Locals residing around Talaulim-Durbhat, Goa, have been performing an age old ritual of worshipping the crocodiles every year. This age old tradition is practised to create a bond between the much feared reptile and humans. NT BUZZ brings to you the story of this unique ritual that is practiced in India in Goa and the Sunderbans
SACHI NAIK | NT BUZZ
Crocodiles are associated with fear and the sight of it can create panic among many. However, culture, rituals and traditions are followed which not only help get rid of such fear but also fosters a bond between human and animals. In Talaulim there is a unique ritual of how crocodiles are worshiped as a mark of respect. This worship takes place in Sunderbans known to be an area that is inhabited by crocodiles.
Today, the crocodile worship will take place keeping in tune all traditions and customs that have been followed since the very beginning of this worship. 65-year-old Vithu Dadu Gawde has been attending this ritual since his childhood. Giving us information about the crocodile worship he says: “On this day we create a replica of crocodile using clay. We create a rough pattern on its back as seen on crocodiles. Then we bury an egg in its stomach and cover it with clay depicting a sacrifice for worshipping crocodiles. Following this, Tukaram Mulik performs the puja and offers flowers to it; and puffed rice and fruits are served as ‘naivedya’ to all the 25-30 locals involved in fishing and farming activities who participate in this ritual.”
This ritual is performed on the day of Aamavasya, the last day of Pausha month of the Hindu calendar. Vithu says that it is performed as a mark of respect for the sea and crocodiles. It is believed that after the performance of the ritual farmers and fishermen do not fear crocodiles. However, it is also believed that if the reptile is harmed it could attack.
Tukaram Mulik, a local, has been performing this ritual for last 30 years after the death of his father. He says: “We roam freely and without any fear of crocodiles in the bundhs and fields after performing this age old ritual.” Vithu further adds that this tradition is very old and thus it is difficult to pinpoint when exactly it began.
When the ritual ends, the clay-made crocodile is left untouched in the same condition for months. The clay then is washed away naturally when the rains begin.
Vinay Gawde, a teenager in the village is has been witnessing this ritual now. Though he isn’t quite certain of the exact belief and practice associated with it, he feels that the youth of the village have an onus in the future to carry forward this ritual. He mentions that although he is not certain of the exact ritual, the youth of the village will continue with their age old tradition in the future. “This is a decade old ritual, and we cannot break it. We have to follow what our ancestors have started to maintain peace in our village,” he says.
Social activist and reptile rescuer, Charan Desai believes that this ritual signifies and builds a bond between humans and crocodiles. “Crocodiles are feared animals, but to establish that they are harmless our ancestors chose this unique way. In my opinion, if any tradition is helpful to nature and brings peace between humans and crocodiles, it should be practiced to spread such awareness. I do not believe it is a superstition, in fact it is a mark of respect, and gratitude expressed through religion,” he opines.
Charan will launch an initiative ‘Mugger Tales’, a collection of stories and experiences of people living in the mugger crocodile habitat in Goa on January 16, 2018. The initiative aims at studying threats to mugger population and habitat assessment. It will also create awareness about it through activities in schools, colleges and communities in crocodile inhabited areas. “I aim to study and spread awareness about the biological and life cycle of crocodiles and conduct a socio-environmental study of their presence along with human-crocodile interaction through rituals like crocodile worship, with tales involving humans and crocodiles.”