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Shigmo-Holi: The Goan Way

Sanjeev V Sardesai

In the first part, we became aware of the reason for the Holi and Shigmo celebrations. In this article, let us travel to various villages of Goa and lay our eyes upon the extremely fascinating festivities held there during this period

Let us start from Sattari, Goa’s taluka to its north-west region. This is one of the most exciting place to be and holds a treasure of tangible and intangible heritage aspects, which have been passionately preserved by its populace.

The village of Zarme and Caranzol celebrate a very unique festival, on the full moon day, known as Chorotsav, which literally translates to ‘Festival of Robbers’. This is attended by hundreds of people from all over Goa. Here we can see an enactment of a story of repentance by the villagers, who believe that their village ancestry had committed a crime by beheading four and torturing to death the other members of their family, due to a ‘misconception of them being robbers (‘chors’)’.

This event starts at about 8 p.m. on the full moon night of Phalgun month in front of the Sri Sateri Kelbai Temple at Zarme. This village is about six-seven kilometres from Valpoi Town. The story goes that there were many robberies taking place in Zarme and one day a villager spotted these four men and their families who were trying to sell a very expensive diamond. Mistaking them for thieves, the four innocents were beheaded, their two young sons were killed on a spike and their female members tortured and killed. After the aged parents of those killed arrived in search of their children and got to know of their ill-fated end, they clarified the innocence of their children and cursed the village. From then on, the repenting villagers enact this event and carry out a proper funeral ritual, with the entire village participating through contribution of food grains.

The most awaited moment is when a cubicle created with curtains is moved apart to show four devotees buried with only their heads above the ground, and four devotees with their heads buried underground and the torsos visible over the ground. The curtains are kept open till the enacting parents pay their respects to their childre. After this the curtains are closed. This entire event of opening takes place only for about 15-20 minutes and there is a huge exodus of spectators to see this. The enacting of this event creates a visible eerie feeling among all present. However the actual event carries on till the morning of the next day.

Tambdi Surla also witnesses an interesting event. Goan environmentalist and activist Rajendra Kerkar, writes that ‘at the hamlet of Taide, in the famous Tambdi Surla Village, the people celebrate the ‘Vagh-Khell’. This festivity is dedicated to the tiger, who ruled the base of the Sahayadri Ranges, towards Goa, to appease him for protection’. He further states that ‘in the nearby Surla Village of Dharbandora Taluka, twelve hamlets around Taide revering Devi Gajalaxmi, gather on the sixth day after full moon at Brahmanimaya Temple and proceed to a sacred place called as ‘Fulafator’ (stone of flowers) to pay obeisance’.

After this ritual, they return to the beats of ghumats and kasale and perform the folk art cum drama by locals, called as ‘ranmalle’, which depicts the story of Ramayan. This programme goes into the early hours of the seventh day of Shigmo. At this early hour, a man enters with a wooden mask representing a tiger or ‘vaghro’. This is believed to strengthen a healthy bond between man and tiger.

A visit to the temple of Brahmanimaya in Taide will hold you in awe with respect to the art work and depicting of war-like and erotic figurines sculpted on it.

The ‘gade’ (selected devotees) festival also holds almost everyone in awe. This event is held mostly at night in pitch dark conditions. No attendee is allowed to photograph, carry a mobile, light a cigarette/ bidi or carry any type of source of light.

Though my queries have not brought forth any acceptable logic for hosting these festivities, one must sincerely appreciate the passion, limited reasoning and devotion with which these ‘gade’ festivities are hoisted and held. In Sal, 64 ‘gades’ assemble near the Sri Mahadev Temple and once in a trance, they run all over the hills chasing a light surmised to be shown by the local ‘guiding spirits’. This chase goes on for three nights. And the most interesting part is that these ‘gades’ are followed by hundreds of youth who run the entire hill along with them. Surprisingly, though these ‘gades’ run on surfaces which are rough, stony, and fraught with spiny shrubs, none of them show any mark of hurt after these three days of vigorous running in pitch darkness. Another important aspect of this ‘Salaantle Gade’, is that sometimes the spirits are said to hide one or more ‘gades’, and return them after a few days.

The Amona and Kudne Gades have an older ritual. At Piligao, the ‘rakhneche gades’ are young children between the ages of four to 12 years. This event was supposedly enacted originally by the small children of cowherds, who took their cattle to graze on hillsides. Today, it has been carried down the line to suit contemporary times. However, on the same night the ‘vhadle gades’ or the elder ‘gades’ ritual starts. This ends the next morning near the Sri Shantadurga Temple of Piligao. Hundreds of people gather to watch at about 10 a.m. Photography is strictly not allowed, for the last couple of years.

In the next article, let us travel to South Goa to see other events held there!

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