Shigmo by Vinayak Khedekar
Sheeg- abundance. Shigmo-Festival of prosperity.
The major annual festival of Goa, celebrated mainly by toiling farmers, proletariat section of the society, including artisans and other traditional occupants like potters, carpenters etc. In Goa, the celebrations are in three folds; (a) rites and rituals (b) Artistic expressions (c) Festivities. The practice of traditions varies region and community wise.
This folder is consisting with the following aspects related to Shigmo:
•4. Salient fetchers of Shigmo
•8. Songs/ narration.
•13. Shimo Dallap.
•24. Saall Gade.
•26. Chor purne.
•27. Sheni Ujo.
•29. Jambavli Gulal.
•30. Dongri intruz.
1. The various idioms in Konkani and Marathi prove that the word Shig is used for abundance/ climax. In a Deshi Namamala of Hemachandra it is Sugimhaa, Sugreeshmak in Sanskrut. Shig perhaps derived from the word Sugi-season of harvest-satisfaction in food grains.
The Shigmo is celebrated with great fanfare in Goa, at community/village level. Though the entire society is involved, tangible participation is only by Mel folk.
Shigmo Commences on 9th day of Falgun and culminate on Sansar padvo. (New Year day) This entire period is designated as Shigmya Mhayno- a month of Shigmo.
A. South zone- From full moon day ends with Gulal.
B. Central zone- Falgun Navami, (Ninth day) ends with Holi.
C. North zone- from Holi, ends after 5, 7 or 9 days)
Such cultural zones are existent, by the two leading rivers Mandovi and zuari; In-between, is a central belt.
South of the river Mandovi, it is known as Dhaklo- younger, whereas at the north, Vhadlo- elder Shigmo. In the region of Sattari, it starts on the day of Holi and goes till the Sanvsar Padwo. (New Year day) At few places it goes up to full moon day of Chaitr, necessarily ends with Gulal.
On the appointed day, the villagers gather at a hallowed spot called Maand, with percussion instruments Dhol, Tasha and Kansalem. At the beginning, Naman- salutation is performed. They sing traditional devotional songs to invoke the gods, goddesses and various entities, spirits, supernatural powers, looking for the welfare of the village, requesting to arrive at the Maand. The same deities are requested to retire to their abode on the concluding day of the festival.
In a contemporary period, the public performances are arranged in the city capital and other towns with the support of state government.
The Maand is an ancient institutional concept inseparable from Shigmo. The folk life at rural and tribal level is fully energized and controlled by this institution. Once upon a time the Shigmya Maand was very powerful in creating life values and providing moral and spiritual assistance to society. Not only that, it was strong enough to provide banking, collect taxes, and run the judicial processes. It undertook other social functions like health, water supply and conservation, constructing paths etc., called Paj.
The Maand played significant role at the socio-cultural, agro-economical and riligio-spiritual level. Even in the absence of evidence, it can logically be claimed that the Maand was a pioneering concept of Ganvkari, again an ancient institution of Goa on socio-cultural and agro-economical level. Mostly the Maands are community based and exist in every wado -wards of a particular community. The Maands are known by that particular event like, Dhalo, Jagor Intruz, Gade etc. amongst witch Shigmya Maand occupies prime position. The Maand is nothing but a sacred place, without having any icon or image of any deity.
While prescribing and including in their Maand its functions and activities, the early folk leaders bore in mind the concern that their community members needed some sort of recreation, amusement or entertainment after the day’s hard toil on their farms or in the forest. Since their folk lifestyle included, in their group activities, the performing art forms, mainly singing and dancing, the leaders earmarked a patch of land measuring about a thousand sq. mts. or more for outdoor performances in the evening. It eventually happened that the same space became the seat of their Maand. Gradually, various disputes, controversies or occasional quarrels and skirmishes among the community members came to be discussed, arbitrated or settled at the Maand. Thus the rural organization assumed judicial functions as well. Yet that was not all. Since the rural folk’s social, cultural and recreational activities involved considerable expenses, the village Maand added revenue collecting functions to its list of activities by means of taxes for the purpose.
Like the question on the date or period of the origin of the Maand as a feature of Goa’s folk life, the issue of derivation and etymology of the term Maand too still remains uncertain. The word has in the first place multiple meanings. In everyday Goan usage, Maand is a grocery shop; Similarly, Konkani word Mandani (arrangement, presentation) or Maandap (the style or method of arranging or presenting), terms which indicate ‘layout’ or ‘construction’.
According to Molsworths dictionary and an encyclopedia, ‘The Bharatiya Sanskriti Kosh’ the term Mandala, a pre-vedic word seemingly recalling the articulation of Maand, means (1) a place or area where a deity resides or (2) a mystical diagram connected with the rituals of summoning a supernatural power and of offering him a seat or space. As words, Mandala and Maand have numerous connections. In view of them, some experts believe that Maand is pre-Vedic term widely used by members of lower castes such as the Shudras. The morphology of Maand and the functions ascribed to it, however make it improbable that it has not come from the Sanskrit word but, Mandala is an improved version of Maand.
The Shigmo of every village and town does not begin unless an invitation is extended to divine powers of all religions of that region, by special offering is made to the deities of the local church, chapel and Dargah or Peer. Similarly, Christian festivals like Intruz begin only after making a ritual offering to the local Hindu deities.
The unique thing in Ponda is that, despite being a Hindu festival, the Muslim Peer is invited to attend the Shigmo. The formal invitation is extended by a group of people called Mankari who go to the Peer in a procession for the purpose. Musical instruments like Ghumat, Shamel and Kansalem accompany this elaborate procession called Sunvari. On behalf, the Kazi accepts this invitation and attend the Shigmo, with coconut, flowers and other offerings prescribed for attending Hindu deity.
