TRAINING: The Partagal Jeevottam Math in Canacona is the only Goan institution which imparts training for priests as a career. In Goa, most of the puja aarti is carried out in Marathi and not in Konkani as Konkani did not have an official script for a long time and Goa adopted Marathi for education and religious rites.
By Rajan Narayan
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when priests in large numbers were imported from neighbouring Karnataka and Maharashtra to help perform the Chavath festival’s puja rites and rituals in Goa. For a Saturday following the week when even the tribals in Goa give great importance to the celebration of Chavath or Ganesh Chaturthi and spend large amounts of money in keeping the Ganesh idol for at least a day-and-a-half before visarjan. For a Saturday following the week when Chavath is the only festival when Catholic friends visit their Hindu friends to greed them. For a Saturday following the week when there is no eating out at least amongst niz Goankar during the Chavath festival. For a Saturday following the week when 77 years after Independence, the Indian parliament was all set to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill. For a Saturday following the week when the BJP the Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanted to change India’s name to Bharat.
AND A few stray thoughts on priests imported in large numbers from neighboring states Karnataka and Maharashtra to help perform the Chavath puja in Goan Hindu homes. It has become traditional during the 10-day Chavath festival to keep the idol of Lord Ganesh at the door till the bhatji (Hindu priest) arrived to recite the prayers and perform the puja before Lord Ganesh was allowed to enter and be installed on a pandal below a matoli of flora and fruit.
Since almost every Goan Hindu home likes to bring home a Lord Ganesh idol during Chavath there is always a serious shortage of bhatji or Hindu priests. There are times when the less well of families have to wait till the late afternoon for the priest ot arrive to begin the installation of Lord Ganesh idol. The only institution which trains young people to become priests is the Shri Partagal Jeevottam Math in Canacona in Goa. Priesthood is a very good career. Priests are paid significant salaries and dakshina. They are even in demand abroad where non-resident Indians have built temples and regular puja is organized here on special Hindu festival days. The United States have a special visa under which qualified priests may get a work permit to serve in temples.
Senior priests, namely from the Udupi region in Karnataka, bring with them their trainees to meet the demand for performing puja in homes. The priest might come only for five or ten minutes but until he recites the puja mantra and prayers to invoke Lord Ganesh the family cannot get into Chavath mood to pray and fast and prepare special meals while Lord Ganesh is at home.
If a member of the extended family performs a Satyanarayan puja the priest has to spend a much longer time. The Satyanarayan puja is normally performed by a newly married couple. The other highlight of Chavath is the ghumat aarti (a collection bhajan sung in praise of Lord Ganesh). The ghumat aarti features the beat of the Goan drum called ghumot (the skin of the drum is no longer made of the monitor lizard which is becoming extinct in the wild). The ghumot drum offers a unique beat compared to other drums. Young men form groups to do ghumat aarti at various houses.
It is in the light of objections from wildlife activists that the government is now trying to persuade ghumot drum makers to use other skin material for the ghumot. Come Ganesh Chaturthi time and all the Marathi newspapers in Goa publish special supplements to mark the festival in Goa. They also issue special aarthi pamphlets or booklets with a collection of prayers in praise of Lord Ganesh. This yar we think Ganesh Chathurthi has become a vote bank for BJP leaders with both Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Valpoi MLA Vishwajit Rane sponsoring aarti booklets, one of which was distributed even with the “Times of India” on the first day of Chavath, that is Tuesday, September 19, 2023.
TRIBAL ALSO CELEBRATE
AND a few stray thoughts on how even the tribal communities of Goa give great importance to the celebration of Chavath, spending whatever money they have or can collect on bringing home a Lord Ganesh idol for a day-and-a-half at least. There is a small Guadi settlement at Aivoa village at Dona Paula just below the Raj Bhavan hillock where the beach is. Here there is a sizeable population of about 10,000 residents mostly from the Gaudi, Velip, Kunbi tribals. The property belongs to a mine owner called Agarwal in Margao. But the tribals have been in residence at Aivoa long before even Liberation in 1961. Though traditionally they have their own tribal gods and goddesses, they have also adopted Lord Ganesh as their most important deity.
Even relatively a poor tribal home spends large amounts of money ranging from Rs10,000-Rs15,000 to celebrate a five or 100-day Chavath. During these days the families living in the vicinity of Dona Paula and Caranzalem have to do without their maids most of whom are from Aivao village and they go away on Ganesh Chaturthi leave. After their immersion day they return to their domestic jobs with gifts of nevryo. The immersion day for them is a most colorful day when the entire village gets together to sing, dance and contribute to the religious sanctity of the puja and immersion. They chant “Ganpati Bappa Morya, Fuliya Varsa Lavkar Ya!”
Our maid Jenny who has been working for me for decades has put up a large Ganesh idol in her small mud house at Aivoa village. I also recall visiting the ancestral house of the late Sridhar Kamath who was a Margao-based lyricist and composed songs. Sridhar was working as managing director of the Fomento Waste Management Corporation looking after the Sonsoddo garbage site. But he was fond of composing and singing and even performing the Lord Ganesh aarti himself for Chavath celebrations. He composed new aarti lyrics and was very creative.
