Ponda can be described as the Hindu heart of Goa. It is famous for the five important temples that are situated around the town, and also has the largest mosque in Goa.
Most of these temples look relatively new as they have been restored after being destroyed by the Portuguese. That explains why there are no temples around the coast, which was the prime territory of the Portuguese.
Ponda came under Portuguese rule in the year 1549. The Portuguese destroyed the Adil Shah Fort in 1549, but Shivaji captured the fort and reconstructed it in 1675. In 1791, Portuguese once again occupied Ponda after defeating the king of Sonda.
The king of Sonda was sympathetic to the conditions of the fleeing Hindus and suggested them to conduct their religious rites in the temples of Ponda. A dozen of temples were founded in Ponda during his time to save the Gods from Portuguese attack, but the Portuguese ultimately destroyed those temples. Today, Ponda looks like any other Indian town, with hardly any trace of the Portuguese.
Besides, a temple town, Ponda is now a bustling business as well as an industrial centre, dotted with several factories, small industries and shops. Ponda is also an important transport link between Panjim to Belgaum in Karnataka via Old Goa.
Safa Shahouri Mosque
Safa Shahouri Mosque is one of the 27 mosques built by Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah in Ponda. Constructed in the year 1560, it is a small single chambered mosque having a tiled roof. The original mosque was destroyed in the hand of Portuguese and a new one was built up again. You can reach the main entrance of the mosque by flight of steps. The outer periphery of the mosque is adorned with a masonry minaret having eight-sided columns.
Its platform is surmounted by finials, but many of the columns are missing now. There is a stone water tank adjacent to the mosque, whose walls are supported by underwater arches. The mosque and water tank were flanked by a garden with wide laterite pathways.
Mount Carmel Chapel
Built by Portuguese for their battalion, the Mount Carmel Chapel is now used by the Indian Army. The 18th century chapel has dark coloured altars, made of magnificently carved wood. You can see people wielding brooms and dusters and cleaning the chapel.
Locally known as “Goddar”, Miraculous Cross is the major attraction in Ponda. Every year on the 3rd May, the Feast of the Holy Cross is celebrated here. During the feast, people of all religions form a solemn trek to the forest check post and climb up a steep hill.
Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary
If you are a wildlife enthusiast, visit the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary which provides shelter to a variety of fauna. Bondla is the smallest Goan wildlife sanctuary sprawling over a small area of 8 sq. kms. Situated 3000 ft. above the sea level on the slopes of Western Ghat ranges, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is a combination of a Botanical Garden, fenced deer park and a zoo.
Ragado river flows on the east and the Madhel river is on the north of the sanctuary. Here, you can spot animal species like Wild Boar, Deer, Leopard, Reptiles and thousands of domiciled birds of different species. Guides are available here, you can hire them from forest office.
In your train journey from Vasco to Miraj, you will be awaken by rippling sound of the Dudhasagar Waterfalls. Situated 60 kms east of Panaji, Dudhsagar falls is a centre point of beauty in Goa. The highlight of this falls is its white colour water, hence it is called Dudhsagar or Ocean of Milk.
Tourist Attractions Around Ponda
Often referred to as the Hindu heartland of Goa, Ponda is home to more than 50 temples which are situated within a 10 km radius. Start your journey from Mangueshi Temple at Priol, whose deity is an incarnation of Lord Shiva, worshipped only in Goa. Next visit the Mahalsa Temple at Mardol, this temple is dominated by six-storeyed Deepstambh, considered to be the largest in India.
Further move to Shantadurga Temple at Kavlem, which is the largest temple in Goa. Visit the Nagueshi Temple at Bandora, here you will see the ruined Shivteerth Palace of the King of Sonda. Head for the Mahalaxmi Temple at Bandora and after that move to Shivaji Fort near Farmagudi. Far south of Ponda Taluka is the Kamakshi Temple which is a must visit place.
Mahalasa Temple (Mardol)
The Mahalasa Temple at Mardol beckons with its legends and its lamp tower. Devotees used to take oaths under the bell of the temple. There is some confusion about the deity of this temple, while some believe that the reigning deity is Goddess Laxmi while some accept Mohini as deity.
Mangueshi Temple (Priol)
The 400 -yrs-old Shiva Temple is located at Priol in Ponda Taluka. The exquisite temple is placed on the top of a hillock surrounded by green hill rock. Dedicated to Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the Mangueshi Temple is cooled by a breathtaking pond.
Shantadurga Temple (Kavlem)
Situated at the foothill of Kavlem, Shantadurga Temple is Goa’s most spectacular temple. Also called as the Santeri Temple, this temple is dedicated to Shantadurga, mother goddess of Goa. Set amidst betal palms, the temple boasts of a massive tank, a Deepstambh and Agrashalas.
Ramnathi Temple (Kavlem)
A little ahead at Kavelm is Ramnathi and the place gets its name from the Ramnathi Temple. Ramnath is the presiding deity of the temple, other deities of the temple are Lakshminarayan Dev, Kalinahira, Kamakshi, Betal and Santeri. Ramnathi Temple is equally revered by both Shaivites and Vaishnavites.
Nagueshi Temple (Bandora)
Located close to Kavlem, Naugeshi Temple will amaze you with its beautiful courtyards and excellent architecture. The linga inside the temple which draw the local devotees, was found by cowherds playing in the area. The main hall of the temple has elaborate wood murals depicting the events from the Ramayana.
Laxmi- Narsimha Temple (Nagueshi)
Laxmi Narsimha Temple at Nagueshi is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and his consort Laxmi. The temple has an unusual image of Laxmi in which she wears a linga on her head. In the main hall of the temple you can see a rare treasure, wood carvings of 18 avatars of Lord Vishnu.
Kamakshi Temple (Shiroda)
Kamakshi Temple was originally situated in Raia and was probably the first temple to be displaced from Salcete in 1564. The deity of the temple is Kamakshi, an incarnation of Shiva’s consort Parvati.
Vijayadurga Temple (Keri)
From Ponda, take a different track, after covering 12 kms of untrammeled bush you will be at Vijayadurga Temple. The temple is believed to be around 500 years old and was renovated in 1603.
Mahadev Temple (Tambdi Surla)
Situated at Tambdi Surla, the Shiva Temple is worth visiting. Built in the 12th century, the Mahadev Temple is the only completely preserved basalt stone temple of the Kadamba period in Goa. The temple is flanked by Anmod Mountain in its one side, while other three sides have a stream.
Places Where You Can Stay
Ponda is dotted with a number of good hotels that offer comfortable stay. Most of the budget hotels are situated on the Belgaum Road which provide well-furnished rooms to guests. GTDC’s Tourist Cottage at Farmgudi is the best mid-range hotel. Other popular hotels are Hotel Menino, Hotel Musafir, Hotel President, Hotel Prakash Heritage, Hotel Venkatesh Leela, Atish Hotel and Ganesh Residency.
Location : 29 kms from Panaji
Attractions : Safa Shahouri Mosque, Mount Carmel Chapel, Miraculous Cross, Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Dudhsagar Waterfalls and Ponda Temples.
Best Time to Visit : November to March.
How to Reach
By Air : Ponda is 45 kms away from the Goa’s Dabolim airport. From Dabolim airport, flights are available to Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and other major cities of India.
By Train : Ponda is located at a distance of 17 kms from Karmali railway station and 20 kms from Margao railway station.
By Bus : National Highway 4 A, which connects Panji to Belgaum in Karnataka via Old Goa, runs through the Ponda city. Buses run every 15 mins between the KTC bus terminals in Ponda, Panji, Margao and Vasco da Gama. Tourist Attractions in Ponda