History of Mollembhatt

[This article was initially written in 1992-93 by a team from the ward Mollembhatt in Saligao, in association with Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas, and published in the Souvenir of the sesquicentennial celebrations of St Anne’s Chapel (1843-1993). The team comprised Idalina Rego, Lucy Cordeiro, Cassiano D’Lima, Eleuterio Remedios, Vanessa Godinho, and Sylvia & Joaquim Vaz. The version reproduced below was modified and updated by Fr Nascimento in June 2004]

How did the ward Mollembhatt in Saligao get its name? One version is that the place known as Diulacho Sorvo (property of the temple) was a sacred place dedicated to Lord Vetal in the Pre-Portuguese era. In order to have sufficient flowers for the daily morning puja, every house had a flower garden known as fulancho mollo, hence the name Mollembhatt. Some people refer to the ward as Mollebhatt or Mollembatta. There is a traditional dulpod sung in this ward and it goes as follows:

1. Amcho Santulo gheun pantullo

fulam punzaitalo (twice).

2. Amchea Vaddeant, Mollembhattant

fulam ful’leant mollenat (twice)

(Our Santan, with basket in hand used to gather flowers.

That have appeared in the bushes of the ward, Mollembhatt)

This property, Diulacho Pato, was bought by a Christian after the conversion when the deity of Lord Vetal was shifted to Advalpale in Bicholim taluka in the sixteenth century.

There is however also another version of the origin of the ward’s name. During business trips to the border, the Saligaokars’ sharp eyes fell on the rich sugarcane cultivation across the ghats. Sugarcane cultivation in Saligao was pioneered by Mollembhatkars. The name of the ward is itself derived from the stumps of the reaped sugarcane. Though this trade did take place, the theory of the “stump” does not seem plausible, as sugarcane came into existence in Saligao in the late 18th century, while the Saligao Comunidade records of the year 1759 already enumerate nine wards including Molle Bata.

Mollembhatt borders with Sangolda and there is a tradition that there was a long standing dispute between the Mollembhattkars and Sangoddkars regarding the delimitation of the boundary between the two villages. According to legend, a unique method of settling the dispute was adopted by mutual agreement. A buffalo was let loose from the top of the hill to seek its way home—according to one version, to Guirim; according to another, to Parra. This exercise took place just after the monsoon, when the ground was still soft and slushy. The zigzag path of the animal was taken as the line of demarcation, which accounted for the designation of the boundary between Saligao and Sangolda as Reddeachi Xim.

One of the small wards in which the first inhabitants lived in Saligao was Marodd in Mollembhatt. The dwellers were called Madd’de in ancient times. After the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins made inroads into Saligao around the 11th century AD, they subjugated the ‘mahars’ (madd’de), who were then asked to move from this ward and other wards to Mhar-vaddo on the outskirts of Saligao near the Calangute border, in the proximity of the famous Mater Dei Institution. Today this ward is known as Bairro Alto.

A part of the place Marodd in Mollebhatt was converted into the Saligao Comunidade playground, which was inaugurated on 23 April 1990 by Dr. Wilfred de Souza, (who was deputy chief minister of Goa at the time), in the presence of Rufino Moniz, then President of Saligao Comunidade.

According to Indice Real de Saligao, Book I No. 125 of 4 April, 1883, “Predio Marodd” once belonged to a certain Caetano Rosario Francisco de Borges Cordeiro.

At the extreme end of the ground there stands a temple dedicated to Lord Vetal. Every Monday, devotees gather to sing bhajans and kirtans. There is an annual festival, with plays and dances staged at the playground.

In the proximity of this playground lived Joao Michael Mascarenhas (nicknamed Moskon) and his family. He owned two caminhoes (buses), which made regular trips between Saligao and Betim; a car; and, a ghano – a contraption to crush sugarcane in order to extract the juice. Such machines were very rare in Goa at the time, around the early 1900s.

Saligao had large sugarcane plantations in those days. Sugarcane juice was extracted using the ghano, by passing the canes between two heavy, tightly pressing metal cylinders and gathering the juice in a vessel below. From sugarcane juice, dempichem godd (jaggery) was manufactured by the locals. But the best known product was belios, which were finger-length, tapering pieces of candy, made by passing the boiled juice treated with some binding agents into wooden blocks with rectangular-shaped holes. Belios from Saligao was a delicacy that was distributed all over Goa, and especially at the Reis Magos (Verem) fair in January during the feast of the Three Kings.

