Shanta Durga Temple, Goa
Its venerable shrines, heroically preserved, have made
Goa a pilgrim centre for many. Within the old acquisitions, few relics
of antiquity escaped the wrath of the destroyer. One such is an
exquisitely carved section of the ancient temple of Saptokoteshvar -
family deity of the Kadamba rulers - at its original site on the
island of Divar.
In bordering principalities that only later came under the Portuguese, some hoary places of worship remained undisturbed. At Aravalem in Bicholim are laterite rock cut caves dating back to the 5th-6th century AD. On the hilltop at Quepem stands a shrine dedicated by the early Bhoja kings to Chandranath. Very curiously each month the rays of the full moon shine directly on its sacred Shivalinga. Renowned for the beauty of its carvings in wood and silver and reputed to have been erected by Habu Brahmins of a Dravidian dynasty in the distant past is the Mallikarjuna temple at Canacona. But the most prized piece of all is the Mahadeva temple at Tambdi Surla in Sanguem. Entirely wrought of black basalt stone with monolithic pillars and niches sporting bas reliefs of delicate carvings, this completely intact sole specimen of Kadamba temple architecture has been declared a national monument.
In the middle of the 16th century when Portuguese persecution was at its peak. Many times honoured deities were stealthily smuggled across the border into Antruz, today's taluka of Ponda, which abounds in the fabulous temple complexes of Goa! Under the more liberal policy of the 18th century, the cluster of hurried makeshift shrines were properly adorned. Renovation incorporated prevailing trends, thus blending Hindu, Islamic and Christian elements and bequeathing to Goa a distinctively unique local idiom. Symbolic of this amalgam is the deepstambha or lamp tower illuminating each Goan temple - a baroque style column holding niches of graceful proportion framed with pilasters gently tapering into a domed roof crowned by a kalasha or ceremonial pot. The inclusion of a churchlike facade, traditional mandapa or canopy, and Saracenic arches further accentuates.
Most celebrated is the 400 year old temple of Manguesh in Priol which draws devotees from all corners of the globe. In its vicinity are other temples; of Mahalasa Narayani -folk deity of Goa equally venerated by all castes; of Ramnath with an amphitheatre resembling the Golden Temple at Amritsar and at Kavalem of Shanta Durga, singularly revered in Goa as the goddess of peace.