The Shri Shantadurga temple at Dhargal is located 14 kms from Mapusa and 27 km from Panjim, in Pernem, north Goa.
As I have a habit of doing, the days instructions to my driver was responded to with a deep frown. He was clearly bemused, had no idea where this place was, nor why I insisted we drive for nearly an hour up into north Goa to see it.
I’ve reflected back on my numerous guidebooks to see if there’s any reference to it, but there is none. So I can only assume some late night research prior to traveling threw this up in a random google search and something about it drew my attention. It’s good to trust your instincts sometimes, most of the time in fact, and this was no exception.
The temple is set in some extremely beautiful natural surroundings, and had an atmosphere that was almost tangible, but in a good way.
The original structure was built in 1550 A.D. although to me what was left standing today appeared to be more modern than that. The temple is said to have been built of mud and palm leaves, as laterite or granite were rarely used in the earlier times.
The temple itself is housed in a vast compound and has a deepastambha (lamp or bell tower) in front and a gopuram (monumental tower) on top of the sanctum. Around the perimeter of the compound were a series of rooms that seemed to be inhabited, and people were just going about their daily routine without much of a second glance that I was exploring the complex, and I don’t think this place gets many outside visitors.
As you can see from the photos, I was somewhat drawn to the drums that were hanging up on the walls, no doubt brought out during festival periods. The main festival here, or “Zatra”, falls in December and draws huge crowds.
Shantadurga or Santeri is worshipped as a ‘Gramadevi’ (a Goddess) in many villages and is a manifestation of Durga adopted by Goans. Also known as the goddess of peace, Shantadurga is believed to have stopped the quarrel between Shiva and Vishnu.
This is one of the few temples that has survived the campaign of destruction of Hindu temples in Portuguese territories. During that time, the Goddess of this temple is known to have been moved from the house of Shree Kichkar of Taliwada, Mapusa to Sanquelim which was a part of the Maratha kingdom of Sawantwadi. It was later shifted to its present site at Dhargal which was then a principality of the Sawantwadi kingdom.
This is an interesting place to visit if you want to escape the more popular tourist destinations of Goa, and be left to wonder around submerged in your own thoughts, or perhaps no thoughts at all. The choice is yours.
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