At a village called Ganjem, situated on the banks of river Mhadayi, a procession of the village Goddess is taken out at the time of Shigmo. The palanquin of the Mother Goddess visits the Peer en route and offer green cloth, as a mark of respect. While responding, the Muslim community offers a Vonti, (a piece of cloth, a coconut and rice grains) to the visiting Goddess.
The following Identities are indispensable to comprehend better Shigmo perspective.
The music in Shigmo is robust and vibrant, spreads only with percussion instruments. In Shigmo, no single instrument is played by itself, but always in a group. Such groups define a community, an event, and sometimes the very purpose of the performance. The Kulmi community (among the earliest dwellers of this land) used to play Ghumat Shamel and Zanj or Kansalem for all sort of dances performed during Shigmo
In central Goa, mainly the Dhol, Tasha and Kansalem are the instruments for Shigmo. North Goan music uses the Dhol, Tasha, and Kansalem, and ghoom in Rombat. (The festival of colours Dhulwad is called Romat in sattari)In Central Goa, a number of big Dhol s, Tashas, and Kansalem are form the group for the Shigmo.
Sunvari is a major musical form of Goa in Shigmo. Sunvari denotes Swari a procession might be of God, village deity or a group of villagers proceeding towards a place of performance. Generally Sunvari starts at the Maand or in front of the village deity during Shigmo. The forms in Sunvari are Chandrawal, Khanpad and Fag; Besides, Monichal- only playing and udti Chal- faster beats. The Sunvari in Christian fold, particularly at the time of Intruz is almost of the same style.
A Group of community called Gosany moves with musical form of narrating stories of Indian saints, accompanied with Shankha -conch and Damaru during Shigmo. It was told that the Ekatari (one string instrument) was used in olden days.
In Shigmo, the Dhol, Tasha and Kansalem are significant instruments. The Dhol of bigger size is absent in Kulmis. Besides, in north Goa they used to have an additional big drum called Ghoom or Nagara, a typical name for this combination is Rombat or Romat. In Central Goa, number of big Dhols, Tashas and Kansalem forming a group for Shigmo. Few Mells are using Jaghant. During Portuguese Period, Konno-lengthy horn and Banco-big size trumpet is also used for Shigmo procession at some places. The Ghumat, Shamel and Kansalem are played together for dances by the Kulmi community in Shigmo. (At few places is replaced with Tabla and Harmonium in contemporary days.)
Except Kondpawa or Surpawa (a type of Bansuri) used by Dhangar community, no melody instruments are played in Shigmo.
Jat: A narration of mythological stories. The text of the same is depicting the very life style of that particular community neglecting the sequences of original incidents.
Tali: A narration requesting the blessings from the deities and spirits and demanding prosperity to the village, particularly abundance in food grains.
Chaurang: Same like jat.
Talo: A couplet for a dance in fast rhythm depicting a particular mythical incidence, like Vishwamitra, has arrived to Dasharath for asking Rama and Laxman or the flowers are blossomed to the plant of shevanti.
Aarat: is same like a tali.
Sakarat: A mythical song depicting the mystique, ritualistic incidences of the saga or such mythological stoties.
Chandrawal: Basically a song is taken for accompanying the music. The songs are like a salutation to the god. Only few traditional couplets are available through out Goa, sung in Sunvari.
Khanpad: it narrates mythical incidents in a style of particular verse.
Fag: Narrating happiness of the villagers by performing Shigmo. Naman: A salutation always sung in a particular style. The songs are traditionally prefixed verses and sung in a same style, on same rhythm and pitch as determined, like chanting Vedamantras.
Lawani: Almost like a jat but narrating conventional stories and life values.
Pawada: The independent songs narrating the incidences of historical importance not necessarily of the kings or lords but even the incidences taken place in that particular region.
Harikatha: of Dhangars is narrating stories of their deities. Lawani of the same community is on social themes where as Pawada narrates the stories of history in recent past, but no way related to the famous Lawani and powada of Maharashtr.
Zado. The Shigmo of Kulmi begins by singing a unique salutation to the deity called Zado. It is a rather elaborate song eulogizing the Kulmi cultural heritage. The songs tell us about how the festival of Shigmo began, how musical instruments came into existence, which made the sticks used in the Kulmi dance etc. Then, the participants sing invocations to various Kulmi Gods and deities.
Villagers of Male folk of all age groups with Ghudi, other paraphernalia, musical instruments, dancing material, constitute as Mell, associated only with Shigmo.
The Ghudi- flag, which has become hallowed by the rituals, is carried in the procession. The participants of Mell also carry the Chhatra- royal umbrella, Fuge, and Chamar, symbols of honor for deities and royal kings along with it. These symbols are called Abadagiri or Ilamat locally. The men folk of the village take out such a procession every evening. Music and rhythm play a very important role in this procession.
These processions are village and region specific; as a result, one finds different musical instruments, in numbers, being used in different areas. This procession is called Mell in southern and central Goa and Rombat in northern Goa.
Holi forms an essential part of the Shigmo festival either on the full moon or any other day of Falgun. The day and time is scheduled, as the local tradition of village would dictate. Holi is celebrated in the precinct of temple of the chief deity of the village from among the Panchishtha or cluster of five. Holi is a symbolic burning of the she-devil Holika. Traditionally, a long trunk of the areca nut or traditionally determined other tree is ceremonially brought to the spot and buried erect in the courtyard of the temple. A few stones are placed at the bottom and grass is spread over it, Puja is performed and the grass at the bottom is put on fire. When the fire is extinguished, the villagers break a coconut on the stones lying at the bottom of the burnt trunk. This coconut is then distributed between the Mahar and other castes of the village.
The Kulmis of Ganvdongri – a place of community origin- do not celebrate Holi like other regions and avoid perverse language, otherwise a feature of Shigmo elsewhere.
At some villages, the participants hurl abuses and use lewd expressions as they celebrate Holi. This, however, is not a rule but an exception.
