The town of Ponda is a busy commercial center. Its main sight is the Safa Shahouri Mosque, 2 km to the west. Built by Ibrahim Adil Shah in 1560, it is a rectangular structure, with window arches, topped by a slanting tiled roof. A ritual tank to the south has the same designs as those on the mihrabs.
Ponda also lends its name to the taluka as well, which is renowned for its numerous Hindu temples, tucked away in the thick forests. As the Portuguese expanded their territory in central Goa, they destroyed over 550 temples. Hindu priests fled with their religious artifacts to regions that lay outside Portuguese control, especially the area around the ponda town, where they built new temples in the 17th and 18th centuries.
More than half of Goa’s populations is Hindu, and Goan temples, unlike those elsewhere in India, are a fascinating blend of European Baroque, Muslim and Hindu architectural styles. Their basic plan remains Hindu, but often Muslim domes replaced the usual shikaras over the main sanctum and the prayer halls are decorated with ornate European chandeliers.
How to Reach
Air: Dabolim is the aerodrome nearby.
Road: To reach Ponda through roadways is trouble-free since the roads are well maintained and there are regular KTC services to all other major cities in the state.
Rail: Margao is the nearest railhead; one can depend on roadways from Margao to Ponda.
Places to Visit in Ponda
Shri Nagueshi Temple: 4 Km west of Ponda at Bandora, this temple dates to 1780, even though it may have been there much earlier. Built for the worship of Nagesh it is one of the oldest temples in this region. Its entrance hall has carved wooden friezes depicting scenes from the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Shri Lakshmi Narasimha Temple: It is situated in Velinga village, 5 km northwest of Ponda. Its majestic image of Narasimha, Vishnu’s man-lion incarnation was brought here from Mormugao in the 1560’s. Surrounded by forests, it is one of Goa’s most attractive temples, with a sacred tank and an elaborate gateway. A tower standing close by houses the temple’s musicians during the annual Jatra festival.
Shri Mahalsa Temple: This temple is located 7 km northwest of Ponda, in Mardol village. The main deity was taken from Verna. The temple’s distinguishing feature is an exceptionally tall brass pillar, 21 tiers in all, rising from a figure of Kurma with Garuda perched on top. The Pilar symbolizes Mount Kailasa which, according to Hindu mythology, was placed on Kurma’s back and was used to churn the primordial ocean. The original shrine is a wooden structure with a sloping roof, and the entrance porches have carvings of musicians and warriors. Its main hall has intricately carved pillars, while the central part of the ceiling is raised with painted images of gods set in niches.
Shri Mangesh Temple: This is Goa’s wealthiest temple and it is dedicated to Shiva . The courtyard has a sacred tulsi plant growing in a bright green urn, a characteristic Goan feature. There is a large sacred tank and a seven storied lamp tower. Dance-dramas are performed here during the Jatra festivities in April and May. A vividly painted elephant on wheels stands at the entrance to the white and yellow temple. Inside this structure, 19th century Belgian chandeliers hang from the ceiling. While the main sanctum has a linga transferred from Mormugoa.
Tambdi Surla: Hidden away in the forests of Tambdi surla, stands the oldest existing Hindu temple in Goa, dating from Kadamba period. Built in black basalt and dedicated to Shri Mahadeva the temple probably survived because of its remote location. The symmetrical structure is made of stone slabs fitted neatly into each other, with out using mortar. Set on a low plinth, the entrance hall has ten pillars and the shikhara above the sanctum has a miniature relief and fine carvings of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and his consort, Parvati.
Bhagwan Mahaweer Sanctuary: Located 20 km southeast of Tamdi Surla, it covers an area of 240 sq km and is home to leopards, deer and the Indian bison. The 600 m high Dudhsagar waterfalls on the Goa-Karnataka border is its main attraction. The small Bondla Sanctuary 30 km east of Tambdi Surla is known for its variety of birds.
Arts & Culture in Ponda
Shantadurga Temple: The shantadurga temple 3 km south west of Ponda at Quela, is Goa’s most popular shrine. Built by Shahu, the grandson of the Maratha Chief Shivaji, the russet and cream-colored temple has an unusual pagoda-style roof, dominated by a five-storied octagonal lamp tower, unique to Goa. Grand chandeliers hang from the gilded roof in the huge central hall, and are embossed with silver screens, which shields the main sanctuary. It holds the silver deity of Shantadurga brought from Mormugao taluka. Another area of interest is the huge rathas that are used during the Jatra in January.
Shri Ramnath Temple: It is noted for its grand silver screen embossed with animal and floral motifs, in front of its sanctum. Its linga originally from Loutolim is worshipped by devotees of both Shiva and Vishnu.
Hindu Rock cut caves: Sculpted from the 10th -13th centuries with carved lotus decorations on the ceiling, simple doorframes and niches for oil lamps.