Maria de Lourdes Bravo da Costa Rodrigues

Goa: Hindus in Goa are getting ready to celebrate the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in the coming week. It is not only the days of the festival that are important, but the month long preparations for the household are important as well, especially for the women who have to perform different rituals.

Many people observe fasts and abstinence with religious dedication during the month of Shravan, which is considered the most religious month of the Hindu calendar. Some only consume ‘shivrak’ (vegetarian) food for the entire month and break the abstinence after Chaturti. Many traditions are observed especially by married women, who are known as ‘savashini’. Shravan is followed by the month of Bhadrapad in which Ganesh Chaturti is celebrated.

There are many religious ceremonies observed during Bhadrapad. Each day of the week is dedicated for a deity. On Monday, it is the day Lord Mahadev is revered. On these days, women after the morning bath perform a pooja to Lord Mahadev and the nevaidya offered is a chapatti mixed with jaggery. After cooking the chapatti, it is shredded into small pieces and mixed with jaggery and offered.

Tuesday is devoted to Ganapati and after the pooja the nevaidya offered is Ganapati’s favourite – the modak, with a filling of coconut and sugar mixture. Thursday is Lord Vishnu’s day. For some years now, the devotion to Sai Baba of Sirdi has gained momentum in Goa, with a number of temples built in his honour and many people revere Sai Baba on this day.

Friday is dedicated to Laxmi, with a pooja performed for her, followed by the distribution of grams. Some women venerate Laxmi with a divli pooja. They adorn the divli with flowers and light. Women also visit each other’s houses and put kukum on their forehead.

Saturday is for Maruti and nevaidya of sunt (dry ginger) mixed with sugar is offered. When the women visit the temple of Maruti, they bathe the idol with oil and sindur is applied.

Sunday is dedicated to the sun who gives us energy and life. Sundays are reserved for special poojas performed by women, like poojas for the wellbeing of their husbands. On each Sunday of the Bhadrapad month, a special sweet dish is prepared. On the first Sunday ‘mutli’ is prepared. The paste of ground soaked rice is moulded into balls in which a mixture of coconut and jaggery is filled. And these are boiled in water. Sonali Alornekar from Ecoxim, Bardez tells us that mutlis are synonymous with keeping a fast, as the saying in Konkani goes: mutlin dovorlo, upas dovorlo.

On the second Sunday, patolyos are prepared. The next Sunday is a day for khichdi that is prepared by boiling together rice and mung and adding coconut and jaggery. And on the fourth Sunday ‘pole’ is prepared from soaked rice and urad dal ground together with coconut and sweetened with jaggery and fried. In case there is a fifth Sunday, then ‘tavsali’ or any other sweet is prepared on the fourth Sunday, and pole on the fifth Sunday. Tavsali is made with overripe grated cucumber, cooked with ground coconut, jaggery and coarsely pounded rice till done. The mixture should be without liquid. It is put in a container and baked in the oven or with live coals.

The festival is related to the environment and therefore various plants, leaves and fruits available during the monsoon are used in the pooja. Sandhya Verlekar from Curca tells us how she performs her Sunday pooja. After having the mandatory bath, she prepares her pooja by decorating aalu (colocasia) leaf on the path (wooden seat). On this leaf she draws an image of sun to the left and the moon to the right either with rangoli paste or lime (chuno) paste. Then she spreads rice on the leaf and decorates it further with different leaves and flowers.  A tambiyo (copper tumbler) with water (covered with beetle leaf and arecanut) is placed on this leaf of aalu. On either side of the leaf, two cones made out of leaves are kept. Every Sunday different kind of leaves are used to make the cones. The following sequence is followed from the first Sunday: leaves of turmeric, banana, parijata (coral jasmine) and peepal. All this represents biodiversity and in turn worship of nature.

In the evening, she takes the decorated path out, near the tulsi vrundavan and buries some of the items under the tulsi plants and she throws the remaining on the roof and seeks blessing of the Sun.

According to Sudha Karmalkar from Carambolim, the manner in which the poojas are performed depends on the community to which they belong. She also adds that many women have now simplified the rituals as they live in nuclear families. When joint families were the tradition there was more rigidity in the observations of the rituals.