Customs, superstitions and traditions in Saligao – II

[Editor's Note: This essay has been compiled by Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas from old documents, magazine cuttings, jubilee souvenirs, and myriad other sources. If you recognize an unacknowledged source, do let us know and we will rectify the lapse.] 

 Engagements and marriages are also tied down by the traditions in Goa and surrounded by a cluster of quaint rites and observances. A week before any wedding there is bustle all around in preparation for the Buim Jevon or Bikareanchem Jevon (Beggars’ Lunch) and so called, because all the poor as well as the rich who are invited for it are made to sit on the floor on a mat (souém) and eat.  The menu consists of rice, jaggery, sweet (onn) a mixture of gram and plantain vegetable, puris made of rice or wheat flour and an aromatic curry of all types of spices washed down by a glass of feni (the local brew).  Dessert is bananas, mangoes or jack-fruits.

Elaborate ceremony and protocol precedes the meal. A few days before, an invitation is issued to relatives and neighbours to help in husking the paddy, and everyone who lends a hand is rewarded with pieces of coconut and jaggery. After an interval of two days they are again called to grind the rice, and for their labour are given slices of manos a sweet made out of jaggery, rice and coconut.  The third invitation is to help in grinding the spices for the curry, after which they are treated to pancakes prepared from flour and powdered spices. On the eve of the dinner, the floor is covered with many new bamboo mats and the neighbours all join in to make voddé or puris all night long. While these preparations are on there is constant singing of zottis (love songs).

Here are some examples of zottis sung in Konkani in the Bardez district of Goa; in other districts such as Salcette and Ilhas these may vary slightly. This song is sung while washing the rice, carried in vol’leo (bamboo baskets) to the well. The rice will be the main item served at the wedding and the song invokes God’s blessings on it.  

Santa khursache kurven

Re-Viva nivar amkam Deva

Vora tandul duivta

Besanv ghal ga Saiba.


(By the sign of the Holy Cross

We hail you God

To come bless the rice)

Other zottis

Other ‘Zotis’(1) Derantulo AmboSola boddoiloloAni anvddeamnim vaddoilolo

Novro bab mu re amcho.

The mango tree at the doorIs grown for fruit and pickleAnd reared with loving careIs our dear bridegroom…)
(2) Goeam veche vatterLosniche ga bandeAni vhoddle zalai khandeVhokle dogui bhav gô tuje. (On the way to the City of GoaThere are garlic beds galoreAnd branches have grown bigThey are your brothers by your side…)
(3) Dali bhor tantiamKombien keleaim kol’lamAni kazar tum zatochVhoklê dollear ghenakai mol’lam. (The floor mat is full of eggsThe hen left them in shells…After you get married…Do not cover your eyes, bride, with plaited palm fronds..)
(4) Amgele mu magdarantChoddon aileaim bekkamAni chodd oxem kelearMexun ditolim tujer chabkam. (On our house’s rear sideLittle frogs have come upAnd if you do not behave properlyI will whip you with lashes.)
(5) Kounalo baddel bhurgoMan’sher goroitaloAni tinter pen ghevunn… orasanv boroitalo. (Some hired boy was seenAngling at the sluice-gateAnd taking up ink-pot and penBridegroom was writing his prayers.)
(6) Sat Somdir bhairuRannien uddoilem povnnemAni amger asa musovnnemNovrea sanglem tuka konnem. (The Queen has cast a sovereignAway beyond the seven seasThat we have a bird in the house …Who told you, Oh, bridg-groom?)
(7) Ghora velo dudiDova votan pikloAni rebek vazounk shiklo… bab re amcho (The pumpkin on the rooftopRipened with dew and sunshineAnd our … learnt violinThe hard way …)
(8) Mapxeam thavn ekuKaddun haddlem pesuAni quadrad taji goddiMaim besanv tuka dita vhokle

Hat go tuje zoddi.

(I bought a dress-pieceFrom the stores at MapusaIt is folded in squaresMother is giving your blessing

My dear bride, please join your hand for it.)

(9) Nal’lu mu solunNal’lacho kaddlo kattioAni Dev borem korem mhonnunkTonddak ailo batho. (After dehusking the coconutWe cleared away the huskAnd your mouth has developed mildewTo say a thank you.)
10) Vattê-velo posro re, mogaSodanch nagovnnechoAni sat angorunecho re baba… mu re amcho (The shop at the wayside, love,Is always known for cheatingBut our bridegroom, darlingIs gifted after seven vows.)
11) Pavsa mu to podonShimpi uddhoilaliAni diamante uzvaddliBai … mu go amchi. (With the falling rainThe shells came to the surfaceAnd a diamond came to lightIn the form of our bride.)
12) Pavsu mu to poddumUdok gelem maganthAni shivutim roileaim bhagin… poilem shivutem mhaka. (With the rain falling awayThe water went into furrowsWe have grown flowers together as partnersThe first one for me.)
13) Tambddo dhovo ghoddoTankam firoitaloAni sotri-chepem ghevum… mavddeam miroitalo. (A white-red horseWas going around the m…And holding an umbrella and a hat… was preening at the in-laws’ house.
14) Paus mu to manddonMollbar aileaim kupamAni Pai tuzo moronVhokle dolleanim bhorleaim dukham. If Father/Mother of the bride is dead before marriage -The skies are overcastClouds crowd with rainWith death of your Father

Bride, your eyes fill with tears.