Festival of colours, celebrated after Holi. Unlike other part of the country, Holi is celebrated in Goa by applying Gulal-vermillion powder only and no other colures are allowed by the tradition. Normally the Gulal is applied on the foreheads and cheeks of people one meets. Depending upon the local tradition, each village celebrates this festival on a specific day. This is called Dhulwad or Gulal. Interestingly, only mane folk splash colours on each other, and women, including young girls are spared from this gaiety. Children enjoy this festival by playing with colours. It is a tradition to cook choicest sweets on this day.
Gade play a significant role in Shigmo. A Gada is an individual with a special role in community rituals. When several of them come together, they are called Gade. They undergo purification rites to perform certain religious duties. They follow a strict code of conduct while preparing themselves to serve the local deity or spirit. Washing themselves clean and draped in white clothes, they gather at a place called GadyaMaand in the village.
Here they sing to the rhythm of Dhol. This singing is called Gadyam Ramayan. Even more few Christians in Kunkoli are also experts in singing these songs. As the singing continues, the Gade get possessed by spirits and start performing feats. They are running to the public cremation ground and digging out the bones of the dead, bringing ash from the funeral pyre, falling on big vessels etc. In local parlance, this is called Gade Padne. Traditionally, few persons are eligible to become Gada, Sometimes to fulfill a divine vow.
This practice of Gade is not in vogue in Kanakona and Sangem region; however, there are other practices in which some men mortify themselves consciously.
Those who actually perform these mortifying rituals are called Mhalgade- the chief ones. Those who play a peripheral role in such rituals are called Shelgade- minor Gade. They are more in touch with supra-human spirits and are said to suffer, if they fail to perform their divine duties properly. There are many legends and folktales about the Gade in Goa.
Shimo-border, Daalap-setting. This ritual is performed all over Goa in different style and patterns.
In central Goa, rice is boiled on traditional Chulha by Jalmi. The same is collected in Bamboo basket. This basket is carried on head by taking a chumbal – packing of a jungle flowers called Pitcoli and then this charu-boiled rice is sprinkled up to the distant border (Savoi-Verem).
At Apevhal of Ponda, wade-like a Puri of rice flour, – 360 in numbers is fried and along with a cockerel, is taken to the border. After burying that cock at the specific place the wades are thrown on entire border lines of the village. This depicts that the borders are sealed to keep away the natural calamities and evil-spirits for all 360 days. (Whole year-lunar system)
At Mardol, a palanquin of goddess Mhalsa is leaving towards hill side, a place called Malharmati. The goddess is resting at that place and the Katkar, an attendant is leaving towards village border at the hilltop, accompanied with others, carrying a cockerel and other material for ritual on the beats of Dholkem. After reaching the border the cockerel is buried at the border; prior to that it is essential to find out residual of the cock buried during previous year. The ritual of sealing the border is not completed until the remains of previous year is traced.
At Pernem the sacrifice of cock at the border is conducted as an annual ritual. It is a notable point that a ritual of sealing of borders to protect human settlements is carried at the time of Shigmo in the villages dominated by the toiling masses like Gawda, Kulwadi, Kulmi etc; In Dasro at other places.
Karvalyo is a unique practice found in Sattari Taluka during Shigmo. Young boys dressed up like women go roaming from house to house in the village. A common prayer is offered to the local deity before this procession begins. A specific form of narration- Sakarat is sung by the participants. As the Karvalyos go from house to house, each house makes an offering to these boys. This offering is called Vonti and consists of a blouse piece, coconut, grains of rice, betel nut etc. The locals entertain a belief that the boys who become women for this practice are vulnerable to the attack of evil spirits; hence they are protected by the villagers.
Sati is an ancient Hindu practice where a widow jumps to the burning pyre of her dead husband and is consumed by the leaping flames. The custom of Sati was prevalent in Goa; witch was banned by Portuguese government. The Karvalyos are believed to be the remnants of this practice. There are few monuments of Sati in five different villages of Sattari taluka.
According to legend, once upon a time the villagers had killed the thieves and the widows of the thieves committed Sati. The villagers practice Karvalyo to commemorate this deed of the widows.
During the Shigmo festivities, Sattari also witnesses three other ritualistic dances called, Chor- thieves, Por- younger, and Thor-elder.
The act of stealing occurs as a ritual in Shigmo rather than an offence. It is enjoyed and not grudged by the victim. Sattari has a peculiar practice called Chor wherein men smear their faces with black colour, tie tree branches around their heads and go on stealing sprees in their village.
What is noteworthy in these acts is that they are ritualistic and the victims anticipate thefts of their belongings. According to convention, only garden fruits are stolen. The thieves spare any other household items. Sometimes, the thief specifically asks for cashew nuts, jack-fruit, mangoes or bananas. The host has to oblige the thief. The stolen things, however, belongs to the community and are consumed jointly.
In the dance of Por, girls who have not yet attained their menarche go in a procession from house to house and sing and dance there. The dance of Thor consists of dances performed by adults in the courtyards of houses, includes Radha. Man from the Dhangar community come down to the villages and perform a dance known as Radha Krishna Nach.
Sattari also has two more practices during Shigmo. They are called Dhulwad or Haldoni and Nhavan. The latter acts as an antidote for the excesses indulged in during the Shigmo.
Haldoni is conducted as purification ritual, on culminating day of Shigmo, in few villages of Sattari and Perne. A stipulated person to take Halad-turmeric powder, pour in to the water and mixed ceremoniously. This holy water is thane sprinkled, first on village deity, the Mankari and others, along with other rituals. The main reason behind this ritual is that the entire society is purified become sinless unblemished. This practice is similar to Gulal or throwing colors in other regions
In a ritual of Nhavan, a man is possessed by spirits and then he breaks a coconut. The water from the coconut is distributed from house to house. This holy water is believed to maintain the purity of the house until the next Shigmo festival.
