The great Goan poet and aesthete Bakibab Borkar (1910-1984) was fond of saying that the beauty and character of Goa had a becalming effect not only on us mortals but on the Gods as well. He observed that it was in Goa that the bellicose Durga was transformed from her ugra swaroopa (warlike nature) to become Shantadurga, Goddess of Peace, mediator to the heavyweights Shiva and Vishnu. And it was in Goa that Goddess Kali the Terrible cast off her fierce mien to become the composed Kalika Devi of Kansarpal village.
The flagship temple of Shantadurga in the village of Kavalem is the subject of this photo essay.
The importance of Shantadurga to the Goan identity and consciousness cannot be overstated. She is worshipped in every village, and devotion to her transcends religion. She is held in high regard by Goan Catholics. In the village of Cuncolim, the Goddess is celebrated in the festival of Sontrio (Procession of the Umbrellas) where the Catholics actively participate in large numbers.
The original home of Shantadurga was located at Kellosim by the Zuari river in south Goa. Upon its sacking by the Portuguese in 1564, the ancient idol was reinstalled in the village of Kavalem. A new temple, made possible by a generous endowment by Naroram Mantri who was a minister at the court of Shahu Maharaj (Shivaji’s grandson), was completed in 1738.
Legend has it that India’s greatest philosopher Adi Shankaracharya came to Kellosim seeking deeksha from Gaudapada. Although the story is probably apocryphal, perhaps intended to burnish the significance of this spiritual centre, it bears mentioning that the swami (prelate) of Kavalem is even today referred to as Gaudapada.