Celebrating Chavath the Goan Way

By Vinayak Khedekar

The celebration of most loved Hindu festivals of Goa is Chavath which takes place at the family level and Shigmo is more on the community level. Goa celebrates Chavath with the greatest fanfare and an atmosphere of gaiety and festivity pervades every nook and corner.

The family members wherever they may be, proceed towards their ancestral houses in the villages. All the members of the family join in the various preparations like, cleaning the house using fresh cow dung, arranging the Makar, its decoration, collecting the natural items for the Matoli, as well as in the cuisine preparing auspicious sweets like Nevryo. They come and work together, worship together, eat together and enjoy decorations of the Matoli, fireworks, singing Aarti, making music on the Ghumat - shamell, Fugdi dance and so on. Incidentally, the sweet dish Nevryo is even important at Christmas for the Christian fold of the society.

Almost every Goan village has at least one artist, who is an expert in making clay idols of Lord Ganesh. They begin their work well in advance by bringing a special kind of clay and then making it suitable to produce the idols, which are made manually using moulds and finally painting them with attractive colours. Even during earlier time’s only natural colours where used, chemical colours were avoided. For each family, the size, even colour of the body of the idol was usually determined by tradition. The idol was draped in costumes according to different mythological legends. Of late, however, one finds some variations in the traditional costumes of the Lord Ganesh reflecting the current trends. Whatever the form of the idol, a small clay mouse, the vehicle of Lord Ganesh, is always seen near the idol.

The descriptions of Chavath reflected here were experienced by the researcher during the first half of the 20th century. In village houses, a portion known as Padvi at the main entrance and inside hall is called Vosri. This is a place for the installation of Ganpati. At the beginning this portion is painted using lime. Due to the absence of a table a temporary platform was erected either by using wooden planks or pieces of betel nut palm. The houses situated near the forest were compelled to use the sticks of Karanv or Hudo, even wooden logs and the idol was installed either facing the east or west.

Traditionally, a significant aspect of the Chavath is the Matoli; for which the frame of the bamboo or beetle nut palm was used; it was hung in front of Lord Ganesh. Bunches of cultivated and wild fruits are hung on this Matoli, all along with interspersed bunches of mango leaves. Convention is observed particularly in the villages that no thread, other than the local plant known as Kevni vaye is used to tie the fruits. The items like cucumbers, chibud, dudi, torand (papanus), nirphanas - bread fruit, etc, and bunches of local fruits like ambade, coconuts, shiptem (beetle nut), banana and wild fruit bunches like kanglam, phaglam, mattam, etc, are the traditional adornments of the Matoli. While plucking fruits, even ambya talle - care is taken that nothing should fall on the ground.

It is interesting to note that a family that is childless will take Aangwan – a vow to Ganesh that if their wish is fulfilled, they will tie the new born to the Matoli. The baby is tied by wrapping it in a piece of cloth for a short time.

On the occasion of Chavath, many people host musical programs like Bhajans and Sunvari singing at their homes. Family members who are well versed in the art of dance and music perform before the idol. All this gaiety makes Chavath a visual treat for the onlooker.