An encounter with the Gagro-Naik

In this narration, Professor Eduardo de Souza, a ganvkar of Saligao of the 9th vangodd of the Comunidade de Saligao meets with ‘Gagro-Naik’, a venerable gentleman who, according to legend and lore, wears a skirt (gagro), bells around his waist and ankles; carries a staff in his hand and has webbed feet!  He is supposed to be the spirit of a departed landowner (gaunkar) who still watches and guards over the crops and property of his village.

It is reportedly a common experience for a late and lonely traveller who has lost his way to be led on the right path by the Gagro-Naik, or for a rogue out thieving to be caught and brought to task by him.  In times of flood and famine, this genial spirit is said to have warned the farmers by wailing at the dead of night.  He also appears to be the lord of certain places, and in the village of Sinquerim, there still exists a pond which belongs to him – nothing dirty can be washed therein. No baker will sound his pole there, nor a bullock-cart approach the spot without the driver removing the bells from the neck of his beasts of burden, unless he is prepared to take the risk of going mad or rolling down the hill along with his carriage, for such is the fate of those that flaunt all beliefs and draw swords with the webbed warrior.

Now let us hear what Professor Eduardo tells us:  “During the period of inquisition, the Portuguese killed one religious leader by name Gagro-Naik, near the trench which separates Candolim from Sinquerim.  His spirit still whirls around at that place, and many have seen him during the dark night of a new moon patrolling the road that goes from Sinquerim to Calangute.

“During the period when I was censoring the correspondence of the Portuguese prisoners in Aguada jail, I had been warned not to come home late at night, because of Gagro-Naik.  As I didn’t believe in ghosts, I had pooh-poohed that warning, though I had heard many stories about them and wanted to see for myself the truth. This decision of mine came when I was in my mid-0s. It was March 1962; I was working in the Aguada fort and attending to my duties from my residence in Candolim.  Sometimes I had to censor large bundles of incoming correspondence of the 600 prisoners there, and just to please the detenus who were all known to me, I had to stay in the fort until the late hours.

“One day, when I was late, the commander Major Bawa Singh requested me to spend the night there.  In addition, Captain Devasley told me that they had cooked mutton xakuti, specially prepared by an expert. After savouring the hot stuff, I rambled home after midnight. The roads were full of sand and my motorbike lights were dim; I took a torch and decided to give my legs a little exercise. After walking for about 15 minutes, I reached near the trench of that fort, and the torch failed to light. I was surrounded by darkness. Though I knew the way well and had enough courage, my age and the exertion during the whole day proved to be a sort of an obstacle to go home on foot alone, at that time of the night.  I tried my best to reach my home, and walked about 50 yards groping in the darkness, when I saw someone coming from behind with a flame in his hand. For me he was a god-sent messenger. After the customary salutation and some talk, I learnt that he was going to Calangute. As my house was just at the border of Candolim and Calangute, I could have never found a better companion.

“We conversed in Konkani, discussing many subjects. My partner was active and swift in his gait. I was weary. The distance on foot was of fifty minutes, but I had roamed for three hours and the place seemed to be completely unknown.  To my astonishment and horror I realized that my companion was a mysterious being. Tired and dejected, I stopped talking and slowed my speed. The phantom continued on his way. As he had gone, I sat on a stone. I could hear distinctly the sound of the strokes of the bamboo he had in one of his hands, a peculiar sound which I heard for about 15 minutes.

“All the ghost stories that I had heard or read came before my eyes in rapid succession. I could not proceed further. The recollection of those facts cautioned me to be bold or face death. Though I had a watch, I lost track of the time. After spending one or two hours thus, the faint light of the dawn gave me a blurred outline of the objects around. I was at the top of the Saligao hill. When I came home and narrated my odyssey, the villagers of Candolim gave me the honour of a hero, for having had the privilege of chatting and walking along with the famous ghost of Gagro-Naik who patrols the Calangute road.”

 [Source: From Goa with Love by Prof. Eduardo de Souza, 2002, pp. 17-18]

 Compiled by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas


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