At the start of the celebrations, people assemble at the mand and the ceremonial lamp is lit by the mandkari. The musical instruments are also honoured with flowers. The mel begins the performance with the invocation to the mandaguru and the main deity and then subordinate deities of the village. This invocation is known as naman. The naman is an integral part of the festival, wherein a person holds the kasale and the rest move around in a circle singing traditional songs of Shigmo. These songs are invocations to various gods and deities, who protect the boundaries of the village. It is an invitation to them to join in the Shigmo celebrations. After the naman, the mel proceeds in a procession to the temple of the main deity, where it culminates.
Next, the mel goes through the village from house to house via a traditional fixed route. Sometimes the route changes, usually due to the addition of new houses. The dancers present a variety of folk songs depicting Hindu mythological stories, social aspects and Mother Nature. They also perform in the neighbouring villages. On a particular day, many mel from nearby villages assemble at one temple. The dances performed are the same all over Goa, like talgadi, tonyammel, goff, chowrang, jot, sabrat, ghodemodni, romat, samayi, morulo, talo, etc. Both Hindus as well as the Christians join in the taalgadi dance. Taal means rhythm and gadi means a man.
Similarly, Shigmo provides an opportunity to bring across divergent facets of Goan folk art. Certain villages in Goa have developed distinct forms of folk dance. Ghode Modni of Bicholim, depicts the expedition of the Ranes against the Portuguese. The rombat brings back memories of the good old days when every village was a 'republic'. Rombats are processions which go from one village to the outskirts of the neighbouring village, where the two processions meet and exchange greetings and collectively pray for the welfare of both villages.
Tonya mel is found everywhere in Goa. The goff is another dance form in which the dancers weave and unweave silken ropes, forming colourful patterns. The coloured ropes are tied at a point on the top of a pole and intricate steps are executed by the dancers to get the desired effect from the coloured ropes. In the samayi dance, lit brass lamps are balanced on the head and are carried gracefully throughout the dance. The morulo dance depicts the movements of a peacock. Ranamale is a dance drama based on the Ramayana and is performed in Sattari.
On the last day of Shigmo, there is a gathering at the mand to bid adieu to the deities. The boundaries of the villages are protected either by sacrificing a cockerel or by offering rice or coconut to the deities.
The Shigmo festival culminates in Holi as in the other parts of the country. On this occasion, an areca palm is cut and decorated with mango leaves and tropical flowers. Sometimes people use branches of different trees as substitute for the areca palm. ,The areca palm or branch is erected in the courtyard of the temple or on a mand, a sacred spot decorated with flowers and leaves before the performance. An oil lamp is lit on the mand after erecting the Holi, and a puja is performed. People then sing and dance around to the beat of the dhol, tasha and jaghant etc. The performance goes on well into the night.
Before Liberation, Shigmo celebrations were restricted to villages. All that the cities got to witness were the trucks or bullock carts with people playing loud festive music on the dhol; tasha etc. The revellers were decked in gulal and indigo. Young boys would go around the city with their faces colourfully decorated with gulal and indigo; or sometimes even black soot. They also wore face masks. Some would carry a tin and go from house to house collecting money, while singing this song:
Xeboiche bhavle tharikadde phavle, xeboi
Madhavoilo kirr xepdi halaita
Savaixinno bailo dolle mhotta
Khatkhut Karatha kai pette chavi khadta kai
Amkam dudu ditha gai
Channiechea pilla tuka
Tin go patt
Ravanan Sitak iela
The author is a librarian at the State Central Library, Panjim
By Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues
March 11, 2007
Posted By : Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues, Goa, India on 15/03/2007