Curiosities Of Young Lads In Saligao Of The Fifties

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

As young boys and girls growing up in Saligao in the 1950s, we did not have TVs or video games or MP3 players or cell phones or any other trappings of the digital society that are so ubiquitous today. Yes there never seemed to be a dearth of objects, games and fads that kept us occupied and amused.


Bombi from Sangolda was a blacksmith who made cast-iron grills for windows and fancy darvontte (cast-iron gates). We boys from Tabravaddo-Mollembhatt went to him for making the attó. This was a ring made from thick wire or from an iron rod, to roll along the road with the help of a short iron rod called sori. It was looped at one end to engage the attó and push it forward. The attó was the constant companion of every pre-teen boy, whenever he went out on short errands or visits to friends in the neighbourhood. He would run along the road, rolling the attó beside him with the sori.


During the novenas of the church and chapel feasts, we sat around the sextons, observing how they made a khon’no. This was a solid piece of iron weighing About 3 kg, hexagonal in shape and tapering at the top. In the centre of the block there was a small hole with an L-shaped channel leading to a lower outlet at the side. Gunpowder was packed deep into the central hole using a hammer and a short wooden stick. Over this, a few pebbles were crushed in at the top. The khon’no was fired by lighting the loose gunpowder at the lower outlet.

Khon’nes were fired in a series of two or three salvos at the start and end of the services, both in the morning and the evening, and at the time of Elevation during the Mass. The blasts could be heard even in the neighbouring villages several kilometres away. At some point it was realised that the vibrations from the blasts were weakening the structure of the nearby houses and the government imposed a ban on the use of khon’nes. Nowadays, gon’nals that produce a milder salvo or firecrackers are used instead.


Some of the church and village festivals were invested with unique traditions and ceremonies. The eve of the feast of St. John the Baptist (23rd June) was celebrated with great enthusiasm by the village youth. In every vaddó (ward) the boys put together a “Judeu” - a straw man dressed in old, discarded clothes. It symbolised Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus. The effigy was carried round the vaddó by the boys who lustily repeated a chorus with words to the effect that St. John who paved the way to the Messiah was great as the hills, Judas the betrayer was nothing better than ash.

After sunset a bonfire was lit, the Judeu was severely beaten .and thrown in the fire to be reduced to ashes in a great blaze. I doubt if this practice persists today. However, in various parts of Goa they do have an “old man” burnt at night on 31st December to ring out the old and ring in the new.


The Harvest Thanksgiving day or Novem, celebrated on 6th August earlier (and now on 15th August) was one of rejoicing for the Saligao people. Early in the morning the sextons of the village gathered around the house of the President of the feast, and proceeded to the church with members of his family and the ward, accompanied by a small band. In earlier times the villagers went in procession from the church to the nearest field carrying the statue of the village patroness Mae de Deus. However in our days, the senior sacristan of the church, Jacinto Travasso, prepared beforehand in the courtyard a field with sheaves well protected from cows, goats and bulls. The Vicar with ganvkar confrades would proceed to this place and after prayers cut a few sheaves of the new paddy crop. He then blessed the corn sheaves with holy water and distributed them among the congregation, who in procession went to the church.

After the celebration, everyone carried a sheaf home and placed it on the oratorio (oratory) in gratitude for the Lord’s bounty. On this day every household made kheer, a sweet preparation of rice, coconut and jaggery, to mark the prosperity that the new corn ushered in. A match of koindó-ball or the marble game godd’dé-ghus was held in the evening. The others enjoyed a game of tablam at home, with the little girls reveling in xirkutleamnim or son’nam-tonnkó.

Small pleasures that kept home, ward and village happily together.

13 comments on Curiosities Of Young Lads In Saligao Of The Fifties

  • L S Subramanian

    Val wonderful story, you seem to have had joyous childhood !

  • I can truly identify with your beautiful rendition of life of a by-gone era, as I grew up in neighbouring Guirim during the 1950′s and 1960′s.

