Lord Shiva. There is a water tank which is one of the most beautiful in the region facing the temple. The water tank is surrounded on three sides by palm trees and the location is extremely scenic and soothing.
The courtyard is once again expansive and caters to empty spaces that impart a feeling of peacefulness and calmness, as one walks through this place the image of Goa is totally washed away from the mind, such is the striking contrast that one witnesses, the air reverberates with eh sounds of hymns and chants. Legend says that the idol is a syambhu (self-created) and hence said to be revered highly amongst the devotees who come to this region. Re-Built in the 17th century the architecture is kept simple yet strikingly serene with special emphasis on the way Lord Rudra is said to lead his existence, simple with no desire…
“Sree Mahalsa Temple” The Mahalsa temple is considered to the be among the richest in Goa. The clean and scenic temple surrounded by beautiful architecture and a intricately carved lamp tower is what the devotee sees as he enters the temple premises. The temple is dedicated to Mahalsa devi who is the reincarnation of Goddess Parvati in human form and played an instrumental role in vanquishing two demons named Malla and Mani.
The temple architecture is intricately carved and the large central hall before the inner sanctum makes the devotee to sit down and immerse in the auspicious vibes emanating from the inner sanctum housing the idol of the Goddess. The temple is quite ancient and highly revered in the whole state of Goa and every years hundreds of devotees throng to pay their respects to Goddess Mahalsa.
“Sree Mangeshi Temple” One of the most important temples in the region and highly visited by a large number of devotees, the Mangeshi temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is said to be close to 400 yrs old. The temple is built in the form of architecture dominant in this region and consists of a central grand temple along with a huge lamp multi-tiered lamp tower (Nayanstambhoo) in the central courtyard and a water tank at one end of the courtyard.
The central idol which is the Shiva Linga is said to be ancient and dates back to even before the inception of this temple and is said to have originated on the banks of the Baghirathi. The idol eventually made its way to its present location where the present temple was rebuilt by the Marathas. There is also the idols of Goddess Parvati and Lord Ganesha within the temple precincts and a central hall which has beautiful sculptures on its pillars which are deemed to be very exquisite.
The location of the temple is very picturesque set against the backdrop of dense green forested land and rolling green hills thereby enhancing the pleasure n=in visiting this temple.
Location of above Google Maps
Most of the temples are open from morning till evening around 6 pm for visitors.
All the big temples have their own guesthouses for stay.
For day visitors there is canteen facility available for lunch and refreshments.
Photography within the temple is generally not allowed in most of the temples.
Short skirts, shorts, spaghetti top for women and vests for men with shorts is not allowed and can be objected to by the staff.
Getting a own means of transportation is essential to cover the entire region.