This November, I discovered a totally different side to Goa. Not many know that Goa has a sizeable Marathi population and they celebrate their festivals with aplomb and in style. I got the opportunity to attend one such festival. The boat festival celebrated as Tripurari Poornima is one of its kind festival close to the heart of Goans. Its North Indian counterpart is called Dev Deepawali. But the rituals and celebrations are as similar as Bebinca and Gulab Jamun.
Tens of boats were lined up at the temple campus before their owners decided it is time to carry them to the lake for the final grand ceremony. These boats were lovingly crafted by the artisans from all corners of Goa for the final grand rituals. All roads led to the nondescript Vithalapur in Sankhali which came alive with festive fervor. It is an hour drive away from Panaji. The designs on the boats were unique and quirky.
My favourite were: A weird looking ‘ugly duckling’, a new age monster and a dragon threatening to spew fire. The largest boat however stole all the thunder. It depicted the tough life of the fishermen of Goa. Life size human figures flanked either sides of the boat and one stood above captaining the boat. Most of such boats were made up of local materials such as coconut shells, palm, paper, wood, thermocol etc.
All of a sudden my attention was won by a Marathi music concert going on nearby. A fan of all things Marathi, I couldn’t help but run towards the venue to catch local ‘lavani’ songs. I am a huge lavani fan. I thought these were limited to Maharashtra but I was proven pleasantly wrong. I stood there enjoying one song after another, enjoying the camaraderie and rapport of the performers, so characteristic of Maharashtrians. I was overjoyed like thousands other when they played the famous lavani chartbuster, ‘Mala jau Dya Na Ghari, Ata Vajle te bara!’ (Let me go home, it’s midnight!). Sadly for me, there was no lavani dance, just the songs.
Next, a food stall nearby attracted my attention in no time. I ran again in search of vada pao and samosa pao. I got both and like an overjoyed kid, filled my face with it. More than I should have. The one thing I miss the most after having shifted to Ghaziabad from Navi Mumbai is the Maharashtrian food and culture (festivals/people/language). The other journalists and the guide with me were Marathis speaking and I spoke in Marathi with them for the 3 days I was in Goa. It was my way of switching on my Marathi soul once again; funnily in Goa.
This was my 9th trip to Goa and for the first time it was not from Mumbai. When I used to travel from Mumbai, I didn’t notice the Marathi presence; perhaps because I was so used to all things Marathi that I lost all objectivity and didn’t notice the similarity between Goa and Maharashtra. Or perhaps because my stay in the last 8 trips was almost always limited to the touristy spots! Never mind, I am determined to spend my next Goa vacation off the touristy trail.
After having my Marathi fill (and grinning foolishly from ear to ear about it!), I along with other bloggers and journalists veered off to the main venue where all the boats were waiting for us, calmly floating in the pond. We passed many Maharashtrian style homes. The locals had displayed their own versions of small boats outside the main gates of their house. Rangolis and Kandeels (lamps) added to the home décor.
Diwali in 2016 fell on 30th October and there I was celebrating Diwali like festival all over again on 14th November. Saree (worn in Maharashtrian style) clad women sat in their lawns scented with customary ‘Tulsi’ planted prestigiously in the middle. Tulsi aka basil has medicinal properties and is much revered by Hindus across India. The venue was filled with people, most of them locals along with few tourists and international media. Within few minutes, the palanquin (palki) procession of Vithal Rakhumai pierced the crowd, stealing all the limelight.
We settled at a pedestal reserved for media and watched the intriguing proceedings unfold. The looming presence of a benevolent Supermoon made it all the more delightful. Supermoon occurs when the proximity of Earth to Moon is the least. This makes the Supermoon the brightest and largest. The next such moon will appear in 2034. A Ravanasque effigy stood in the middle of the pond, slightly away from the congregation of boats. A drama of good versus bad ensued on a boat and the effigy was burnt. It triggered a series of fireworks up in the sky. This gave the festival a touch of North Indian Dussehra. We looked at the massive crowd and left before everyone started to leave. This saved us from traffic chaos.
Enriching experiences like these unfold in the unknown corners of Goa and India all the time, away from the tourists who are focused on the tested and tried. You know who is at a loss here!
When: This festival happens during Karthik Poornima. It occurs 15 days after Deepawali, on the full moon.
Where to stay: Hotel Miramar, Panaji. Walking distance from the beach, it is a no nonsense hotel with sprawling lawns, a swimming pool and room in cottage style buildings. The rooms are air-conditioned, basic and neat. It has a restaurant and a bakery nearby.
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