The Village of Maulingam
In the North-East corner of the state of Goa, on the border between Bicholim and Sattari, lies the small hamlet of Maulingam, where most of the traditional ways of the past are alive in the present. The villagers of Maulingam are among the true ‘sons of the soil’ in the interior of Goa, as can be seen by their sun- wrinkled faces etched with character and the sweat of a thousand days’ toil.
Nearly 15 kilometres East of the main taluka centre of Bicholim, the small hamlet known as Maulingam is located just off the main road leading from Bicholim proper to the city of Valpoi in Sattari talukas. Roughly 250 people belonging to the Goan Hindu Dhangar community (which herd buffalo and cows) live here in extended families in nearly 50 houses. The land surrounding this village is mostly barren and dry, with a few scattered shrubs and patches of trees. Much of the land belonged to their forefathers, but without proper irrigation facilities, it is hardly suitable even for cattle grazing.
Maulingam is one of the most ancient villages of the New Conquests and has been virtually untouched by the Portuguese influence, resembling more closely the way of life of the neighboring state of Maharashtra. The Konkani dialect influenced by Marathi is the language of the community, and Marathi is also the only medium of instruction as serious study of English begins only in the 5th standard. Most members of the community as a consequence do not know how to speak English at all, unlike Goa’s urban residents where English fluency is expected among the upper-class residents. The older generation in Maulingam is mostly illiterate and working as field hands and buffalo-tenders, while the younger generation educates itself until the 5th to 8th standard before seeking employment in traditional and non-traditional occupations in the transport and public services industries.
The road leading to Maulingam Village is dirt and the entire landscape is covered with an earthly red hue owing to the type of soil found in the area. Bullock carts still make weekly trips into the village to sell produce such as flour, oil, pulses, vegetables and other goods which are not available from neighboring communities and must be brought from more distant areas. One or two members of the village work for a transport business and often utilise these small trucks for the transport needs of the entire village, the majority of whom have no transportation of their own except bicycles. The village community uses a common water supply drawn from an open well located at the entrance to the village, and neither running water nor proper sanitation facilities are part of the village infrastructure. Electricity has been brought to the village following liberation, though as in the rest of Goa, brown-outs, characterised by short periods during which time the electrical energy flow ceases, are a common occurrence.
In conclusion, the village of Maulingam on the borders of Bicholim and Sattari taluka offers insights into the relatively minor impact of the Portuguese influence in the far regions of the New Conquests. The way of life, eating habits, traditional dress, marriage customs, language, and occupations of Maulingam have been little altered by the Portuguese and the larger evolution of human history in general.
Though following liberation, some development occurred in the region such as electrification of the village, the village is still seriously lacking in both health, sanitation, and educational infrastructure. Traditional occupations, religious rituals, and even modes of transport are still en vogue among the villagers of Maulingam who have been comparatively unaffected by the influence of the Portuguese.
Their culture and ways of life fall completely outside the traditional characteristics of ‘Goan cultural identity’, yet this community with its cultural traditions has resided in the region of Goa long before the advent of the Portuguese. Maulingam, it could be said therefore, embodies the heart of the Goan interior.
Women occupy the roles of mother, housewife , and field-hand. Those who study do so only briefly as they are not expected to work far from the home nor in the large cities of urban Goa. They study until the 4th standard usually, whereupon they help their mother perform duties of the household. The marriage age for girls is usually between the ages of 18 and 20 and for boys between the ages of 20 and 22. They try to negotiate marital alliances with similar neighboring communities so as to diversify the gene pool of the village and prevent birth defects which can result in the offspring of relatives.
Relaxing and discussing matters of local concern on the front verandas of neighbors houses is the most relished leisure-time activity among both men and women alike. Men and women move in separate social circles and have different locations where they meet to exchange words.
The men tend to congregate at the local bar near the entrance of the village or under a large tree, while women will gather at the side of the well or on the front porch of a neighbor’s house with their children. The most anticipated religio-social event is the Shirgao zartra, which the community of Maulingam has attended since the Zatra’s inception.