Goa, as we know, hosts a variety of fairs which can be seen during village feasts and zatras, and which last for four or five days. These fairs are an excellent place to discover some local stuff which you may not come across anywhere else.
There are many such fairs which are held once a year. One such fair is held on the occasion of Ram Navami at Shree Samsthana Gokarn Partagali Jeevottam Math at Poinguinim, Canacona.
This is one of the important festivals held at this math, and thus, it draws devotees from different parts of state and also from neighbourhood states.
WHEN IT’S HELD
On the day of Ram Navami (which is on March 30 this year), a fair is held in the premise of the math. The most interesting part of this fair happens at the rear entrance of the math, where a ‘basket fair’ is held. Here you will find a variety of baskets of all shapes and sizes. Mostly made of cane and bamboo, these baskets are in huge demand.
Mahendra Phaldesai, a retired teacher and expert on tribal and folk art of Goa, says, “I have been visiting this fair of baskets for more than 50 years. People from Canacona wait all year for this fair.”
He adds that it is held at this time of the year as this is the wedding season for Goan Hindus. And, there’s a tradition of using different artifacts for this ceremony.
“At Goan Hindu weddings, there is a tradition of using a dhali (a basket to keep the mandap devta), valli (a basket to keep the lamp in order to protect the diya or flame from the wind), and an aaino (a fan). These are the main items and are in big demand,” he explains.
It includes the haathri (a mat made from coconut leaves), samli (a small pouch), which is part of this whole set.
NEED TO BUY
All these baskets are made and sold by basket weavers from Ankola, in Karnataka. These products are sometimes sold at the Sunday market in Karwar, a town on the Goa-Karnataka border, near Canacona.
This fair of baskets is different compared to the Friday market in Mapusa as those basket are mainly made of bamboo, while the products from Ankola are mainly made of cane, or beth, as it is locally known.
Along with this wedding set there is also a huge demand for sup (used for winnowing paddy), chobo (a basket with handles used to collect mud or grains), buti (a bigger basket to collect coconuts).
These are the products used by the agrarian community. Locals love to buy them, and thus, most of the time, these products are sold out within a day.
Phaldesai also points out that there is a tradition among locals to buy at least one item from such fairs.
“During my childhood, we didn’t have access to products which are available today. There were no markets and so, such village fairs were the main places to buy things. Thus, the tradition of buying continues,” says he.
That’s why one can easily find devotees buying at least one of these baskets. Also, they are an integral part of the village lifestyle.
In Goa, this art of making baskets from bamboo and cane is dwindling, day by day. There are just a handful of artisans remaining in some villages of Cotigao in Canacona who mainly make baskets from cane. Even though there is a good market for these products, there are not many artisans or basket weavers in Goa.
Phaldesai points out that one reason for the decline is the association of this job (weaving of bamboo products) with the lower caste community. Not only that, but it is tedious work with not much monetary gain, and getting bamboo or cane is not easily available as it is a forest product.
This basket zatra at Partagali is the ideal place to know more about these baskets, the artisans behind this craft, and is also a reason to revive this dying art in Goa.
Arti Das is a freelance journalist based in Goa. She loves writing about art, culture and the ecology of Goa.