We all know that Lord Ganesha is associated with wisdom, knowledge and also creativity. His form itself is an inspiration to many artists. Thus, it is quite obvious that during the festival of Ganesh Chaturthi many devotees will showcase their creative talents through a dekhava, or decoration, made alongside the Ganesh idol.
Along with this, the traditional matoli — a wooden canopy suspended above the Ganesh idol, which is decorated with seasonal fruits and vegetables — is now becoming creative, too.
This is more commonly seen in rural and forested areas of Goa, where devotees spend days and nights collecting, compiling and using the matoli items in the most innovative and creative ways.
These matolis are a little different compared to the usual matolis which we see commonly during Chaturthi celebrations. These contain around 300 or more types of fruits, flowers, vegetables, herbs, leaves, shoots, pods, etc.
The highlight is the central part which has depiction of an idol or a geometric pattern or is based on some theme, which is made from these 300 or more collected items. It is a cumbersome task as one has stich all the items on a suspended canopy.
To admire its beauty, one has to tilt one’s head to understand the design, as it is suspended from above. This speaks not only about the hard work of the artists, but also the enthusiasm involved in making such art with the required material, which is a part of the matoli items.
Such matolis are getting more traction now due to the matoli competition organized by the State Directorate of Art and Culture which aims to promote and preserve this tradition.
BEHIND THE ART
Shrikant Satarkar, from Priol, has been doing such matolis for around 30 years and has been taking part in this competition right from the year 2005. He regularly takes part in competitions, and has won the first prize three times at matoli competitions and received the second prize, 5 times.
“Even before the competition, we used to make such decorative matolis at the panchayat level. This year, we have made Ganesha in a Nataraj pose using fruits of kangla, button flowers, teak tree flowers. We took around two days to complete this matoli,” says Satarkar, whose entire joint family, of 30 members, came together to make this matoli.
They start the work on the day of tai — a day before Chaturthi — since gathering fruits and flowers, based on the design, takes time. Also, these items have to be fresh before they start withering away.
“The process starts at least 20 days before Chaturthi as we do a survey of the nearby forest and check what’s available. And then, as days get closer to the festival, we start foraging for these items,” says Satarkar who is celebrating Chaturthi for seven days.
Such matolis are usually seen in Ponda, Sanguem, Canacona and Sattari talukas which are blessed with the pristine forests of the Western Ghats.
All this forest produce gives a creative outlet to these artists to showcase their artistry. It is also a very good way to display local biodiversity since some fruits and flowers are found in particular forests only.
Gajanan Bandekar, from Poingunim in Canacona, has made a decorative matoli using more than 390 items. The matoli depicts Lord Vitthal, who is made from amrut vel (creeper), flowers of cock’s comb, khulkhule (pods), button flowers, inflorescence of fish tail palm, paddy, etc.
Bandekar informs that it took them five days to complete this matoli. “It aims to showcase the biodiversity of a place. We make these patterns according to the items we find in the forest. It takes around 30 days to select the appropriate fruits, flowers, etc,” says Bandekar, who is celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi for nine days this year.
It is indeed an excellent way to understand the wealth of our forests. Such matolis also develop curiosity among children who want to understand more about their backyard forest and biodiversity.
However, we are aware that our forests are under constant threat. Thus, many of these items, which are part of the matoli are dwindling year after year. “Yes, that’s true. We find many items in far fewer quantities compared to last year. This year, we found that the fruits of kangla, matta were much less,” informs Satarkar.
All these species of plants, which are part of a matoli are native, have medicinal value, while some are also poisonous. Traditionally, the matoli was a visual medium to make the next generation aware about these species.
Also, when you start foraging for such items in the forest, you discover where these species are available, how to harvest them and understand if any species is under threat or not.
Having such decorative matolis, made by many creative Goans, makes us value our forests even more.
On this festive occasion, take some time out to understand the real meaning behind such matolis and celebrate this wonder of nature that blends well with creativity.