Any Goan Hindu will relate to the two ‘Saal’s’ in Goa: one at Comba, Margao and the other one at Vasco. But very few are aware of the third ‘saal’ that is situated at Varca.
‘Saal’ in Goa is a very common term used for a space of a house that is converted into a house temple. One such ‘saal’ was build in Varca in 1978. Since its inception, every year, this saal hosts a celebration of the Dindi and a year later in 1979 the ‘saptah’ was also initiated here.
The saal at Varca has an interesting history. An active devotee Yogesh Sambari says, “At Varca, Krishna Chari had a garage with a picture of Lord Krishna. Various Hindu families of Varca, like Chari, Sambari, Bandodkar, Kamat would go to sing bhajan at this garage. This tradition went on for years, until one day, my grandfather, Raghuvir Sambari suggested that they shift the location for bhajan to the passage of his house which was spacious enough for the purpose. This is how Lord Krishna’s picture was then shifted to the Sambari house in 1932.”
As the years rolled on, the devotees decided to pray to Lord Dambab, in whom the Madgaokars are known to have deep faith. “The devotees then also placed the picture of Lord Dambab and continued praying,” says Yogesh. Adding to the information, another devotee Amar Sambari says that the idol of Lord Dambab was established in 1978. “On December 24, 1978, the devotees established the idol of Lord Dambab. Since then this is a ‘Damodar saal’. Hence, there are three Damodar saals in Goa – Margao, Vasco and Varca. But even after its existence for several decades, people are unaware of the saal at Varca.”
Saal at Varca celebrates both, Dindi (originally celebrated at Margao) and Saptah (originally celebrated at Vasco). Amar says: “In 1932, when the deity images were shifted to this saal, people had a celebration of ‘Kari bhajan’ which takes place immediately after Ganesh Chaturthi. In 1978, the idol was established, hence, to mark the day, a celebration of three days is held on every third Saturday of December. If the dates clash with Christmas we have our foundation day on the second Saturday of December. In 1979, the devotees and associates had casually decided to celebrate Saptah on every first Saturday of the Hindu month of Shravan.”
Earlier, the foundation day was celebrated by organising dramas and orchestras along with bhajans. However, now due to space constraints dramas do not take place here. Another devotee Damodar Chari says: “Celebrations are held from Saturday through Monday. On Saturday, we have a palkhi procession starting from the border of Varca to the saal. The next consecutive days, there are bhajans sung by people and devotees.”
While the Saptah is held for 24 hours at Varca, the bhajans are continuously sung from at 12 noon on Saturday and continues till noontime, Sunday. The devotees and core associates of the saal have preserved the old pictures of the founder members and the original picture of Lord Krishna.
Over the years, the number of devotees of Varca saal has increased. Despite the fact that Varca has a predominant Christian community, people support the saal. “They too cooperate with us and participate in our celebrations,” says Yogesh.
Since the house is under the ownership of Nilesh Sambari, the Dambabache saal is open only on Mondays. Yogesh says: “Since it is attached to the house, we only keep it open on Mondays, when the priest is present.”
As the Saptah approaches, the devotees of Dambab invite people to visit the saal. Yogesh says: “People do not even know that it exists. Like every year, we will sing bhajans for 24 hours at Saptah.”
(Saptah will commence on Saturday, August 6, 2016 at noon and continue till Sunday, August 7, 2016, noon at Varca Dambabache Saal.)
SACHI NAIK | [NT]