As the month of July ends, and August begins villages in Goa celebrate the harvest festival, commonly known as Konsachem fest. Today as Raia celebrates the feast following their own traditions, NT BUZZ finds out more about the harvest festival celebrations across Goa
VENITA GOMES | NT BUZZ
Harvest feasts in Goa are unique. Each is celebrated differently keeping with the traditions and history associated with it. Not all harvest festivals are celebrated on the same day. In Salcete most villages celebrate the festival on August 15; Raia has festivities on August 5, also the feast of the patroness of the church, Our Lady of Snow; and in Bardez, the villages of Aldona and Salvador do Mundo are the first to celebrate the feast on August 6, followed by Siolim and others.
The first village
Raia is probably the first village in South Goa to harvest the paddy and this act attracts people from all over Salcete. The cutting of the first sheaves also holds biblical significance, in the book of Genesis, Abel offered his best sheaves of corn to God. Similarly, the priest blesses the first harvest of the season and distributes it to the congregation. The cutting of the first sheaves takes place at Saibinichi Kongi near Fozanachem khudd at Raia followed by the blessing on the crop.
A resident of Raia, Inacio Dias says: “The harvest festival is very special to us; it is a moment of pride for the fellow villagers of Raia as we are the first parish to celebrate this feast in Goa. The villagers of Raia and of the surrounding villages seek blessings of our patroness – Our Lady of Snows (Neves Saibin) for a prosperous harvest in the year ahead.” He adds that in the evening the villagers come together to enjoy the finals of the Custodio Memorial Inter-Village Football Tournament, the oldest running inter-village tournament in Goa and is now in its 47th edition.
The blessing and cutting of the first sheaves this year will take place after the 8:15 a.m. mass followed by the feast mass at 9:30 a.m.
A 400-year-old tradition at Taleigao
Interestingly, Taleigao is one place in Goa where the celebration of the harvest festival goes on for four days. Starting from August 21 to August 24 there are various traditions that are followed during the first harvest. Like other parishes, villagers walk in procession from the church. “The priest blesses the first harvest and then the president of the feast is given the first chance to harvest the crop. The president is chosen in rotation from the nine gaunkars of the first vangodd namely Mendonca, Viegas, Martins, Luis, Gomes, Faria, Almedia, Falcao, and Abreu,” says gaunkar of Taleigao, Jose Maria Martins.
He adds that the president of the feast carries a brass plate and sickle especially made by the village Communidade. “While on their way back to the church the procession takes a halt at St Michael’s chapel in Taleigao where they recite prayers and offer the sheaves at the altar of the chapel.”
On August 22, fov (beaten rice) is prepared and distributed among all communidades of Taleigao. The distribution is done in a traditional manner with brass bands and colourfully decorated umbrellas and the gaunkars distribute it to their fellow villagers. On the next day after a small prayer the beaten rice is sent to the parish priest. “And on the fourth day – August 24– one representative from each vangodd is chosen to go to Old Goa to the Se Cathedral. The mass is offered by the people of Taleigao with people from neighbouring villages as far as Divar, Chorao, Carmabolim and others in attendance. From there, they proceed to the Bishops Palace, at Altinho. It doesn’t end here. A visit to the Raj Bhavan is a practice that had been followed, where the governor is also on the list of those the first harvest is offered or gifted to,” says Martins.
Here they prepare a speech mentioning the grievances faced by the people of Taleigao and want the Governor to initiate some action. Once this is done, the nine-members along with three committee members, head to the residence of the president of the feast, where a special lunch is prepared for them with delicacies like sannas, sorpotel and xacuti.
It is believed that the tradition is one of the oldest and was started during the Portuguese rule in Goa.
Bonderam at Divar
The famed Bonderam festival that takes place on the island of Divar is also associated with the harvest festival, albeit celebrated with grandeur – flags, floats and parades. During the festival, the sheaves of the first paddy crop are ceremoniously cut and brought to the church as a thanksgiving offering to God followed by the parade in the evenings. It is said that there would be frequent fights and disputes between residents of the wards of Sao Mathias and Piedade over property and land and the Portuguese introduced the flag system to demarcate clear boundaries. The villagers protested against this system by knocking down the flag; and to commemorate this protest the festival of Bonderam is celebrated.