Bhonwor is a main part of Kulmi Shigmo. Bhonwor means a group of people, formed into ritualistic procession with musical instruments like Dhol, Tasha and Jaghant. The Bhonwor consists with senior persons carrying ritualistically decorated staff called Tarang and sacred umbrellas. The youths carrying Dino-local plant stick and the girls and women folk hold a Divaj in their hands. Such group in procession is called Bhonwor.
The unmarried junior youths called Dindo wearing ceremonial dress. A typical colorful headgear- Pelo, prepared traditionally is essential. He carries a special long stick of Dino, nicely decorated, garlanded with Aboli flowers and a peace of white cloth. Breaking of this stick in two pieces, in front of the deity and to immerse the headgears in the water of temple tank is to get a privilege of marriage.
At the daybreak, in their respective village, Just before the procession-Bhonwor starts off, a coconut is broken before the ancestral deity called Gharvay and the Bhonwor starts marching towards temple of their daity- Malkajan, on a traditional path. Three such Bhonwors, from seven nearby villages lodges at the temple belonging to it by tradition. The old people, menstruating women and sick individuals only are exempted from this ritual procession. For every other individual, the participation in the Bhonwor is compulsory.
As the Bhonwor reaches the temple at the outskirts of Ganvdongri, the participants take rest at the sacred place traditionally reserved for the particular Bhonwor. Women and girls light Divjam. A person traditionally assigned to welcome the procession comes out of the temple and welcomes it. The traditional convention of welcoming the Bhonwor is unique. Once each procession reaches to their sacred place, a traditional attendant of the temple- Katkar takes a sacred blessing umbrella called Palavsatri in his hand. Another person takes and plays an instrument- Jaghant. This Palavsatri considered as blessings of the deity Malkajan. This umbrella is placed in a temple and never used for any other purpose other than the Shigmo.
Music fills the atmosphere. Each of the Bhonwors enters the vicinity of the temple, is honoured by the temple priest (Velip). After this traditional honour, the Bhonwors march towards the Malkajan temple. People, even walking with the procession are not supposed to use footwear. Men in the procession dance to the rhythm of drums, while holding the Tarang and umbrellas aloft in their hands. As the dance goes, men shout Shabo sss ha! (At other region, sounding like Hossay or Shabay.)
As the procession reaches the temple, participants circumambulate twice with dancing. The SabhaMaandap, main hall of the temple is full of people dancing with decorated staffs and umbrellas in their hands. Then every family of the village offers bananas and coconut to the deity. The temple priest, who is from the Velip group, breaks the coconut and offers part of it, as Prasad to the devotee. Another deity called Bagelpayak too is offered bananas, of which some are given back to the devotees as Prasad. (Bagel-door, Payk- guarding spirit) By afternoon, the rituals of Bhonwor are over.
Divjam, a part of Shigmo at some places and an initiation ceremony for the Kulmi girls- Dindem, yet to start their menstruation. No Kulmi girl can marry unless she performs this ceremony. Girls prepare themselves for Divjam by wearing Aaboli flowers on their head. They tie a towel around their waist over their saris and carry the Divaj on their heads. They walk briskly with these lamps on their heads. (Sometimes other person holds it) Care is taken to see that the lamp does not fall. It is considered to be a bad omen if it falls. Girls use a base made of dry banana plant to place Divaj on top of their heads. (Locally Chumbel) This base has threads dangling from it and has a very artistic look. Girls hold these threads in their hands and are helped by other man and women.
After visiting the temple girls keep Divaj before the deity. The Velip takes out little oil from the lamp and puts it into the vessel and returns the lamp to the girl. Girls then make the ritual offering of betel leave, peace of areca nut and banana, before etch and every deity in the vicinity of the temple. (They are 60 in numbers, called Purvam- supplementary.)Even money-coin is offered but no one touches the offerings. After this offering, Girls walk towards the tank in the temple courtyard and throw their Chumbal into the water of Temple Lake. The lamp gets extinguished. Once this ritual is executed carefully, girls get their right to marry. The married women also perform this ritual but they hold these lamps in their hands instead of holding them on their heads.
Again a part of Shigmo only at Ganvdongri, This ritual is performed with great solemnity. Those who participate in it are called Gade. They are man, specially entrusted with the pious responsibility of executing this ritual of ancient origin. After the ritual of Bhonwor is over, four Gades or purified men take bath, dress themselves with white dhoti and traditional turban, apply sandalwood paste to their foreheads, breasts and arms and stand before the deity of Malkajan with their hands in the attitude of prayer.
The Velip then gives each one of them, a betel nut to hold under their teeth. Then a man, assigned by the custom, pierces the skin of the arms of these Gades by a threaded needle. The four main Gades get this prick and those who play minor role in the ritual are not pricked. Sometimes, even these minor players also want to be pricked. The Gades then pray before the deity, come out into the temple hall and lie supine.
Here the main ritual is awaited wherein the heads of these three men are used as stones on which a ritual chullha-stove is arranged for cooking the rice. The three Gades lie in such a manner that their head come close to each other to make a chullha. The Velip keeps a pot of rice for boiling on these heads. A fire of rosewood sticks is lit in this stove. After boiling the cooked rice is taken on a Banana leave. The fourth Gada sits in front of the deity in Virasan posture. The Velip strikes his forehead with sword and blood s falls on that rice. This rice is then sprinkled on specific places in the village.
Gades, who have become unconscious by undergoing the ritual are brought in and made to lie down in the temple. Tirtha-sanctified water is sprinkled over them. As a result the Gades regain their consciousness. The ritual comes to an end.
As the legend has it, in the ancient times the heads of the Gades were actually severed to make a chullha out of them. After the rice cooking ritual, the heads would be planted again on the respective bodies of the Gade. Once there was a mix up and wrong heads were planted on bodies as a result, all the three heads became stone. People still show these stones lying in the courtyard of the temple.
