Holi : Shigmo in Goa

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The energetic people of Goa do not lag behind the rest of the country when it comes to Holi celebrations. The festival of spring is called Shigmo in Goa. The festival is celebrated mostly by the masses following all religious traditions. As expected from the Goans, the festival is accompanied with fanfare. Performance on drumbeats and epic enactment of mythology are religiously followed. Vivid and vibrant colours of gulal and neel are abundantly used. Shigmotav is highlighted with performances of troupes in the form of parades and cultural dramas. At dusk, huge effigies are taken in processions and prizes given away.

Shigmo is a festival of farewell to winter and welcome to spring celebrated with colour, songs and dances to the beat of drums. Float parades depicting various scenes of mythology are also held.

The Panaji Shigmotsav Samiti also organizes a parade in Panaji. Besides, numerous temple around Goa also make special arrangements for Holi celebrations. Of interest is the celebrations at Panaji, Mapusa, Vasco Da Gama and Margao.

Shigmo in Goa is esentially a festival of the masses. It is so all over India, though it is celebrated under different names and in different ways in various parts of the country.

It is the festival of farewell to winter celebrated on the full moon day in the month of Phalguna(March), the last month of the Hindu calendar.

In Goa, which has always been land of temples, shigmo begins with Naman or collective obeisance of villagers from 9th moon day to full-moon day. During all these days, they are to ‘shun’ non-veg. food and all intoxicants.

From the 11th Moon day to the 15th moon day, various village groups clad in their most colorful dresses set out with festive mood with multi-colored cloths, torans, flags and column-like red spoted “Dwajas”, beating drums and blowing flutes to gather at the village temples, and dance in the temple court yard singing various folk songs to the beat of the drums.

On the 5th day comes the real day of re-joicing. It is called “Rang Panchami” – it is practiced differently at different places. The main function of the day, however, is the profuse use of ‘Gulal’ or red-powder. It’s a symbol of rejoicing, when people throw it on each other as a sign of full-hearted greeting.

Goa’s Shigmo News (PTI)
Velip tribals, an ancient Goan tribe, have ushered in their unique ‘Shigmo’ festivities during which their rich traditions fiercely guarded against modernity comes alive.

Walking barefoot for 30 kms visiting seven to eight villages, playing traditional dances and tunes in front of almost every household, burning holika (pyre), this village, goes back to its earlier glorious past when the villagers made best out of the festivities.

“We are rarest of Goan villages who have maintained our ancestral traditions alive… we still practice, the rudimentary system which was put in place centuries ago,” Soiru Velip, a village youth, journalist in local Konkani daily `Sunaparant’, told PTI.

As this correspondent arrived in the village on Wednesday, the entire population was busy with the five day-long celebrations that began with the sunrise on Tuesday, for them, the tenth day of Falgun month.

A tarred road stretch, few houses with cement and youths in jeans pants, are the only signs of modernisation in this tribal hamlet of 85 houses. “We don’t have a single bar (liquor outlet) in our village,” Soiru adds attempting to detach his village from Goa’s popular image as liquor destination.

Shree Durgadevi Mandir, a temple, tucked at the centre, is the hub of activities for all the five days. “The group of villagers comprising of 80 to 100 people will now leave for their two-day journey to return only on Friday,” Soiru explains showing a group, colourfully dressed and ready for their journey, bare foot.

“They will walk, barefooted, upto 30 kms radius in thick forest barefoot playing in almost 8 to 10 nearby villages. They will perform traditional folk forms like tonyamel, chaurang and Aarati at almost all the houses in those villages and return tomorrow,” Sudhakar Gaonkar, a village youth, who is employed with the State Government’s public works department said.

The village, still has preserved their ancestral system of panchayati raj with village head “Budhwant” (in Konkani it means intelligent) deciding most of the disputes.

“Guru is a head to look after Shigmo festivities, while religious head is Velip.” There are many elderly people who still have not wore sandal or shoes and have walked barefoot throughout their life. Even while travelling to the capital city of Panaji, they are reluctant for footwear.

Sporting half pants or lungi, the group is ready to leave the village while the rest of the people, back home, will be engaged to celebrate the Holi and other rituals, to begin from Friday onwards. Situated on the banks of Kushavati river, Gokuldem village, has kept all attempts to disturb their traditions abbey.

The village don’t have plush hotel but a tiny three table restaurant is the best place for the villagers to get together and talk about happenings in Panaji or Delhi over a cup of tea.

Mud houses with cowdung laced floors, thatched roofs, elderly women wearing traditional detli (a style of wearing saree) depicts real image of ancestral Goa in the Gokuldem village.

“In the years to come, the mud houses will be thing of past. Many people now prefer cemented houses.. the phenomenon has set in our village and they are moving into better shelters,” Dattaram Gaonkar, another youth, a small time civil contractor, explained.

Electricity has reached this population who enjoys most of the Government benefit of being tribals.

“On Friday, they will return back only to kick-start the Shigmo celebrations… They will take a dip in the holy Kushavati river…. The actual Shigmo festivities will start then,” Soiru explained.

While the village youths have managed to carve a niche for themselves in various professions including journalism, they take time from their busy schedule to return back to their roots to celebrate Shigmo.

“Shigmo means worshipping nature… We are tribals and hence entirely dependent on mother nature,” says Soiru, who is the first journalist from the area. Most of the villagers are entirely dependent on farming as their profession.

Generation X may find other professions lucrative, but the village elders worry that their kids may take wrong path.

“We swear by our village deity… we respect budhvant, guru or velip… We know that education is helpful in living better life but, we hope, that education or lucrative opportunities would not take them away from their roots,” a village-elder said.

As the sun sets, entire village gathers at Maand, a central place which is located at the entrance of the village, where Shigmo activities happen.

It’s March and it’s spring time. The time is perfect to be colored, to renew love, and recharge your vitality, in sync with nature. And this is what Holi says! So, greet ’em all with blasting colors and loads of fun. Celebrate the true spirit of Spring with Holi. Holi Hai!

Happy Holi to all our readers

Goa Blog

One Comment

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    1. KJ on July 14th, 2007 at 6:47 pm

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