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Chovoth, a blend of religion and culture

By Anil Sastry

Ganesh idols ready for the `Chovoth' festival in Goa.

PANAJI, SEPT. 11. A mention of Goa brings to one's mind the fun derived from ``the Sun, sand and beaches'' and the impressive New-Year bashes here. Many know little about its various religious festivals that reunite families.

The Hindu festival season begins here with Krishna Janmashtami after the Ashaadha month. The most significant among them is `Ganesh Chaturthi,' traditionally called `Chovoth,' an excellent blend of religion and Goa's art and culture.

`Chovoth' is popular in Goa and Maharashtra alike. It is the time in Goa when the townships become empty. People rush to the countryside, awaken sleepy villages and fill the air with the tunes of fugadi (a traditional folk dance). Food lovers have a field day throughout the week, with sweets such as `pattoli,' `neuryo' and `modak' available in plenty.


The celebrations begin on September 18 and continue for almost a week. Villages nestled amidst hillocks and vast fields resound with the joyous fugadi and the boom of firecrackers. Almost every Hindu Goan returns to his ancestral house for the grand occasion, wherever he is. With educational institutions being closed for about a week and the holiday on Chaturthi and Panchami, there is ample time for a family get-together.

What begins with the installation puja by the Bhatt (priest), culminates in the `uttar puja' which ends the divinity of the idol. After that, it is just another clay idol to be carried ceremoniously and immersed in the waters of the nearest pond, tank, river or sea, to the tuneful chanting of ``Ganapati Bap'pa moria, fuddchea vorsa lovkar eia.''

Apart from idols, people make several other figures called `chitram.' Some of them are mobile; others have decoration and music too. People visit relatives, friends and even total strangers, curious to see whose `chitram' is the best.

After a hectic time in the kitchen making mouth-watering preparations, women let their hair down and join the fugadi with traditional chants in the evening.

Girls, mothers and even grandmothers visit houses in the `vaddo' (locality). Later, it is the turn of the men-folk to do the rounds with their tablas, cymbals and harmonium, singing the `aratis.' These days, the Sarvajanik Ganapati, — the puja of a huge idol at a public place — is becoming popular.

Craftsmen busy

Well before the festival, Goa's talented craftsmen, especially in Morjim, Mandrem and Parxem in Pernem, get busy making clay idols of different types. Idols are painted in a blend of vibrant colours to bring out every aspect of Ganesha's divinity and traits. The High Court's ban on plaster of Paris idols has made the traditional craftsmen busier.

The Goa State Handicrafts Corporation has taken the lead in providing clay idols by bringing together clay idol makers in the State.

``Efforts are made to provide them market so that they survive and so too our tradition,'' says the Corporation chairman, Damodar Naik. The corporation has registered 186 Goan artisans who make clay idols.

Mr. Naik said that from the next year onwards the corporation would provide raw material — clay and colours — to the artisans.

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