If grinding stones in Goa could talk

‘Grinding Stone Stories Retold’ authored by Heta Pandit, throws light on traditional ‘oviyos,’ sung by women in Goa, as they ground wheat and other pulses in the kitchen.
Grinding Stories Retold was recently launched by author Heta Pandit

Grinding Stories Retold was recently launched by author Heta Pandit

Gomantak Times

“Goa is still perceived wrongly by tourists as being liberal and even libertine. Its beach culture confined to a few kilometers of its tourist belt and highly visible Catholic presence, has so many extraordinary treasures to offer. Far away from the branded image of Goa as a party destination, in the remote forested hills of the taluka of Sattari, Quepem, and Cancona, there are many surprises, such as a sub-culture of singing while grinding wheat and other pulses,” states Heta Pandit, author and co-author of ten books. She recently launched her book Grinding Stone Stories Retold about the songs called oviyos -- monotone renditions without accompaniment of musical instruments -- sung to the rhythm of the revolving disks, providing percussion, and which have been verbally handed down from one generation to another by the Hindu and Christian community.

Oviyos are composed on topics of a young bride, longing to visit her maternal house, which is forbidden; their isolation, frustration, anger, jealous sisters-in-law, the joy of meeting her brother, daily chores, expectations, envy, suppressed anger, difficult neighbours, for rain, bumper crop, as the stone grinds away sorrows and tribulations. They are also sung at weddings and naming ceremonies, and are sung in Konkani and Marathi.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Author Heta Pandit</p></div>

Author Heta Pandit

Gomantak Times

“My first brush with oviyos happened in a rather roundabout way. I discovered these songs on a visit to Sri Maauli Temple in the forest village of Zholambe, neighbouring Maharashtra. The rich repertoire of kaavi art on the temple walls was part of an ongoing research. The legendary figure of Garuda, holding up a serpent, was originally from Goa. Rajendra Kerkar, environmentalist and folklorist, who had guided us to the temple, began to recite the Goan oviyo version. There was a definite link. Thus began my fascination for songs sung at the grinding stone.”

Amelia Dias, Louisiana Fernandes, Gloria Dias and Carminia Fernandes, from the Gavda community from the village of Paroda, in Quepem Taluka, give interesting insights into the sitting posture and other customs, which differ from the Hindu’s, with songs in the Gavda dialect.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The legendary figure of Garuda, holding a serpent</p></div>

The legendary figure of Garuda, holding a serpent

COURTESY: Grinding Stories Retold by Heta Pandit

The book has detailed historical and cultural facts, illustrated with images from kaavi art, with songs collected from three well-known storytellers, from Sattari district. Subhada Chari, a school teacher; Lakshmi Vishnu Havalkar, with no formal education; surprised the author by her perceptive of preserving cultural content. Neither she nor her husband showed awkwardness when the subject of segregation and taboos during menstruation was approached. The storytellers were familiar with mobile phones, though none had any, but were uncomfortable with notes made on paper. “Once, when I asked Saraswati Dutta Sawant, who never learnt to read, to repeat a few lines, she asked if my phone had no recording device!”

Heta’s first book documenting these songs was released in December 2018 at the Goa Arts and Literature Festival. In this volume, the original songs are mentioned in the Devanagari script, with English translations.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Kaavi art </p></div>

Kaavi art

COURTESY: Grinding Stories Retold by Heta Pandit

Heta has had a range of career stints -- in journalism, advertising, with Dr. Jane Goodall at the chimpanzee research center in Tanzania, as the first and only woman tea planter with Tata Tea, and has lived in Goa for 26 years, pioneering multiple heritage movements. In 2000, she co-founded the Goa Heritage Action Group dedicated to advocacy, conservation, preservation and restoration of Goa’s cultural heritage.

Heta Pandit’s books are available at Quadro Art Gallery (Porvorim), Lorenz Imaging (Margao), Museum of Christian Art (Old Goa), Palácio do Deão (Quepem). It will soon be available on Amazon.

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