Ganpati (Ganesh Chaturthi)

Goa’s Most Colourful Event
Ganapatichi Chovoth

Nothing survived the vagaries of various reigns in Goa, as the Ganesh worship, which crept up Goa’s coast some time between the fourth and the fifth centuries. It spread particularly in the rice growing villages of Carambolim, Chorao, Navelim-Divar, Ela, Olaulim, Pomburpa, Sangolda, Siolim, Betalbatim and Cuelim.

The most significant festival of the Hindus of Goa is the Ganapati (also called Ganesh) festival, which has not only religion but also Goa’s art and culture embedded in it. Almost every Hindu Goan returns to his ancestral house in the village for the grand occasion from wherever he may be.

Prahlad Cascar depicts Hampi ruins hereWay before the festival arrives, Goa’s talented craftsmen, particularly in Morjim, Mandrem and Parxem in Pernem, are absorbed into the work of fashioning the various forms of the idol from clay. The idols are painted in a riot of vibrant colours to bring out each and every aspect of Ganesha’s divinity and traits.

Ganesh is the elephant-headed God of auspicious beginnings and the remover of obstacles. The story of the popular elephant-headed God is wellknown. The goddess Parvati, consort of Lord Shiva, was forbidden to bear him a son during his absence. But Parvati cunningly collected the clay-like grime from her body, mixed it with turmeric and oil, and created the form of a little boy, in whom she breathed life. One day while Parvati was bathing, the boy was keeping watch. Shiva arrived unannounced. When the boy refused him entry, Shiva cut off his head in a fit of fury. Parvati was terribly upset and urged her husband to fix a head onto the decapitated body. The first living creature Shiva’s guards came across was an elephant and that’s how Ganesh came to have his head.

ORIGIN: Ganesh is a popular deity of the West coast of India and its worship goes as far back as the Dravidian culture and even before. According to Dr Nandkumar Kamat, the cult reached Goa during the Gupta period between the fourth to the fifth centuries. The rice-growing villages of Cudnem, Loliem and Navelim-Divar, Carambolim, Chorao, Ela, Olaulim, Pomburpa, Sangolda, Siolim, Betalbatim and Cuelim are known to be places where the earliest Ganesha temples or idols were found.

In 1987, DR Nandkumar Kamat found a Gupta-period Ganesha idol at the Cudnem temple in Bicholim. Sometime later, along with Pandurang Phaldessai, he came across two more idols of the same deity dating back to the Badami Chalukya 587-727 AD period. The largest temple of Ganapati was raised in a typical dirgha-chaturastra Kadamba architectural style at Navelim in Divar.

Ganesh is very much a family festival in Goa, with sweets like neureos (sweet puffs) and laddoos (sweet balls) being prepared. A rich variety of seasonal fruits, flowers, vegetables, cereals and even specimens of toxic and poisonous plants go up to form the matolis beneath which the deity sits.

FUGDI: After having prepared the delicious preparations and served everyone, the women folk join in dancing the rhythmic fugdi with traditional chants in the evening. It’s great to watch girls, moms and even grandmas participating in the exuberant event. They visit the houses in the vaddo doing the same bedecked in their festival best.

Their wonderful act over, the men folk do the rounds with their tablas, cymbals and harmonium, singing the aratis. In recent times, one finds special pujas. Another novelty in the celebrations is the sarvajanik Ganapati , the puja of a rather large idol at a common place like the market, a chowk or even the police station.

CHITRAM: This year the brilliance of the decorations, however, was rather subdued due to the court order banning the use of decorative lights outside buildings. But the burst of crackers and gornals went on uninterrupted for the normal period of one-and-a-half day, and in some cases three to eleven days. There are whole vaddes in villages like Gudem in Siolim, Marcela and Raneacho Zunvo in Revora, where the festival lasts for five days. It’s not only the idol but they have several other figures called chitram with all sorts of mobile effects, decoration and music. It’s not only relatives, friends and acquaintances but a stream of total strangers from different places visits every house to see whose chitram are the best.

What begins with the installation puja by the bhatt (pujari) culminates into the uttar puja, with which the divinity of the deity is virtually ended. It is only a clay idol then, to be carried ceremoniously to be immersed in the waters of the nearest pond, tank, river or sea to the loud chanting of “Ganapati Bap’pa moria, fuddchea vorsa lovkar eia”. Unfortunately, the foreign tourists streaming into Goa miss the very colourful and highly visual event in the Goan calendar.

EXUBERANCE: It’s the exuberance, spontaneity and religious fervour of the majority community which is worth watching. It’s unlike the Carnival or Shigmo parades, the events which the government has monopolized through sponsorship. Art and culture are two important aspects of the annual event. It also provides an opportunity for several artists to present their talents before the people and get a word of appreciation in return.

Were it not for the rising cost of celebrations, one would wish that Ganapati visit us more often in the year than just once. The last celebration of the millennium, however, didn’t prove as exciting as it used to be earlier… because of the lack of lights due to the court’s order, rising costs and the influence and distraction of the television. Kids, who would once busy themselves making colourful decorations, before indulging in firing of the crackers, are now only busy putting up ready made ones brought from the market. One only hopes, that the majority community would not go in for ready made neureos too like a sizable section of the minority community do nowadays during Christmas.

Nancy Barreto D’Souza