It is the gaunkaris or village communities of Goa (agrarian institutions, established hundreds of years ago to look after and manage the land pertaining to the village), who are entrusted with the responsibility of the celebrations. This land was once common land, cultivated by the gaunkars, who were the original settlers of the village. The practice of celebrating a good crop is an age old ritual, one that continued even after the Portuguese took the territories in 1510, and is observed with great fervour till today
Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
The Harvest Festival is celebrated all over the world in different ways and our little state is no exception. In Goa, the festival is celebrated in almost all villages as a sign of gratitude to the Almighty for bestowing the farmers with a healthy crop.
It is the gaunkaris or village communities of Goa (agrarian institutions, established hundreds of years ago to look after and manage the land pertaining to the village), who are entrusted with the responsibility of the celebrations. This land was once common land, cultivated by the gaunkars, who were the original settlers of the village. The practice of celebrating a good crop is an age old ritual, one that continued even after the Portuguese took the territories in 1510, and is observed with great fervour till today.
As said the festival was the responsibility of the gaunkaris or what today we call as Comunidades, with the participation of the guankars and other villagers who were called ‘moradores’ meaning residents of the village. The Comunidade earmarked special ‘zonn’, that is money for celebrating the festival, to defray the expenses that were to be borne by the Comunidade or gaunkar, such as expenses incurred for the brass band, priest, decoration, etc.
Some Comunidades celebrate this festival along with the feast of the patron of the village; for example, the celebrations of the feast of Our Lady of Snows at Raia in Salcete, which is on August 5. Incidentally, this Comunidade begins the celebrations in Goa with the others following. Next to follow are the celebrations in Bardez taluka; the villages of Aldona and Salvador do Mundo celebrate it on August 6. On that day the Aldonkars also celebrate the Feast of Transfiguration of Jesus and the Saloikars of their patron, Saviour of the World. On this occasion a procession carries a statue of the Saviour of the World from the church to the field opposite where the new paddy has been harvested. The statue bears a golden sickle in its hand which is used symbolically to harvest paddy by the priest. The last to begin is the Comunidade of Taleigão, on August 21, followed by others on August 24 or on the following Sunday.
Festivals are an occasion to celebrate with good and special food. Let us see what is special about the harvest. Since it is in thanksgiving for the good crop cultivated by the farmers, the food cooked should give priority to that which is harvested. In Goa the main crop is rice and it is the sheaf of paddy that is solemnly harvested. Hence, rice is consumed as a special sweet dish on this occasion. It is cooked in different forms as a sweet. The most common is avel or fov which is flattened rice. Avel or fov when mixed with coconut and palm or sugarcane jaggery is called ‘caloilele fov’ and when cooked in milk with sugar it is called ‘duddantle fov’ while when made in coconut juice with jaggery it is called ‘rosantle fov’.
The importance of fov in this festival can be gauged from all the traditions followed by the gaunkars of Taleigão. On the following day of the harvest festival, August 22, avel is distributed to all the gaunkars in the village. The Mahar’s band, accompany the person distributing the avel. This is marked by burning of firecrackers and ringing of the church bells. On August 23, avel is ceremoniously given to the parish priest by the gaunkar celebrating the feast. In the olden days, the addão, a group of dancers mainly formed by the tribals of the village, who dance and perform a mock fight, also accompanied the gaunkars to the church. August 24 is the grand finale of the four-day long festival. It is on this day that a committee of gaunkars carry avel along with a sheaf of paddy stalk to the Sé Cathedral, where a high mass is held.
The Hindus celebrate the Harvest Festival on the second day of the Ganesh festival, when the new corn is offered to the deity and un-husked rice is added to the offerings of nivedya. However, the villagers of Divar make patoios, a sweet made of rice paste and stuffed with coconut and jaggery. Most of the villages of Salcete also make patoios on the occasion of harvest festival.