Glimpses of Goan tradition

During the Portuguese era, Goa was divided into concelhos (municipal districts).  Each municipality was divided into freguesias (parishes). The parishes were further divided into bairros (wards or vaddé).  In each village, authority was invested in the hands of the Regidor and Juiz Popular.  The church also asserted authority on its parishioners.

Ganvponn, or the village communities (communidade), are the village republics or the village panchayats. From immemorial times, long before the capture of Goa by the Portuguese, the villages of Goa were governed by the people themselves. Five respectable men, chosen by the people of the village, formed the governing body of the village community, and looked after all the affairs of the village such as religion, justice, education, health and finance.

Every village in Goa has a certain area of arable land. This community land is never sold to any individual, but is leased yearly to the villagers who cultivate, and the revenue collected is used to pay for the public works – repairs of roads, bunds, maintenance of primary schools, health care units, etc, and the balance of the income is shared by the descendants of the old heads of families known as ganvkars. Only the male ganvkar is entitled to the share on his attaining majority according to the special legislation of each communidade.  The share is known as zonn.

In ancient times, all the ganvkars had the right to participate in the deliberations, though the voting was restricted to the heads of families originally associated. The ganvponn was held at the chauddi (chauri), which was originally a shed, the floor being covered with bamboo mats for squatting thereon. The elected headman sat on a raised seat in the centre with the village scribe or kulkarni by his side. The latter was an important village official. He kept the minutes of all meetings and maintained the village records under the general supervision of the village headman.

The date and time of the meeting of the ganvponn were announced by a woman (known as the parpoti), who had a high-pitched voice and went around the village and, stopping at certain vantage-points shouted the summons for the meeting, laying particular stress on the agenda. The parpoti’s announcement was preceded by a drum beat to alert the villagers. In those days the meetings of the ganvponn were generally well attended, the civic consciousness of the ganvkars being highly developed.  Moreover, the meetings introduced a breath of excitement in otherwise drab lives, even as the temple (and later the church, and chapel) feasts added a dash of colour to their otherwise dull existence. Joyful events, of course, there were, such as births and marriages. But these were sporadic occurrences, not regular features.  In the bygone era the chauri in Saligao was located at Kotula but in our days there a special building of the communidade with its hall at the new tinto in Mudd’davadi.  The post-office of Saligao is in one part of the building of the Communidade de Saligao.

The drummer boy

Whenever an emergency announcement had to be made to the villages (and the parpoti was unwell), about the ganvponn (meeting) at the chauri, or any notification such as for vaccination, xetachi pavnni, and so forth, a drummer boy went round the village beating the drum “reng-te-teng”, and, standing at a prominent place shouted the message at the top of his voice: “Faa…le….aaa…dha.a…Oran…cherr …chowde……xeta…. chiii…pavniii… aste….li…lo…oo…”  He also carried a written notice in his pocket for the perusal of the bhattkars if they wanted to read and confirm the message.

When there was a death in the village, the drummer boy went round not with the drum but with a bell, and wearing a loose white gown.  He tolled the bell as he went round and announced the name of the dead person and the time of the funeral.  In Saligao this was done by one of the sextons.


1. Goa Remembered – Vignettes of Fading Traditions by Agnelo Pereira, 1995

2. Saligao – Focus on a Picturesque Goan Village by J Patrocino de Souza and Alfred D’Cruz, 1973.


[Compiled by Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas]


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