Located at the foothills of Kavlem village in Ponda district of Goa, the Shree Shantadurga temple is one of the popular pilgrimage centers. The temple is dedicated to Shree Shantadurga, the goddess of peace. Durga, who is often portrayed exuding fury and aggression, appears in a gentler form in Goa. Shanta, in Sanskrit, means peace. According to Hindu mythology, the goddess got her name after she settled a quarrel between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. According to legend, the quarrel turned bitter and became so fierce that it threatened to destroy the entire universe. Fearing annihilation, Lord Brahma beseeched Goddess Parvati to interfere. Taking the form of Shantadurga, the goddess took Shiva by her left hand and Vishnu by her right and pacified the duo. The idol of the goddess is flanked by the statues of Shiva and Vishnu. The goddess holds serpents in each hand, representing Shiva and Vishnu.
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According to historical records, the temple started as a mud shrine which was later converted into a temple in 1728 during the reign of Shahu Maharaj of Satara at the request of one of his ministers. The temple of Shantadurga was originally located in a temple at Cavellossim. During the time of Portugese Inquisition, the idol of Shantadurga along with the idol of Shree Mangeshi, were transported across the Zuari River to its current location which was under the Adilshahi Kings of Bijapur. Mangeshi temple is located in Priol near Ponda.
The temple building is a fusion of Indo-Portuguese architecture. Unlike other temples of Goa, the temple has a pyramidical shikara (rising tower), Roman-arched windows and a flat dome encircled by balustrades. Standing in the midst of lush greenery, the temple painted in maroon, peach and white colour, exudes serenity and peace.
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Beside the idol of goddess Shantadurga, the temple also has shrines dedicated to Lord Narayan, Lord Ganesha and goddess Bara Vir Bhagavati. Another major attraction of the temple complex is the Nayanmanohar Deepstambha. The deepstambha (column to hold lighted earthen lamps on special occasions) is six-stories high. Another attraction is the Nagarkhana, which was used by the temple musicians for their recitals. Agrashalas and the temple pond located opposite the Nayanmanohar Deepstambho, are other attractions. The jatra (annual festival) is held during December. The idol is taken out in a procession in a golden palanquin (palkhi) during the festival.
Though accommodation options are limited near the temple, Kevlem, Phonda and Margao offer several places to stay. Mid-range hotels can be found in all the three places. Luxury and budget resorts can be found at Colva and Benaulim beach. Goa Tourism Department runs a mid-range hotel in Colva.
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