Lesser known cultural literature of Goa

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Sanjeev V Sardesai

Many a times in a conversation about the heritage and culture of Goa, especially among local people, a statement rings true time and again that ’99 per cent Goans don’t know 99 per cent of Goa’.

Not many are aware about the mind-boggling folk arts and heritage treasures of this land, which in turn allows outsiders, to weave a concocted and distorted image of Goa and Goans. This is tragically a fact, since our earlier, as well as our present generation have not cultivated the habit of observing our surroundings, tried to understand our culture, or taken time off to glance over the educative publications, by some of Goa’s renowned authors and researchers, on our ethnographic features, folk arts and folk culture of Goa.

When the entire populace from Goa are up in arms against anticipated damage to its fragile fabric of heritage, culture and in turn survival of its identity, we have stark cases, where some uneducated, picnicking families and youth, are openly destroying our priceless heritage, in the form of petroglyphs or rock carvings at Ponsaimol, on the banks of River Kushawati, in Sanguem Taluka. This priceless heritage has come down from 10,000-8,500 BC, and is celebrated by archaeologists and anthropologists of the world; yet the local people are totally in the dark about the importance of these rock carvings.

On November 29, 2020, Sunday, a Goan family with about five elders and many children were found to be cooking food, having lit a wood fire, right on top of these priceless rock carvings. Such acts besides erasing Goan history, displays a very impotent attitude of the public departments, which are paid through the public exchequer, to protect these monuments.

Though these sites are protected under the stringent rules and acts of the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology, Government of Goa, as displayed on boards at these sites, and attracting a `5000 fine with three months imprisonment, the authorised department/s are found to turn a deliberate Nelson’s Eye to these criminal activities. Such step-motherly treatment to such shameful acts, speaks volumes of our will to protect Goan heritage and passion to learn about Goan heritage and culture. If this casual attitude of responsible government authorities continues, in the days to come, then we can safely assume that this heritage wealth of Goa will only be visible on pages of publications.

Luminaries such as Francisco Luis Gomes, Luis de Menezes Braganza, Anant Dhume, PP Shirodkar, Shankar Mhamai, Maria Aurora Couto, Vinayak Khedekar, Pandurang Phaldesai, Nandkumar Kamat, Prajal Sakhardande, and many other researchers in the field of history and heritage have documented many aspects of Goan heritage in their various publications. The pages of these books and the photographs therein, astound all those that are fortunate to lay their eyes on these jewels of Goan literature.

The journey into our rich past, which makes us proud Goans, lies in understanding the authentic culture of this land. For this, let us peruse an authority in this field, Vinayak Khedekar, who previously held the post as the member secretary of the Kala Academy, Goa for almost two decades. Today this gentleman has many publications on the folk arts and culture of Goa. The titles of some of his books, available in the bookshop of the Krishnadas Shama Central Library at EDC Patto, are ‘Lok Sarita’ (1993), ‘Goa Kulmi’ (2004), ‘Eco-Culture Goa Paradigm’, and ‘Goa – Land, Life and Legacy’ (2012).

‘Lok Sarita’ addresses the lifestyles of the Goan diaspora within its land. A topic which one finds in this publication deals with the caste hierarchy within the Goan society. This topic offers a stark picture of the local scenario, in an extremely studied manner. The concept of self administration through gaunkaris and communidades, which make Goa stand apart from other states of this nation are explained in detail. The other topics on this book address the local herbal medicines, folk festivals and dances, the deities revered in various parts of Goa, local and folk music, and even games played here.

‘Goa Kulmi’ explains the lifestyles of the ethnic tribes, whom he titles as the “cultural protectors of nature”. Goa has many tribes that have settled in the hilly and hinterland terrains of Goa along the base of the mighty Sahayadri ranges, and even along its hilly slopes. The knowledge, among the kulmi-velip-gawda tribes, of the natural wealth on the hilly slopes, is literally a dialogue with Mother Nature. In a modern world, where health has become one of the prime areas of monetary tension, these tribesmen cure almost all their maladies through herbs, leaves, roots from trees, shrubs, and creepers that grow abundantly on these ranges.

In this book. he enlightens the readers about the Kulmi community, the deities revered by them, the festivities celebrated and the accompanying musical instruments and songs. The knowledge about these ethnic tribes is an important aspect of identifying ourselves as “a Goan”.

The books ‘Eco-culture – Goa Paradigm’ and his latest book ‘Goa – Land, Life and Legacy’ are a must-keep in every Goan home. Every educational institution must prioritise educating the students about the value of our land, as inherited from our wise ancestors. This in turn will increase their bond with Goa, to preserve, protect and promote its richness.

Reading about the land, especially in these publications by Khedekar, will throw up some amazing facts of this land, previously unknown! A beautiful adage by Michael Crichton, mentioned by Edward D’Lima in his latest book ‘Tales of Socorro’ sums up our present state. It states and I quote: ‘If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree”.