The Zatra festival of Shree Shantadurga of Kawlem is celebrated at the Shantatadurga devasthan Kawlem on Magh Shudh Panchami with Maha Pooja & Santarpan, Puran, Kirtan, Drama & Aarti and Procession of deity in ‘Suvarna Shibika' and Maha Rathotsav at 4.30 am. the next day. The Mahotsava is marked with religious ceremonies like kirtans, aartis, palkhi, lalkhi. Naukarohan is held on the Chowath, one day before the Mahapanchami.
The Mahapanchami is celebrated with great pomp and gaiety at the devasthan. Hundreds of devotees throng the devasthan for the darshan of the deity.
My mother, a Hindu Saraswat from Rau Valulikar family used to tell me stories of Shree Shantadurga right from the childhood which has unknowingly made me a, devotee of this deity. I also feel that she protects and guides me throughout. My mother has offered me at her feet when I was still young at the deity's request.
Shree Shantadurga Devasthan is the biggest devasthan and the biggest teerthshetra in the state. Mahamaya; Sateri and Durga are believed to be the different faces of goddess Shantadurga. Situated 33 kms from Panjim, Shree Shantadurga temple has an impressive idol of Goddess Shree Durga who mediated between Shree Vishnu and Shree Shiva and stopped the fierce full war going on between the two. She is flanked by Vishnu and Shiva on both the sides.
At the devasthan, the presiding godess is seated on the main seat in the Garbakuda in the kawlem temple with a shiva linga nearby. The temple is situated in a beautiful natural surroundings. Besides the main Shantadurga deity, there is a small attached temple of Shree Laximinarayan with a Ganesha idol and an idol of Godess Bhagwati nearby. In front of the temple there are idols of Satpurush grampurush. All these deities have been brought from Kutthali (Cortalim) during Portuguese regime. The temple has a rich garbakida, where the deity is kept.
The temples of Shree Shantadurga and Shree Mangesh, two of the most revered patron deities of the Hindu Goud Saraswat Brahmin community are located in Kavlem and Mangeshi respectively in the Ponda district of North Goa. Shree Shantadurga is avatar of Shree Jagdamba devi which had come to make peace [Shanti] between Shree Vishnu and Shree Shiva, came to be known as Shree Shantadurga devi.
Based in Kawlem, in Ponda taluka, Shree Shantadurga Prassana is considered to be the deity of peace and this has reflected in the temple area over which she presides. On entering the temple one feels relaxed in the temple area and often does not feel like leaving. This is the spell of Shantadurga, the "Zagrut' deity of the area.
Shantadurgas original abode was a Kelosim (Cavelossim) but during the Portuguese regime the deity was brought to Kawlem in Antruz taluka (Now Ponda taluka) by the Zuari river. Other deities like Manguesh were also brought to Ponda so that they could be protected from the Portuguese. During Raja Soundekar's time, the deities gained popularity.The current temple structure of Shree Shantadurga devi was built during the period from 1713 a.d to 1738 a.d. Many renovations have been done over the years to the main temple and to the temples of other deities besides the agarshala [guest house] which is built on three sides of the temple.
There is belief that if any one wishes for something and prays with devotion, the godess will never makes her devotee unhappy. In many cases, devotees say, she has answered many of their prayers. The temple itself is a stage of confidence.
One among the many faces of Durga is "Kali" an angry goddess. There is a story narrated from the epics as to how the angry 'Chandika' became'Shantadrga'.
Once, Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, both powerful gods were fighting each other. Both were unbeatable and the war continued for days and months, ancient mythology tells us. All the Gods were worried. The most worried among them was 'Bhramadeva'. He felt that if this continued, the end of the world was eminent. Bhramadeva, with his power called for 'Jagdamba' (in another sense, a incarnation of Durga, who appeared in between Lord Shiva and separated them-thus avoiding the end of the world. He was successful in bringing about peace and thus she continues to be regarded as the deity of peace of 'Shantadurga' .
She has a large number of devotees who have much faith in her and who consider Kawlem as one of the important teerthshetra and visit the deity whenever there is a Utsava(Festival) there, or on every panchami.
Shantadurga, the godess who mediated between Vishnu and Shiva is an unique example of equality and oneness. While some of the country's bigger temples still prohibit the entry of lower cast. Harijans are honoured at this temple. A large number of catholics also visit the temple on the panchami days and offer prayers. The annual Zatra festival of the godess which falls in the magh month of the hindu calendar is very famous and attracts large devotees.
On the sixth day or "Saxtt", the day after the Mahapanchami, harijans accompany palkhi and they are honoured by the deity. This is unique and is not seen in any other temples.
The mahajans of the Shantadurga from Keloshim liked Kawlem, which was known as Maharwada then. Some raised objections over the installation of the deity there but the goddess it is believed to have given her consent to be installed there.
In 1961 after liberation a sahastrachandi was performed followed by a Navachandi in 1966. A gold palkhi was designed and later made for the deity.