In central region a mock procession of Navra- Navri-bride and groom is a salient feature of Shigmo celebration. The procession carrying the mock couple is greeted with glee by crowd. Men play the role of both husband and wife. The procession goes in an open car, or bullock cart. As soon as it reaches particular destination, another procession carrying a mock dead body crosses it. Since encountering a dead body is considered a bad omen by newly weds, the husband and wife flee the scene and the Navra- Navri procession is over.
Shigmo is an occasion where men express their deep-rooted subconscious desires, emotions and anxieties in a mock form. This mock manifestation, however, takes on a ritualistic purpose in Shigmo and the bad omen that may befall a newly wed couple is believed to loose its evil power once it has been red in a mock way.
The Veerbhadr is a form of ritualistic dance popular during the Shigmo in central region.
Initially the Veerbhadra dances with burning torches in both the hands, made of the dry leaves of the coconut palm. Then he takes a sword in each hand and continues the dance. The group of pupil standing at a safe distance presenting Varavni-sort of prayer, that they may not get hurt by the torches or swords. Clad in typical southern costume, The Veerbhadra res the scene on the battleground on the stage with solemn steps, as the terrifying war music is played on the background. Many in the audience pay their obeisance to the dancer, as he is believed to be the incarnation of the spirit of the legendary Veerbhadra. The origin of Veerbhadra is of Karnataka, seems to have been transferred to Goa with Southern rulers. One of the verses in his Varawani is totally in Kannada like Kailas valige Veerbhadra Anna – dwelling at Kailas; other person shouts Ha Udo, Oudu-in cannada-Yes.
The ritual of this dance has a deep meaning. The torch bearing Veerbhadra signifies the light giver and the sword wielding the protector. The dance assures light and protection to the people. The ritual dance having a southern origin has acquired a distinct place in Goa’s cultural life, as most townships in central region were under the rule of some or the other Southern Kings in the distant past.
The significant dance form known as Talgadi is everywhere in Goa. The other forms are Tonyo, Goff; Morulo and Diwlyam nach at few places.
Durig in Shigao is a part of Shigmo festival, involving elaborate rituals on the forth day succeeding Holi. The Parab community in this village is known for its adherence to the traditions.
The main ritual of this festival consists of felling a fully grown Silk cotton tree, measuring about 40 feet tall and burying it with elaborate rituals, and then climbing it with great acrobatic skills to recover a sacred coconut placed on its top. A group of men undertake this task as excited villagers stand cheering this feat.
In the morning the villagers go in a procession accompanied by music to the forest and look for a suitable Silk cotton tree. They worship this tree and then fell it. After felling, scratch the bark of this tree trunk fully to make it smooth and slippery. The trunk is tied with a creeper of Gulvel found in the forest and carries the huge log to the temple where the actual ritual takes place.
The job of lugging this unwieldy tree trunk is carried out exclusively by human hands and no mechanical force is ever used in this labour intensive activity. The locals who do not belong to the village are spared from this hard labour.
Once the trunk is brought in the temple courtyard, the trunk that was buried last year is uprooted and cut into pieces. This wood is used for the temple purposes alone and no one is allowed to use it for his domestic consumption. A sufficiently deep pit is then dug in the ground, which can accommodate the newly brought trunk. Villagers take extraordinary efforts to keep this trunk standing properly in the pit. The standing trunk is called Durig.
After performing Puja, The garland, mango leaves and a coconut is tied to the top of the Durig and a rope is kept dangling from its top. Few villagers climb the tree trunk with the help of this rope and perform Puja.
A man then climbs the top of Durig (with the help of this rope) and from their, pulls up buckets full of water from the ground. He pours this water profusely on the trunk, as a result, the trunk become slippery for any one to climb it easily. The music begins and the youths and elders start their attempts to scale this trunk.
In the end, however, some one from the competing group one succeeds in reaching the top recovers the coconut kept there and slides down. The hero, who has to be from Ganvkar family, a Dindo- unmarried youth, who successfully recovers the coconut from the top is called Chor, is permitted to go on stealing spree with impunity.
This is a dance with ancient origin and is held only in one Kulmi village at Neturlim. Bandawado is one such locality where the ancient dance is performed by Kulmis during the Shigmo.
The purpose behind this elaborate dance is to offer symbolic blood to the land, which sustains the Kulmi tribes throughout the year. The dancers carry swords and inflict themselves with injuries as they dance to the rhythm of drums. They also make a weird sound, reminiscent of their archaic past.
Netrawali is the only place in Goa where the ritualistic Hanpet is played every year. Those participating in this ritual are men belonging to Velip caste of Goa. These men are called Gade and they have to prepare themselves by observing strict rules of purity in days preceding the Hanpet. These rules include not making one’s feet dirty, not casting a glance at a menstruating woman, not eating food cooked by others, and keeping fast on the actual day of the ritual.
The ritual of this sacrificial dance is inaugurated when the villagers come to a sacred place, called Maand. Here, they light a lamp, break a coconut and sing invocation to various Kulmi deities like Vandevta,-(Goddess of forest) Dhartarimata (Mother earth goddess) and the Tulsi plant etc. The musicians play a special rhythm on Dhol. Then a Dhoti clad man, decked with flowers and sandalwood paste comes in the middle of the group and stand with folded hands. This man is called Kud. Crowd encircles him and throws rice grains on him by making queer sound. The Kud gets possessed and starts swaying and humming. Possessed by the spirit, Kud pronounces the divine verdict and blesses the rituals of the Hanpet. The dance does not take place if the spirit says no.
Once the verdict is obtained, the villagers gather on the Maand, places a pumpkin and a man facing east, sitting in a Virasan posture, strikes the pumpkin with a sword to cut it into two halves. When these halves do not join properly, it is believed that people who are injured during the Hanpet may take long time to recover from their injuries.
