Every year around the Month of March, the streets of Panjim come alive in a spectacle which in recent years surpasses even that of Carnival. From 5 – 6pm in the evening until the early hours of the next day, select streets in Panjim are blocked and for hours crowds of young and old, rich and poor, Hindu and Christian, gather and watch as the Shigmo parade winds through the crowded streets. Held during the full moon period which marks the beginning of Spring, this festival is Goa’s version of Holi, an ancient Hindu Festival.
Long before Christianity made itself a lasting presence of the shores of Goa, Hinduism was the major religion practiced by Goa’s people and even today two-thirds of Goans adhere to the Hindu faith. The Hindu pantheon is divided into three – Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer. While Brahma has taken a back seat, most followers of of Hinduism divide themselves into two main sects – Vaishnavites and Shaivites. Most temples in Goa are dedicated to Shiva, who is known by a variety of names such as Manguesh, Naguesh, and Saptakoteswara in his different incarnations. The other devotees among Goa’s Hindu community are Vaishnavites, who believe that Vishnu has appeared on Earth a total of nine times in the forms of a fish(Matsya), tortoise(Kurma), Boar(Varaha), man-lion(Narsimha), Giant(Vamana), Parsuraman(believed to be the creator of Goa), Rama, Krishna, and Buddha. Saraswati, Parvati, Ganesh, Hanuman, and Lakshmi are also important deities in the Hindu pantheon.
Shigmo, besides being an amazing form of entertainment, is also a cultural exhibition of Goa’s history from time immemorial upto the present day. The procession begins with the brass bands reminiscent of the Maratha conquerors, followed by a series of Kunbi Folk-Dances performed by village tribal women bedecked in gold and brightly-coloured sarees. Regional dances from the Northern and Southern talukas (counties) of Goa also find expression during Shigmo, as well as various acrobats and ‘fire-throwers‘ from Kerala.
Men marching with poles to the beat of drums, others dancing with decorated umbrellas, both sexes parading in elaborate costumes representing various deities; all can be seen during the Goan Shigmo Parade. The procession culminates in a line of illuminated floats atop which larger-than life mechanical figures represent important deities and some even re-enact their heroic deeds.
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[Fullbright Research Student]