 Bridal attention

 The bride-to-be is the source of much attention too, and is taken by her friends and relatives for the purkondd – a farewell maidenhood party where she is garlanded as queen of the feast and receives all the homage of her admirers.  The blushing maid is bathed in coconut milk to the accompaniment of zottis and then dressed in a gorgeous sari and taken around the neighbourhood under a huge red umbrella, for the blessing of its oldest inhabitants.

 On this occasion, the village bangle seller does brisk trade, as the day before the wedding, the bride’s arms are covered with thirty glass bangles, fifteen on each hand of a mixture of blue, yellow and brown (varies in the Brahmin class).  These bangles, known as ‘chuddo’, are worn to ensure long life for the husband. Regardless of all the gold a woman wears, she will not be without a glass bangle until her husband’s death, as glass is believed to have special properties.

After the engagement, it is customary for the bridegroom’s family to send the bride’s people a gift known as fulam, consisting of sweets, flowers and fruits, most of which will be distributed to the neighbours. On the second or third day of the wedding ceremonies, the bride’s family does likewise, sending the groom’s family ojem, similarly sent around.

Hindu traditions

Among the Hindus of Saligao there is a custom of consulting a priest (bott) on the occasion of any auspicious function, to fix the muhurat (auspicious time).

A child born on Amavasya (new moon) is considered inauspicious. If the death of a person has occurred on an inauspicious star, then the priest (bott) advises that the house where the death took place be vacated by the relatives residing therein, for great harm may come to them otherwise.

Some people have recourse to the ghaddi or panchakshri (witch doctor) for zhoddo performed to get themselves rid of ghosts and possession by them. Some other superstitions still prevalent among people of the Hindu faith in Saligao are as follows:

One should not look at the moon on a Chaturathi day.  No work should be done on a day subsequent to a festival. One should not dig the soil on Nag Panchami Day.  If the Nag (King Cobra) is killed, it should not be burnt, but rather, buried.

Death threats

Death too is shrouded by customs and it is no queer practice to find elaborate meals being prepared and dished out for the souls of one’s departed relatives through out the month of November.  Neglected souls are believed to haunt a house until their demands are appeased.  If you have a death in the family, you are not supposed to cook anything and it is your relations and neighbours who send you food and sweets. While women folks sat around the dead body, close relatives, neighbours and friends occupied the kitchen and cooked food in large quantities to serve people attending the funeral from afar. Thus a funeral almost becomes a party, with plenty to eat and drink. 

After the funeral, in the room of the dead person, a wick light is kept burning under a mat roll for nine days as the soul of the deceased is believed to hover around the place.

When a wife wailed, she never referred to her dead husband by name, but ended each sentence with mai (mother); in fact in the old days the husband was rarely, if ever, referred to by name – when the wife talked about her husband to others, he was referred to as amcho (ours).

Wailing examples: “Don vorsamnim ek paut tum ghara ietaloi ge mai, boreo-boreo saddie ô-vistid haddtaloi ge maim; festank kazarank gheun bonvtaloi ge maim; atam koun mhaka bonvddaitalo ge mai, mai, mai.“  (You would return home every two years; you would bring me good saris, dresses; you would take me to feasts and weddings; who will now take me around … oh mother!)

Professional mourners were recruited to conduct the wailing, which would continue at intervals depending on the need. The woman sitting next to the main mourner would whisper in her ears whenever an important relative or friend arrived.  The mourner would then suddenly burst out into heart-rending wails.

Uttun polle ghe mai.  Moiddea than Jose aila ge maim; tujea gostachim kellim haddtolo munge main; atam koun amkam Moiddea vortolo ghe main.  (Get up and see mother.  Joseph has come from Moira.  He used to bring Moira bananas.  Who will now take us to Moira…)

If a husband died, his wife was dressed like a bride in reddish clothes with flowers in her hair.  The funeral spelt an end to her jolly life.  She was also made to wear the chuddo (coloured bangles), if she still had them; if not, a new set of coloured bangles was bought and placed on both her hands.  As soon as the priest arrived to commence the funeral, everyone would start crying and screaming.  Sometimes it became difficult for the priest to conduct the prayers. One of the elderly persons would then take charge of the mourners and keep them under his control until the prayer ceremony ended.

Once prayers were over, screaming and wailing would resume and it was at this juncture that the wife would throw herself upon her dead husband, bang both her hands on the edge of the coffin and break the bangles, sometimes causing injuries to her arms.  This signified an end to her marriage, and the beginning of her widow-status. As a widow, she would no longer wear coloured clothes or flowers in her hair or don gold.  She would switch to black clothes and wear only silver ornaments.

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