The next day, those who participate in the ritual go to the river, take a ritual bath, decorate themselves with sandalwood paste and flowers and stand on the sacred spot with swords in hands. As mentioned earlier, they are called Gade and they number four. Then there are some who perform this ritual as a part of divine vow. Percussion instruments like Ghumat, Tasha, etc. play an archaic rhythm and the Gade starts swinging their swords in all directions. They dance in circular directions and strike themselves with their swords on their backs. The wounds bleed and the blood starts dripping on the ground.
The injuries sustained by the players are sprinkled with divine water once the self-mortifying ritual is over. The chief of the villager, by using a bunch of peacock feathers, sooth the injuries of the participants and the first day of the Hanpet is over.
Gada means a man who is believed to have been possessed with extra-human energy. The plural form is Gade. The Gade are men charged with such energy. These men perform feats otherwise impossible for ordinary mortals. There are men who vow to become Gade by way of penance and some for the common good of the village. Such men observe rigid rules of purity and self-mortification to prepare them spiritually. This is a phenomenon unique to Goa. People from all over the Goa come to witness this amazing event during Shigmo.
The village of Saal, is the venue of an extraordinary event called Saal Gade. People belonging to the Maratha caste, like the Parabs and the Rauts live in this village, only can become Gada. On the full moon day of Falgun, that is, the day of Holi, sixty-four men from this village gather near the site of the ritual as participants. The ritual has its origin in ancient times. The number sixty-four has great significance in ancient literature dealing with spirituality. (Sixty four Yoginis, goddesses connected with yoga or a magic)
These sixty-four men are barefooted, bare bodied except for a short Dhoti worn around their loins and a leather belt tied around their waists, gather near Holi. After requisite rituals the Gade, possessed with spirits, run with great frenzy towards nearby forest, the top of the hillock. Traditionally drums are beaten in the background and lend a certain tempo to the ritual. In spite of being barefooted, they have no concern for the thorns and stones lying on the way.
People believe that the spirit, called the Denvchar guides these running men by showing a burning torch intermittently. Those who watch the Gade running into the forest claim having seen the burning torches at a far off distance in the hillock. However, no one has ever seen the agency holding these torches.
These Gade have to cross a small rivulet on their way to the hillock and it is believed that none of them show any trace of water on their Dhotis or any injury to their feet. This is attributed to the spirit, with which these Gade are possessed.
The Gade make a peculiar sound as a means of communication among them and those who cannot follow this mode of communication are separated from the crowd. This peculiar sound is reminiscent of the primordial sound of Om.
In the course of this ritual, some Gade do not come back from the hillock. They are lost in the forest and are believed to be hidden by the spirit of the Devchar. These hidden men appear the next day about three hundred meters away from the ritual site. Some Gade are found in an unconscious state and are carried to the temple by the villagers. The bodies of these men become stiff. But they regain their consciousness as soon as the temple priest sprinkles holy water over them.
All these feats are performed under public gaze. Thousands gather to watch the ritual every year. Curious men from the crowd had in the past, attempted to reach the spot with flickering torches, but in vain. Either such curious men have fallen unconscious or were injured on their way to the forest.
The ritual is performed on three different days. The second day is the most important among them. On this day, a large crowd gathers to watch the feats of the Gade. The village is full of legends about this annual ritual running. The villagers claim that on more than one occasion, a Gada was hidden by the Denvchar for one full year. This hidden Gada had come back to his village safely after a year. According to another legend, a man who had vowed to become Gada fell sick and was confined to his house. As soon as he heard the drumbeat played on this occasion, he became restive, climbed his rooftop and from there jumped out and ran toward the ritual site to participate in the ritual running. In yet another legend, an old man who was very sick, got up at the rhythm of drumbeat and after having finished his run, fell down and died. The villagers of Saal implicitly believe these legends.
A Mahar community always beats the drums-Dhol and Tasha- on this occasion and the rhythm has a peculiar beat. As the drums are beaten, a group of elderly villagers sitting near Holi and continue in singing traditional salutation songs, known as Naman. These songs are sung in a set order and this order is never changed. The songs must go on incessantly during the ritual run lest a running Gada injures himself.
The origin of this ritual is very difficult to establish. However, the locals believe the purpose behind this ritual is to propitiate the local deity and ensure their own protection throughout the year. Men who run as Gade are possessed by inexplicable energy. This is obvious to anybody wishing to stop the running Gade. Even an old and frail man running as a Gada, can overpower anyone coming in his way. The power of this Gada is palpable and those who have tasted it never try to cross the path of a running Gada.
Shidiyo, a ritual symbolizing penance, is performed in the village called Balli Muth in Falgun, (February-March, on 6th day after Holi at 7am) as part of Shigmo. An elaborate preparation goes before this ritual in the courtyard of village deity Shri Shantadurga Ballikarin.
A wooden pole about 20 feet long is erected in the centre of the ground. On this supporting pole, another pole of about 30 feet is fitted horizontally. The pole is accurately balanced and can hold a man at one end. Then, the man, who has defined or a vow to keep, is tied to the pole, face down. A rope is tied to the other end and held firmly by a group of people ensuring its proper balance. Then the pole is rotated five times. The odd numbered rotations are clock-wise and the even numbered ones are anti-clock-wise. At last, the Gada who was tied is released from the pole and another man is tied to undergo the same ordeal. This goes on until all the Gades have completed their turn. People from all over Goa come to witness this ritualistic acrobatic.
The man tied to the pole is called a Gada. People who witness this ritual treat this Gada with great respect and some even bow before him. Men who have taken a vow to be tied to the rotating
Shidiyo or pole do it as a part of some religious obligation to the local deity.