  • fr.nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear Tony,
    Thanks for your valuable comments and more power to your pen. I do indeed like and appreciate your articles After all you have been an intelligent student of St. Anthony’s High School, Monte de Guirim of by-gone years and a prolific writer of the present times. I pray for you and God bless you. Much love,
    fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • fr.nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear Subramanian,

    The editor of saligaoserenade, Mr. Val D’Souza will be extremely happy to read your comments. Thanks.
    fr. nascimento mascarenhas.

  • Val Souza

    Well, Subu, I had a reasonably joyous childhood too, but sure wasn’t born in the fifties :-)

    Unfortunately, I did not have the privilege of growing up in Goa. The story relates to Fr Nascimento’s reminiscences of his young days in Saligao.
    - Val

  • Wasy D'Cruz

    I enjoyed reading this article about growing up in saligao.I grew up in Saligao in the 40′s. Wish somebody would do an equally beautiful job about growing up during that period. I have been out of touch with Saligao, since I left India in 1956. I just recently got acquainted with your web site. Good Luck
    Wasy D’Cruz
    Scituate, Mass. USA

  • fr.nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear Wasy,
    Greetings from Goa.
    You were one of the talented student of Mater Dei Institution in early fifties and brought name to our Alma Mater at the Matriculation exam However I do nor know if you still remember your companion Michael Mascarenhas, my brother. I was young then at Mater Dei . But I remember you and hope to do a write-up of the forties with some incidents of those years which are fresh in my mind.
    I was happy that Mel D’Souza’s article on Mater Dei and Principal Anacleto Lobo made you happy and my article as a young lad in the fifties added some joy to your life as you are, at the moment, growing gracefully in age, wisdom and understanding. I wish you long life. Praise God ! fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • Wasy D'Cruz

    Thank You Fr. Nascimento for your very kind words. While we are reminiscing about Goa, now that the monsoon season is upon Goa, it was my favorite time in Saligao. We did not have a radio or a TV, but I remember what a wonderful time it was. Please give my best regards to Michael. Hope he is well. Best Regards to you Fr. Nascimento.

    Wasy D’Cruz

  • nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear and good Wasy,
    Thank you for your lovely comments. I rang up to Michael in Mumbai and sent your regards to him. He was so happy and jumped almost hiting the ceiling of his flat at Bandra ,Mumbai. I have you in my prayers. Oslando D’Sousa, brother of late Baptist and Atila ( Mr. Franlin’s children, Arradi( feminine in Konkani and Arrarim in Portuguse)has a beautiful rendering of ” Poilo Paus” and here and there I also wrote about the joys of the first rains both on saligaonet and saligaoserenade in my earlier essays. At present I am at Holy Spirit Church , Margao. It is a large parish in South Goa and a busy one too. Healthwise I am not so fine. Do kindly pray and please keep in touch.
    Much love, fr. nascimento mascarenhas

  • Wasy D'Cruz

    Dear Fr. Nascimento:

    Sorry to hear about your health issues. I will keep you in my prayers for a speedy and full recovery.

    God Bless fr. Nascimento.

    Wasy D’Cruz

  • Hi Wasy, lost touch after yr. move from delaware. ficus informed of yr. move. if you receive this, contact at above em. address cheers arduino

  • arduino de Souza

    Hey Arduino:

    Good to hear from you. Sorry to hear your mother passed away.We are in Tybee Beach, GA till mid March (912-786-7445)and then to Scituate,MA ( 781-378-2460).I misplaced your info as well. Perehaps, we can get in touch again.

  • Wasy D'Cruz

    Hi Arduino:

    Incase you did not receive my last message, I am posting a new message. Yes, we moved to Scituate, MA, about 20 miles south of Boston. My no. in Boston is 781-378-2460. We are wintering till mid March in TYBEE Beach, GA. Number here is 912-786-7445. Love to hear from you.


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