As in Goa in Tamil Nadu too there are lots of Lord Ganesh bhajan. Down south India Lord Ganesh is more popularly known as Lord Vinayaka. A common factor is the making of the modak sweet which most families make at home but the lazy go to Magsons or Mithai Mandir at Tonca or Sweet Nation to buy, the shops at this time of the celebration do up large stocks of modak of various kind both in mava or caju with chocolate or pistachio flavouring.
In most homes Goan women will make steamed modak or patolyo. These are stuffed with the same ingredients of freshly grated coconut and palm jaggery in rice flour coverings. The nevryo is also common to a Goan Chavath as well as Catholic festivals. The largest Ganesh idol I have seen is the marble Lord Ganesh at the residence of the industrial and hospitality baron Dattaraj Salgaocar. The entire family comes together at his ancestral home in Vasco da Gama to celebrate Chavath.
AND a few stray thoughts on how eating out almost comes to a total halt during the Chavath days in capital city Panaji. Most every niz Goankar has gone to his ancestral home in the village and the traditional Goan eateries close for the Chavath holidays of over a week, ten days or maybe more in some cases. During time those who are used to calling at the popular Café Tato or Café Bhonsle or Café Real have to go elsewhere in search of their daily pet puja. Café Central which is an institution for Goan snacks and delicacies is also firmly shut. All shops owned by Goans like the popular readymade garments shops remain closed during Chavath. Though in theory there are only two public holidays the government offices remain closed for the entire week from the first day of Chavath to the final day of immersion which is the 10th day.
Indeed, the whole state of Goa comes to a halt during Chavath. Goans who have migrated out of Goa or abroad close their homes and return to Goa for Chavath celebration with the family. The police are on alert mode for this is the time robbers eye empty homes. This is the happy season to loot a home. Even Lord Vinayaka is unable to protect the locked up homes for the skills of robbers have improved. The GSB community celebrate Chavath with special meals with special meals prepared from vegetables available during this season only. Altogether all Goans celebrate the arrival of Lord Ganesh with great joy.
WOMEN’S RESERVATION BILL
AND a few stray thoughts on how it has taken 77 years after Independence for the special woman’s reservation bill to be passed. The Women’s Reservation Bill was pending for more than four decades. It was first proposed when Indira Gandhi was the prime minister. The bill wanted to provide reservations for women in parliament and all elected bodies like municipalities, panchayats, etc. There were disputes on whether there should be blanket reservation or it should be sub-divided. Should Dalit women have a separate quota as the upper caste are likely to grab the advantage?
There are many schemes for women like the Laadli Laxmi Scheme to help daughters get married and there is the Griha Adhar Scheme in Goa. Recently, Tamil Nadu announced an allowance of R1,000 for all women in Tamil Nadu. Many states waive aside the fees of girls in schools and colleges. It is not yet known what areas the Women’s Reservations Bill will take. Women make up almost 50% of the country’s population of 130 crore. It may not be practical to provide 50% reservations for women.
The Women’s Reservations Bill was passed by the Modi cabinet during the ongoing session of parliament. Besides the BJP most of the political parties of India have supported the bill. There were no problems getting the bill passed. This is because women form a large percentage of voters and no party can afford to ignore them.
Indeed, migrants who come to Goa are enrolled as voters by local MLAs, so that he reaps the reward of vote banks nursed by him. In theory you have only one vote in the state you originally hail from but thanks to large waves of migration many voters not only vote in Goa but also go back to their home states to vote where they are also registered.
The most important priority should be economic and social empowerment of women. All religious communities should help implement the Women’s Reservation Bill. Unfortunately, there is a tendency in rural areas not to educate the girl child. This is despite the fact that at the 12th standard level, more women pass the exams and score distinctions. Indeed, last year, over 30% of the candidates who passed the IAS exam including the toppers were women. The mass abortion of the female fetus should also be strictly restricted and punished. In states like Haryana female foeticide has resulted in a desperate shortage of women. In Goa, ironically, the sex ratio is adverse in some areas such as Sattari which is the constituency of Minister for Woman & Child Development Vishwajit Rane.
INDIA TO BHARAT
AND a last stray thought on the BJP and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanting to change India’s name to Bharat. During the recently concluded G-20 summit the venue of the place where all the leaders met and were entertained was called Bharat Mandapam – setting up the entire complex reportedly cost the public exchequer Rs4,000 crore. Everywhere here Bharat replaced India. It looks like it is the BJP’s intention to drop the name of India for Bharat. The claim is that the culture of Bharat is Bharatiya and not Hindustani or Indian.
It will of course require a constitutional amendment to formally change the name of India to Bharat. There is no need to do so as the Constitution already says India which is Bharat and both are equal terms. The directive principle states that “India that is Bharat is a federation of states.”