Rajendra P Kerkar

KERI: The directorate of art and culture’s annual state-level matoli competition for individual houses saw a drop in the number of participants this year, but a rise in the quality of the presentations.

Of the 17 participants from Pernem to Canacona-20 participated in 2010-Sattari-based Ankush Rama Ozrekar bagged the top spot for his matoli that featured 331 different items.

A matoli is the canopy above the idol of Lord Ganesha, prepared during Ganesh Chaturthi. Traditionally, it features flowers, fruits, herbs, etc found in the wild. But over time and changing lifestyles, it has come to hold readily-available fruits and flowers, and in some instances even plastic replicas.

“Which is why this competition is of importance,” said art and culture director Prasad Loliyekar. Hailing from the forested areas of Canacona taluka, Loliyekar has been instrumental in starting this contest, now in its fifth year.

“The contest is an attempt to promote and preserve the traditions of our hoary past and to boost the morale of those who try to maintain the rich knowledge of ethnobotany,” said Loliyekar.

This year’s first prize winner, Ozrekar, is such a person. A folklorist from Bambatwada-Maloli, the 25-year-old lives near the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary, while the Nirankarachi Rai (sacred grove) is just 500 m from his home.

“Where I live and what I am exposed to have instilled in me a deep love for floral diversity,” said Ozrekar. His matoli featured most of the wild flowers, fruits, herbs, shoots and roots from around his home.

The second prize was bagged by Rama Gaonkar of Satre in Sattari whose matoli had 325 items, while Curti-Ponda‘s Shrikant Satarkar took the third place with 300 items. The first three winners have earned 10,000, 7,000 and 5,000 respectively.

Interestingly, the feat for the most number of matoli items-453-is held by Rupesh Poinguinkar of Poinguinim, Canacona.

A regular participant, the 35-year-old couldn’t participate this year on account of a death in the family which saw them celebrate Chaturthi for just one-and-a-half days.

The matoli competiton is organized on the third and fourth days of the festival.

Govind Shirodkar, cultural organizer with the art and culture department, told TOI, “Though the number of participants were lesser this year as compared to last year, the quality of the presentations was superb. Participants used floral, Ganesha and mangal kalash designs to decorate their matolis.”