Joao Michael Mascarenhas undertook the construction of the ceiling and extension of the St. Anne’s chapel [vide Minute Book of St. Anne’s Chapel, of 20 March 1902; and, Souvenir: St. Anne Chapel Saligao (1843-1993),  pages 20 and 21]. This restored chapel was blessed by the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Goa, Rt. Rev. Monsenhor Joaquim Joao de Abreu, hailing from Abreuvaddo, Saligao, on 2 February 1910, feast of the Presentation of the Lord. At that time it was called the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady. St. Anne’s Chapel caters to the spiritual needs of the people of the wards of Mudd’davaddi, Tabravaddo, Mollembhatt and Donvaddo.

During the monsoons, and especially on Sao Joao day, the Buddugeli Baim – the traditional well for bathers of Mollembhatt and Tabravaddo – becomes a centre of activity, with the youngsters learning to swim under the guidance of the elders. Although there are swimming pools now, Buddugeli Baim still remains a symbol of solidarity and brotherhood for the people of the wards of Mollebhatt and Tabravaddo. With the onset of the monsoon, everyone thinks of Buddugeli Baim – Sao Joao and Buddugeli Baim are almost synonymous. Hence the rhyme:

Sam Juanv konkari, Buddugele Baint re natali!”.

For those who could not make it to the Buddugeli Baim there was a khonn at the foot of the hill and quite a few had a dip into it. The nearby stream provided ample opportunity for children to sail their paper boats and catch fish and even play in its cool and crystal-clear waters.

Elders taking a walk down memory lane would remember the makeshift cricket ground near Lucy Cordeiro’s house; the area now has houses constructed all along the hilly terrain.  The boys from the ward at that time were inspired to play cricket by the famous Saligaokar, Anthony Stanislaus D’Mello, builder of the CCI Pavilion and Brabourne Stadium in Bombay. While some played cricket, others flew kites on the hill, and others took a tyre or iron loop called atto to the top of the hill and released it on the slope, happily running after it and watching it racing downward. Oh, the pleasures of childhood!

At the foot of the hill, in the property known as Diular or Aquem, there is a spring called  Akhenchi Zhor. The spring emerges from hard and compact rocks and people used to bathe in its waters with the strong belief that it had medicinal properties. In a book written by Filipe Nery Xavier entitled Bosquejo Historico das Comunidades das Aldeias dos Concelhos das Ilhas, Salcette e Bardez, published in 1852, on page 467, mention has been made of the Aquem spring as well as the Salmona spring of Saligao. The flow of the Aquem spring has reduced considerably over the years and is now just a trickle. Several houses have been built in this area and the locality is now known as Aquem Mollebhatt  ward.

The cross at Mollembhatt is traditionally known as Cordeirancho Khuris. The members celebrate the feast of the cross annually in May, preceded by daily recitation of the Rosary and litany and culminating in the feast. This cross was built with contributions from the villagers. The cross has been renovated with glazed tiles donated by Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Jose Cordeiro, and a tiny canopy donated by the people of the ward.

A school known as Collegio de Mae de Deus was started as a coed school by M. Gabriel da Costa from Curtorim in the house of Bernardo Cordeiro in 1932. Costa’s School, as it was popularly known, had a preparatory section, and secondary classes from 4th to 7th standard (at that time 8th Std was Matric or SSC). English, Maths, Science, History, Geography, Latin and Portuguese were part of the curriculum. There were catechism and Bible study classes as well. This school had a branch functioning in Tabravaddo, at Salvador (Salu) Cordeiro’s house (the residence of the famous singer Lorna Lui Cordeiro). Preparatory and 1st to 3rd standards were conducted here and admission was open only to girls. Once the girls finished Std III they went to Costa’s school at Mollebhatt or some other school. This school continued until 1934, when it joined hands with St. Mary’s School and later amalgamated into a new school under the aegis of the Saligao Union of Bombay in 1946.

Mollembhatt’s contribution to the priestly and religious life is also substantial. The priests and nuns of the ward are: Fr. Pedro Cordeiro, Fr. Lourenco Cordeiro, Fr. Pedro Caetano Cordeiro, Fr. Vicente Manuel Cordeiro, Fr. Pedro Joao Cordeiro, Fr. Caetano Antonio Cordeiro, Fr. Antonio Filipe Cordeiro, Fr. Joaquim Jose da Conceicao Cordeiro, Fr. Lourenco Remedios, Fr. Joao Benjamin Cordeiro, Fr. Tome Damiao Nicolau Jose Cordeiro, Mons. Cosme Jose Feliciano Cordeiro, Fr. S D S J Souza. Fr. N Machado, Fr. Augustine Cordeiro S J, Fr. Rui Cordeiro S J, Fr. Joseph Cordeiro, Fr. Godion Cordeiro, Fr. Leslie Rego, Fr. Pio Rego, Bro. Archie Cordeiro, and nuns Sr. Terezita Cordeiro, Sr. Dominica Cordeiro, Sr. Ivy Cordeiro and Sr. Claudina.

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