Shigmo's colourful celebrations have a dark side-gadotsav. A socio-religious custom, the enactment, often frightening, seeks to call on and appeases the spirits, both, good and bad.
Hindus in rural Goa often harbour a strong belief in ghosts and holy spirits. Often, the holy spirits are regarded as guardians of villages, protecting against other spirits and natural calamities.While gadotsav is celebrated in many parts of the state, the villages of Marcela and Savoi Verem in Ponda taluka and Bordem, Sal, Cudnem and Karapur in Bicholim taluka are noted for this custom. The most popular, though, is at the village of Pilgao, 3km from Bicholim town.
"Shiva is considered the lord of death and of crematoriums. All spirits are believed to be under His control. Which is why the annual ceremony of gadotsav is held to appease both God and spirits," says Mahesh Raul from Khalchwada-Sal in Bicholim. Gadotsav, in Sal, is observed at night, as it is in Cudnem too, while in Pilgao and Karapur it is held during the day.
Rohidas Pal, member of the Mahamaya temple committee of Bordem says, "Gadotsav is observed at midnight for just one day of Shigmo in our village. It is a tradition being followed since aeons. The dhol (large traditional drum) and the recitation of the naman (prayer) are integral parts of the performance."
In Cudnem, gadotsav is performed over three days ending March 26. The gaddes-devotees of the local deity who take a vow to carry out the tradition if their wishes are met-dress in white dhotis and at midnight run towards the village crematorium. As no electricity or any other form of lighting is allowed during the gadotsav, the village is plunged into darkness, as the gaddes come back carrying bones and what not from last rites' performed.
In Pilgao, children from the village take part in the gadotsav in the morning, performing the ritualistic dance before the temple of the goddess Sateri. On March 27, the elders of the village, dressed in traditional attire, assemble in front of the Shantadurga temple. After invoking the deities, the gaddes run to the village crematorium, bringing back with them the material found left back from the funerals performed.
Shradhda Prabhugaonkar from Pilgao, a teacher by profession, says, "This is an age-old tradition followed by our villagers. Crowds flock to Pilgao to witness the gadotsav which is held every year post 2pm."
The gadotsav of Sal also attracts big crowds for the three nights ending March 29. People from across Goa and the Konkan belt flock to the Bicholim village to witness the night-time performances. The village has guardian spirits like Madyeshwar, Ghavanaleshwar, Jathareshwar and others. As soon as the spirits are invoked, a torch, believed to be lit by the spirits, draws the gaddes towards its light and the crematorium
Dilip Desai, a teacher from Sal, says, "The spirits are benevolent and wrathful. We strongly believe in their presence, and it is under their supervision that the gadotsav takes place." [TOI]