To perform same type of Shidiyo, the pole used this year is used to have another one in front of kuneshvar, a chief village deity, next year, where the only Gada is being tied. According to legend, the Velip community had their settlement in the nearby forest of Subdalem where they used to worship Santeri, the mother goddess. People belonging to the Desai community, who had earlier migrated from Narvem, used to visit this goddess during the Shigmo and participate in the Zatra held there. Once, the local Velip community held the Zatra before Desais could reach the venue. This made the Desais angry and they pleaded to the goddess to leave her abode in Subdalem and come down with them to Balli. A shaman pronounced the verdict of the goddess, according to which she agreed to oblige only if a fruit was offered to her for every step she took in the direction of the Desai settlement. The Desais agreed and gave her a coconut at each step. When the coconut was exhausted, the fruits from jungle trees were also offered, but were not sufficient. On her way, however, the goddess decided to rest at a place called Bendurdem, a Velip locality and, changing her mind, insisted that she would have her abode there itself. The villagers agreed. From this moment, the goddess stays here for five days in the month of Falgun- Shigmo. Before relenting to come with the Desais, the goddess asked for some more things to which the Desais agreed. That was Potchem and Fatchem- The blood of elderly person and a young boy respectively. Shidiyo is performed by succeeding generations of the villagers as a fulfillment of this agreement.
Elders from the Desai clan still narrate this legend and it has been the privilege of the Desai clan of this region to tie a member of their community to the rotating pole, before anyone else is tied. On this occasion, a ceremony is performed in which young boys called Dindo participate. The skin of their abdomen is pricked with a needle and the blood is offered to the deity. A boy who undergoes the ritual of Dindo is supposed to keep a fast and maintain ritual purity till the whole ceremony is over. The boys are attired in the traditional Kulmi dress for this occasion. A young boy whose blood has been so offered to the deity now earns the right of getting married.
According to one legend, since Deasais offered fruits to the goddess on her way to their locality, they affix the word, Phal- fruit, before their family name. Thus they are known as Phal Desais. This community in Goa is quite progressive but strangely, follows traditional customs and rites of Kulmis on the occasion of Shidiyo.
During Shigmo festival two villages of Sattari taluka, i.e. Zarme and Karanjol witness a unique ancient ritual called Chor Purne, meaning burying the thieves. People from distant places reach these villages to witness the ritualistic burial and mortification of some men, dubbed as thieves.
The local villagers have two explanations for this puzzling ritual. According to the first explanation, once upon a time, the villagers had killed some thieves. The present ritual is atonement for this killing. The succeeding generations of the villagers have been suffering the pains of burial and atoning for the sins of their ancestors. According to the second explanation, the mock burial of thieves may act as an effective deterrent against the stealing instinct of the locals. Surprisingly, the places where thieves are buried also perform a ritual where some men steal on the day of Holi. But this stealing has a sanction of tradition and is considered a ritual.
On the actual day of Holi, full moon day about 8 p.m. four people dubbed as thieves are buried down to their necks in pits. Out of the two unmarried men, one is sent for a mock execution and the other one is made to lie like a dead body. The people of these two villages proudly claim that their villages are free from any menace of thieves.
At caranzol, the annual rituals start at a sacred place. After Garane, a prayer a gun is fired in the air and the people those who are acting as thieves are getting possessed by the super natural spirit. They walk towards the village temple on a traditional path. The body of two thieves is buried up to the neck and remaining two with their heads.
The celebration of Shigmo in Zarme begins from the day of Holi. A log of mango tree is buried and worshipped with symbolic fire of a peace of grass. The traditional folk dances like Ghode Modni-a hobby horse dance and a theatre form- Ranmalem- Traditional dance drama- are performed on other days marked for this purpose.
The actual ritual of burying the ‘thieves’ takes place in a small ground in front of the village deity. All other activities are similar to Karanjol.
In a small village named Malkarne a unique annual festival called Sheni Ujo takes place as part of Shigmo. Sheni means a round flat cake of dried cow dung. Ujo means fire. The venue of this festival is surrounded by hills from three sides.
Malkarne is believed to be the original dwelling place of the Ganvkars, belonging to the Kulmi community. Later, some Brahmin families settled in this village. From olden times the active community institution called Ganvkari provided shelter to all artisans like carpenters, barbers, musicians and also to the Perni community. The traditional performer of the famous folk theatre, full with masks, Perni Jagor, Malkarne observes a peculiar custom according to which no resident of this village is allowed to trade in cows.
Shenis are used as fuel in rural Goa. Village women make Shenis out of fresh dung and dry them in the sun to make fuel. Once a Sheni is put on fire, it burns slowly like a frankincense-stick without flames. The dance consists of holding those burning cakes and making different patterns to the accompaniment of music with quick beats. As the dance progresses, the sparks of the burning Shenis strike the dancers. They also walk through the heap of burning Shenis. The villagers proudly assert that so far, no one has been hurt in this play dealing so intimately with fire.
Sheni Ujo is performed on the day of Holi. After midnight the villagers cut off three fully-grown areca nut trees. A man traditionally assigned to make the first strike on the tree trunk strikes it and then each of these trees is felled. The villagers then carry these tree trunks on their shoulders and reach a place known as Karya Javal (near a poisonous tree locally known as Karo). Music with the instruments of Dhol, Tasha and Kasalem accompanies this procession. Here they perform a ritual dance by holding these trunks on their shoulders.
After this dance, anybody wishes to participate, can holds a burning Sheni in one hand and a bough in other hand. He then visits every temple of the village and showers sparks emanating from the burning Sheni on every deity. Then all the participants come back to the spot where they had danced with the tree trunks. Here, standing in circle, they start dancing with Sheni in their hands, virtually bathing in the sparks. As this dance comes to an end, they prepare to perform an annual ritual of Holi. One of the tree trunks is buried near Mallikarjun temple. Another, near Nagnath temple and the third one is buried near a spot called Jalmi. Before this ritual burying, the trunk is worshiped and villagers offer prayer. After symbolized fire of dry grass at the bottom, coconut is broken on the spot of the burial.
