Most Hindu temples are built on valleys but the Shantadurga Temple in Kavalem village is unique as it is situated at the foothill, giving a beautiful view of the white tower and red roof with a backdrop of greenery. This temple is considered as the most significant and the biggest temple in Goa. Built in 1738 AD, it was built per the request of Naro Ram Mantri during the regime of Maratha ruler Shahu Raje of Satara. According to history, the original Shri Durga temple was destroyed during the Portuguese invasion in 1564, but the idol was safely brought to Kavalem where the harijans kept it safe for years. Since then, the temple has undergone several renovations to provide better facilities for visitors and devotees who visit here in great numbers from different parts of the world. Subsequently, the idol was returned to its present location.
Located about 33 kilometers from the Goa capital, Panaji, the temple is dedicated to the goddess Shantadurga, the goddess of Peace. Believed to be a reincarnation of goddess Jagdamba, she is thought to have meditated between Shiva and Vishnu to stop the war and save the world from devastation. The beautiful statue of Shri Durga, found inside the main hall, is decorated with Shiva and Vishnu on opposite sides.
The temple is surrounded with exceptional scenic beauty, with its surrounding land being very productive when it comes to vegetation. The general spirit and climate is healthy and calming, and the water is very clear.
The temple comprises a collection of curvilinear roofs, which are said to have a Christian/Portuguese influence, in addition to the dome on the base on the slope of the hillside. The pillars and the temple flooring are built from Kashmir stone. The Panchadhatu or five-element image of Shanta Durga sits it the Girbhagraha.
One of the highlights of Shantadurga Temple are the temple walls, with all three walls – north, south and east wall – completed just recently. It is also complete in facilities such as Agrashalas and modern amenities. Opposite the Deep stambh (temple tower), is a lake that gives a fascinating view from the temple. Overall, the temple dome, 6-storeyed deep stambh (lamp tower), ratha (chariot) and the Nagarkhana, which is used for instrumental purposes, bring interesting features to the temple. The general architectural style of the temple is marvelous and it has several specialties that make it more pro-tourism.
The zatra of Shri Durga is a major festival in Goa, with the Festival of Shantadurga Prasann during the first month of the year involving an evening procession of ratha (chariots) carrying the goddess idol being followed by more than 100,000 devotees. During the colorful and spectacular Procession of Umbrellas at Cuncolim, south Margao, the same goddess is worshipped with a procession while bearing a silver image of Durga to the original temple site.
The Shantadurga Temple is situated in Ponda Taluka, along the main Panaji-Margao highway. Ponda is accessible through all major places in Goa by an excellent network of roads. From Panaji, you can take a cab or ride a motorbike to get to the temple.