Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Shravan & the unique festivals of Goa

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The Shravan month as per the Hindu calendar is a auspicious month and full of festivals around India. The climate is considered to be just perfect across the peninsula; there is a renewed energy & freshness in the nature around after the heavy rains of July. The fields are ready with their offering of the freshest of vegetables and produce, probably that’s why we have onam, rakshabandhan, narli poornima and various other harvest festivals around India.

In Goa these festivals are more on a micro level. Every village has a different version of festivals, feasts & jatras happening. These festivals are a treat as the whole village gets together in celebrations. Vasco celebrates the famous Saptah Jatra, we have Saligao chapel’s feast which is famous around Goa for the earthen ware which is at display in the various make shift shops, bonderas celebrated in Divar island, Konsachem fest (harvest festival) celebrated in the various villages particularly uniquely in Taligao.

The enchanting world of brass bands, ceremonial umbrellas, canon fire, high mass and sumptuous banquets will come alive as Taligao comunidade and it’s gauncars celebrate the annual 4 day harvest feast. This year, the Taligao gauncars take extra pride in the fact that they will be celebrating 500 years of the special privilege accorded to them to present the first corn to the governor of Goa. On the day of the feast 4 canons will be fired at 0830 sharp to mark the march & procession to the Church under the cover of ceremonial umbrellas and brass band. The procession will then proceed to a designated field where the priest will bless the new paddy and a senior person will cut the sheaves. This will be followed by high mass at St Michaels church. Later the blessed sheaves will be taken to Se Cathedral in Old Goa and later to the Archbishop in Altinho and then to the governor in Donapaula. This tradition is being still preserved and it is the 500th year that Taligao village got this right.

Bonderas is another 400 year old festival celebrated in Divar islands opposite Old Goa. The festival started as a flag festival to protest against the Portuguese rule, it is still celebrated with revelry as the villagers come together with floats from the different vaddo’s followed by music, dance and snacks served at the church square. The bonderam parade will kick start at 1500hrs from the Malar flag post and wend it’s way to the village with brass band and floats.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vasco Saptah - Goa's largest fair or jatra

There’s a carnival like atmosphere, with over 700 make shift stalls selling everything from food to kitchen ware to clothes to furniture. The prayers and devotional songs continue from the Damodar temple nestled in the front portion of the Joshi Residence. This ancestral home witnesses long lines of lakhs of pilgrims who come to seek the blessings of the divine.

The celebration dates back to 1899 when seeking to be saved from a plague that had gripped the port town, residence of Vasco traveled to Zambaulim in South Goa and brought back a coconut blessed at the Shri Damodar Temple. Constant prayers later the plague ended. Folklore holds. When the coconut was brought from Zambaulim, one Shreedhar Joshi was asked to perform the Puja. This tradition has continued for the past 112 years at the temple which is inside the Joshi residence in Vasco.

Incidentally the statue of Laord Damodar was installed only in 1970 in the temple, earlier only the coconut was worshiped. The Saptah starts with the anointed coconut from the Lord Damodar temple being ceremoniously taken in a procession to Khariawada where it is immersed. Back at the temple Prasad is given to devotees. After the distribution of Prasad a new coconut is anointed as bhajans are sung uninterrupted, for 24 hours.

Through the week long celebration there are various events. Groups called Pars bring in floats depicting various mythological characters and stories. Saptah is the celebration of the entire Vasco city and is a much awaited event among all Goans.