The high point of the ritual dance is reached when a few among the villagers walk through the heap of burning Shenis and shower themselves with sparks. There is a well-established order in this and those enjoying a traditional privilege take the lead, followed by other devotees. A hustle – bustle follows among the villagers to walk through the burning heap. As they walk over the heap, they shower sparks of the Sheni on each other. Some of the person climbing up to the holy trunk and other are showering sparks of Sheni on them. The climbing up on Holi is practiced only at Malkarne.
The festival, Satryo of Cuncolim is known for a procession wherein twelve Vangods- shear holders- called ‘Ganvkar’ walk and dance holding Satryo means umbrellas. They are specially made for this occasion, and preserved in the temple premises. They are quite big, about seven feet long and specially decorated colorfully. Music accompanies this procession and participants throw Vermillion powder on each other as the procession marches to its traditional destination.
The Satryo procession is taken out on the fourth day of the Holi festival. On this day, a palanquin containing the image of the Shantadurga starts from the temple in Fatorpa in which twelve local inhabitants, claiming their lineage to the ancient twelve shareholders, participate with umbrellas in their hands. As they dance, the musicians play instruments like the Surta, Shehenai, Dholkem and the Kansalem. In contemporary days a brass band is played in this procession. Those who do not hold umbrellas in their hands too dance in the procession. The participants throw vermillion powder on each other and even guests are not spared from this colourful sport. (At any stage no powder of vermillion is thrown to the young girls or women folk)
The procession then follows a traditional pathway and reaches the original place of Shantadurga temple in Cuncolim, which is about 4 km from the existing temple in Fatorpa. People welcome it on its way and small temples and chapels greet it with offerings. The procession rests for some time at a place called Talaye Bhat. There is a tree surrounded by a platform here and the villagers, Hindus as well as Christians, make offering of bananas, coconuts and betel leaves to this spot for the procession. These things are auctioned later.
The procession terminates at the temple of Shantadurga in Fatorpa. On the way to the temple any one could hold these umbrellas, but not coming out and entering the temple. It is the exclusive privilege of these twelve Vangod to carry the umbrellas in the temple. Here an Aarti is performed to the goddess and Prasad is distributed to the participants. This brings an end to the Satryo festival.
Cuncolim of today, like any part of Goa, boasts of a religious harmony between Hindus and Christians. In the festival of Satryo, this harmony is manifest and Christians participate in this Hindu festival dressed in the typical Hindu attire of turbans and caps. They splash Vermillion powder on their Hindu counterparts as they dance with their umbrellas in the procession.
At Jambavli village a temple of Lord Damodar, a deity who was the patron of Margao town is situated. In the 16th century, the Portuguese rulers attacked Margao and destroyed the temple. The deity was shifted to Jambavli. People believe that the temple was in Fatorda where the modern sports stadium has come up.
The Jambavli Gulal is a part of the Shigmo and is celebrated in the last week of the Hindu month of Falgun. The original residents of Margao, who worshipped the deity of Damodar, make it a point to attend this Gulal festival. This deity is fondly called by the name of Dambab by the original residents of Margao. They consider that the Dambab, is a family member of all city residents.
The Gulal festival of Jambavali begins for a week and lasts with a procession of a palanquin in which is placed the image of the deity. Music accompanies this procession. The procession goes to a place called Ramnath Maandap and the Palanquin rests her. In the afternoon, the god marches towards the temple. The actual festival of Gulal starts here. The participants dance and sing as they walk in the procession and throw dry vermilion powder, – Gulal on each other. The participants virtually bathe each other with this powder and the music and the fireworks multiply the gaiety.
The specialty of this festival lies in the vermilion powder. No other form of colour is allowed in this festival. Similarly young girls and women are spared from this colourful bash. Mathgramastha Hindu Sabha, the local religious body organizes this festival in Jambavali.
At Dongri the Shigmo is celebrated in the name of Inruz but it has a different connotation due to a peculiar historical compulsion.
After the Portuguese rulers annexed the village of Dongri in the beginning of 16th century, they started their persecution tactics, and as a result, the Hindus of the village were banned from celebrating their festivals and religious ceremonies. The Shigmo, which the Hindus of the village celebrated, also fell foul of the Portuguese. The village had no other choice but to accept this ban until somebody, one day hit upon an idea and asked for permission from the Portuguese rulers to celebrate Intruz. The permission was given as it was asked for a Christian festival. Armed with this permission, the Hindus of the village started celebrating Shigmo in the garb of Intruz. In fact, Intruz comes about one month before Shigmo.
This festival is held on the fourth Tuesday of the Hindu month of Maagh. For three days prior to the celebration, the village of Dongri is full of festivities and about five singing and dancing troupes, called Mell converge from the different corners and march in a procession towards the temple of the village deity, Sati Shantadurga. The special feature of this procession is Sunvari, a folk musical form which uses Ghumats, Shamels and Kansalem along with a huge drum called Dome. All these musical instruments form the ensemble of the Sunvari. The crescendo of the music reaches a high pitch when all the troupes reach the temple, situated on a hillock.
There is a special pavilion meant for this celebration known as Intruz Matow, (Matow-Pavilion) where all the Sunvari of the village come together. Here people throw Gulal -vermillion powder on each other. The celebration concluded after a common prayer on behalf of the entire village is offered to the deity.
Intruz could be called a Christian version of Shigmo, because of the striking similarity of the mode of celebration between the two festivals. The performance of Intruz is almost similar to Shigmo of Hindu fold. It includes the invocation at the beginning on Maand. The entire rituals performed in the Intruz especially by the Gawda community, are remaining the same as in Shigmo, except the Cross-is existing at the Maand in the place of Tulsi Vrundavana or Ghumat. Interestingly the lyrics also are the same, sung in Shigmo.