Most people visit xe “Ponda”Ponda en route to the wildlife reserves or the nearby Hindu temples. There is nothing of interest in the town itself. It is located 28km southeast of Panaji and 17km northeast of Margao.
Ponda was one of the first places to be conquered by the Portuguese, but was immediately retaken by the Adil Shah kingdom of Bijapur. It was ceded by the King of Sunda in 1791, and thus became part of Goa.
The Safa Masjid, 2km west on the road to Panaji, is the best-preserved 16th century Muslim monument in Goa. This small mosque was built by the Bijapur ruler Ibrahim Adil Shah in 1560. It is one of two Muslim shrines not destroyed during the Portuguese Inquisition.
During the Inquisition, many Hindu deities were moved to the area around Ponda, which at that time was not under Portuguese rule. Seven of the most important Hindu temples in Goa are within 5km of Ponda.
There are regular buses to Ponda from Panaji (via Old Goa) and Margao. If you are visiting the temples, it is best to have your own vehicle. There are several places to stay in the area.
Temples in the Ponda Area
There are about ten Hindu temples in the area of Ponda, built in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many of the deities in these temples are ancient and considered important to the local people, and many pilgrims from Maharashtra and Karnataka visit them. The lamp towers in these temples are a unique feature of Goan temples.
The temples are located in two main areas: to the northwest of Ponda on NH4, and in the countryside, about 5km west of Ponda. Some of the Goa Tourism (GTDC) tours visit the temples. The “Pilgrims’ Special” departs Panaji at 9:30 am and returns at 1 pm.
The Shri Manguesh and Shri Mahalsa temples, between Mardol and Priol, are the most visited temples. Buses going between Panaji and Margao via Ponda pass the temples en route. The countryside temples are best visited on a motorbike.
The 18th century Shri Manguesh Temple is the main Siva temple in Goa. It was originally built in a secret location in Cortalim, and is now at Priol-Ponda Taluka, about 22km southeast of Panaji. In the sanctum, guarded on both sides by large dwarpalas, is a Siva-linga. In the courtyard of the temple is a seven-storey deepmal, or oil lamp tower. There is a well-carved door at the entrance and 19th century Belgian chandeliers hanging in the main hall. The temple has decorative tiles on its white walls. There are several other temples in the area.
Two km south is the Mahalsa Narayan Vishnu Temple. Narayan is another name for Lord Vishnu and Mahalsa is Lakshmi, the consort of Lord Vishnu. This temple was originally located in Salcete Taluka, a little south. The present temple dates from the 17th century. The 21-storey deepmal oil lamp is supported by a figure of Kurma, the tortoise incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The temple has sculptures of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu, a wooden mandapa (assembly hall), parakeet panels on the ceiling, and carved pillars.
The Shri Shanta Durga Temple (1738), in Kavalem, 2.5km from the bus stand in Ponda, is an almost pagoda-like structure with a roof made of long stone slabs. Durga is the wife of Siva. Shanta means “peaceful.” The original temple here was built by Shahu, the grandson of Shivaji, the great Maratha ruler. In the temple is a five-storey deepmal.
The Shri Ramnath and Shri Nagesh Temples are about 5km from Ponda. Located south of Ponda is the Shri Mallikarjuna Temple, and west of Quepem is the Shri Chandreshwar Temple.