Ponda is made up of a crowded, dusted town of the same name (Ponda) and a number of clean, scenic, rustic villages interspersed with scenic temples. Ponda is also known for its proximity to Goa's wildlife, and is the cultural capital for Indian-style music in Goa, apart from being the heartland for the celebration of a number of Hindu festivities. Of late, Ponda is also attracting visitors for its 'spice tourism' that it promotes (visits to real-life spice farm, which offer a tour and food on their estates).
Called Phonda in Konkani, it is 28 kms south-east of Panjim and 17 kms north east of Margao. Ponda is the gateway to Belgaum, Hubli and other cities to the east of Goa (in Karnataka and beyond).
Ponda lies in the so-called 'New Conquests'. In the heat of Portuguese religious intolerance centuries ago, Ponda was a safe-haven for Hindus fleeing Portuguese religion-based persecution, in times when it was ruled by local feudatories of the Vijaynagar kingdom or the Bijapur sultanate. This accounts for the large number of temples resettled from Salcete and elsewhere in and around Ponda. Konkani is widely used here. Marathi, Hindi and Kannada too. You can get by in tourist areas with English.
Ponda is connected to Panjim via non-stop mini-bus shuttle bus services that you queue up for at the Kadamba bus terminus in Panjim. 'Local' buses take more time to reach. Margao is also connected by buses to Ponda.
Public transport being poor in Goa, you can, at best depend on it for linking up between the main-towns. Roads in the village areas are small and narrow.
Temples in the vicinity include Gopal Ganapathi at Farmagudi; Sanusthan Goudpadacharya at Kavlem; Navdurga Temple at Madkai and -- some distance off -- Damodar Temple at Zambaulim and Chandranath Temple at Paroda.
Safa Masjid, a mosque built in 1560 by the Bijapuri ruler Ibrahim Adil Shah is on the outskirts of Ponda. Ponda lies en route to Goa's wildlife sanctuaries, both the Bondla and the Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary and also the Dudh Sagar Waterfall.
Shantadurga is a popular deity, and at Kavlem, in the Taluka of Ponda itself, is a unique temple complex devoted to her. In her unique form, as a Durga of peace as her name suggests, Shantadurga is seen as the goddess who mediates between Vishnu and Shiva.
The Manguesh temple -- almost equidistant from Panjim (22 km) and Margao (26 km) at Priol - sits on a hillock surrounded by green. This temple is dedicated to lord Shiva.
At Mardol, barely 1 km from the Mangueshi temple, is the Mahalsa temple. The deity worshipped is an attribute of Vishnu -- Mohini during the fight between the devas and the asuras.
Ramnath temple, 33 km from Panjim and in Ponda taluka too, is another of the notable spots on the temple trail of this taluka. At Madkai village, the Navdurga temple is located (28 km from Panjim) and the annual zatra is held around November. Borim village's temple (also in Ponda taluka, 12 kms from Margao) is Navdurga. Naguesh is the temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, in the village of Bandora, some four kilometres east of Ponda town. This temple is known for its wood carvings on Ramayana events, among others.
Bandora village (4 kms from Ponda town) is home to the temple of Mahalaxmi. It has a gallery of images, a rare collection of wooden images of Lord Vishnu in India. Mahalaxmi is considered to be a peaceful ('satvik') form of the deity.
Village of Keri is about 8kms from the centre of Ponda. Here you can visit the temple of Betal at Satode. This temple has the largest statue of Betal anywhere in Goa. Close to this temple is the home of one of the most reckoned Indian classical singer, Surashree Kesarbai Kerker. Her house now houses a secondary school.
Temple of Vijayadurga is just 2 km from Satode. This temple is nearly 400 years old and has unique architectural features. There is a beautiful lake adjacent to the temple complex. There is facility for tourists to stay within the temple complex and the rooms can be booked while visiting the temple. Vegetarian g=food is served for lunch and dinner and payment for this is voluntary
In Savoi Verem village is the Madanant temple, some 12 km from Ponda and 30 from Panjim. It lies surrounded by hills, fields, betal-nut and coconut trees.
In Shiroda village is the Kamakshi Saunstha. In Farmagudi, Ponda, some 26 kms from Panjim, the Gopal Ganapati temple sits amidst beautiful natural surroundings, near Bandora. This temple was built under the patronage of Goa's first chief minister, Dayanand Bandodkar. The "Gomantak Tirupati" Balaji and Padmavati temple, one km from Kundaim on NH4A at Cuncoliem, is a newer addition. Devkikrishna Ravalnath is at Marcela, Ponda.
Tapobhoomi is a more recent initiative, and a centre of pilgrimage, spread over 10,000 sq. metres. It was launched by the 'Haturli Swami' (full name, Haturli Mathadish Shrimad Brahmanand Swamiji) who was known for his social reforms. It includes a Sanskrit school, chamber for meditation, ayurveda centre, Yoga centre, music ('bhajani') school, and religious library.
Kavlem, in Ponda taluka itself, houses the Goudpadacharya Kavle Math. It is named after a prominent seer and exponent of the Advaita system of Vedanta. The Math was earlier located at Cortalim, but shifted in 1630 and re-established here, following the Portuguese policy of religious intolerance.
Farmagudi, Shree Gopal Ganapathi, free food is provided on every Ekadasi (Sanskrit for eleven; also spelled as Ekadasi) or Agyaars is the eleventh lunar day of every lunar month in the Hindu calendar.
Visits to temples, spice-farms and cultural centres.
Don't miss Goan Hindu style cooking of this area. Fish preparations are typical and unique here.
Not much, other than the usual small bars.
Dress modestly specially while visiting religious places. People are friendly and hospitable, but not all may speak English in these parts of Goa. Behaviour that would not turn an eyelid in coastal Goa might not be acceptable here.
Main town of Ponda is connected to other parts of Goa by bus.