Thursday, 23 February 2012

Ponda, Goa

Located 28 km from Panaji, Ponda is a major town in the North Goa district. Ponda's claim to fame is its unrivalled status as the cradle of Hindu pilgrimages in Goa. After remaining a part of the dominions of Sultan Adil Shah of Bijapur, Ponda fell to the Portuguese in 1791 who annexed it along with the nearby talukas of Quepem, Canacona and Sanguem.

Among the number of sacred shrines that dot the Ponda landscape, there are five famous Hindu temples and the Safa masjid, the largest mosque in Goa. As the Portuguese unleashed a wave of destruction of religious shrines during the early days of the Inquisition, the idols of Hindu temples were clandestinely smuggled into Ponda, then a safe haven under the territory of the Bijapur Sultan. 

Today a flourishing tourism industry has grown around these renowned temples with devotees coming from faraway lands. Ponda has also come up as an industrial city with many large factories and industrial estates nearby. Goa's only engineering college, the Goa College of Engineering is located at nearby Farmagudi. Ponda also serves as a convenient base to explore two of Goa's wildlife sanctuaries, the Bondla and the Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary. 

Places to See:

Mangueshi temple is the most famous among the temples in Goa. Located about 21 km from Panaji, the deity of the temple was shifted from Cortalim to the Priol village of Ponda in 1560 to escape the destruction by the Portuguese. Lord Manguesh, the presiding deity of the temple, is an incarnation of Lord Shiva.

Located in the Bandode village of Ponda, Sri Ramnath temple is believed to have been set up by Lord Rama after his slaying of King Ravana. This temple too was relocated from the original site in Loutolim to the Bandode village for fear of persecution by the Portuguese. The Ramnath temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

The smallest among the wildlife reserves in Goa, the Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary is more popular as a wildlife resort than a sanctuary. The sanctuary houses a botanical garden, a rose garden, deer safari park and a zoo, initially established as a refuge for injured or orphaned animals.

Also known as the Shahouri masjid, the Safa masjid is the biggest of the 27 mosques built by Sultan Adil Shah in and around Ponda. The mosque was located at the center of a sprawling complex of gardens and fountains remnants of which can be witnessed today. The structure of the masjid is replete with typical elements of Islamic architecture of that period. 

The opulent Mahalsa temple is one of the most famous temples in Goa. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Mahalsa, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.

Naguesh temple is dedicated to Lord Naguesh, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. 

Sri Devaki Krishna temple is of great religious significance, it is the only temple in India with the presiding deity of Devakikrishna, a confluence of Lord Krishna and his mother Devaki. 


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