Ghodemodni is an important form of warrior folkdance performed during Shigmo in some villages of Sattari, Bicholim, Pernem and Dharbandora talukas in Goa, Dodamarg taluka in Maharashtra and Khanapur taluka in Karnataka.
It reflects the rich tradition of warfare inherited by the Maratha community that migrated from the Ghat region with horses, swords and better techniques of warfare.
Today, with battles no longer using horses or weapons such as swords, lances and bows and arrows, it is left to ghodemodni to bring the past back to life.
Cultural historian, the late Anant Dhume, had written, 'Ghodemodni has evolved from 'ghode mandani', meaning arrangement of horses for periodical exhibition of their training to evaluate fitness by the king.'
'The horses,' he explained, 'Were brought from Arabia, Persia and Afghanistan by Arab and Persian merchants via sea route to the Malabar coast and then to Goa. Villages like Naneli, Pali, Charavane, Ivre-Budruk, Ivre-Khurd, Golauli, Rive and Dongurli were an excellent amphitheatre for horse raids.'
Once every two years, Mundalgiryache Mol in Sattari taluka's Thane village, witnesses a spectacular ghodemodni performance, with 14 dancers decked in costumes that show them riding a horse each.
Fato Gaonkar, from Thane, says, "Once upon a time, the forested villages were inhabited by tribals, locally known as Meshe. They were assassinated by the Marathas who had migrated from the Ghat region, under the leadership of Kolgiro and Mundalgiro."
Today, ghodemodni is celebrated in the villages where the Marathas with the tradition of warfare settled.
In Goa, these include most villages in Sattari taluka; Sarvan, Bordem, Mulgao, Ladfe and Kharpal in Bicholim taluka; Hankhane, Ibrampur and Morjim in Pernem taluka; and Dharge in Dharbandora taluka.
In neighbouring Maharashtra it is observed in Sasoli, Virdi, Matne and Ambadgao; while in Karnataka it is celebrated in Parwad, Kankumbi and Degao in Khanapur taluka.
Rashmi Shetgaonkar from Morjim says, "Our ghodemodni is scheduled for April 2. Around 13-16 dancers will take part under the supervision of folk artiste Pandu Shetgaonkar who is 100 years old."
Elaborating further, she says the dancers will depict scenes of warfare as they dance to the sounds of the dhol and tasso. The procession will start at the Brahman shrine at Varchawada and proceed towards the Morjai temple.
A dispute among locals in Hankhane in Pernem taluka has stopped the celebration of ghodemodni and even shigmo for the last three years.
Back in Sattari taluka, ghodemodni in Poriem exhibits the communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims.
As it proceeds towards Sanquelim town, and before entering it, the Poriem ghodemodni troupe visits the durgah of Babar Pir, a pious Muslim saint. There the assembled Muslim community welcomes the troupe.
The procession then travels to the Maruti temple in Sanquelim where the troupe from Gavthan also lands up and both enact battle scenes to the delight of spectators.
The construction of the Anjunem dam led to the submergence of Anjunem, Gulle, Ponsuli and Kelavade villages in Sattari. While residents of three villages were rehabilitated at Morlem, those of the fourth were settled in Keri. So while, in the past, 11 horses would assemble at Baravansh Mol in the now-submerged Gulle, today, this tradition is observed in the new colony of Morlem.
And thus through ghodemodni the memory of warfare is kept alive during Shigmo. [TOI]