Mussol Khel: Steeped in tradition

At this time, each year, Chandor, the ancient capital of Goa, comes alive with the Mussol Khel, a ritual dance, accompanied by traditional songs and ancient tales.
Mussol Khel: Steeped in tradition

Members of the Christian Chardo (Christian Kshatriya) community of Chandor, pray at the chapel of St Tiago, Chandor, before the dancing commences

Picture Courtesy: Venita Gomes 

Filled with interesting tales, anecdotes and lot of history, is the ancient capital of Goa - Chandor (earlier known as Chandrapur). Owing to its rich past and maritime history, this place was a flourishing port, and capital city of the Kadamba dynasty in the 10th century. This village saw the reign of several dynasties like the Bhojas, Kadambas, Vijayanagar and others who left a lasting impression on the culture, tradition and lifestyle of the people.

Even today, while you walk down the lanes of Chandor, you can find heritage houses and historic sites, narrating tales of the past.

Mussallam Khel

‘Musallam khel’ or ‘Mussol nach’ is an ancient dance, that takes place in this village and has been happening for several centuries.

A ‘mussol’ is basically a ‘pestle’ and hence the dance translates to ‘pestle dance’. It is a pounding pestle dance, presented by the Christian Chardo (Christian Kshatriya) community of Chandor. It takes place on the Monday and Tuesday of Carnival.

Traditional attire

During the dance, people wear a dhoti, jacket, pagdi, and ghungroos, and dancing in a circular movement, holding pestles in their hands. As they move in the circle, the pestles point towards the middle – one step at the back and one in front is the movement of the pestle.

Chanting songs, they dance to the beat of ghumot, zanze and mussol.

The ghumot is the traditional musical instrument of Goa. It is an ancient form of percussion, and is more like an earthen pot with two openings – a narrow and broad one. The original ghumot was made using the skin of the monitor lizard. However, a different material is used today.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The dancers wear traditional attire and move in circular circles, holding pestles in their hands&nbsp;&nbsp;</p></div>

The dancers wear traditional attire and move in circular circles, holding pestles in their hands  

Picture Courtesy: Venita Gomes

The traditional practice

When night strikes, these men, along with other villagers, gather at the maand chapel and recite a prayer. After prayers are offered to god, they invoke the blessing of Lord Shiva.

It is believed that the village gets the name ‘Chandrapur’ from the famous Chandreshwar Bhootnath temple that once existed in the village. And Chandreshwar Bhootnath happens to be another form of Lord Shiva; hence people invoke his blessings during this dance.

This religious confluence seems to be a very fascinating and uniting factor in the village. When the Portuguese made their way to the village, they brought in a lot of changes. However, people going out of Chandor, have held on to their roots through this tradition.

Once the prayers are offered, the first dance takes place. They then walk to the Chapel of St Tiago and offer prayers and perform the dance. The chapel has the ruins of the old temple. After this, the men go around to each one's house performing this dance. The chants ‘Hariharacho fell fellota durgabhair xinvorota’ meaning ‘It’s Harihar’s dance and his swirling outside the fort walls are a truly unique and spectacular sight.

As they go from house to house, they chant various songs that tell the story of Chandor under various rules. They also put forth questions through songs, asking about members who are out in foreign lands, as to where they have gone.

If someone has lost a family member, a prayer is said for him and they avoid performing and singing there.

In earlier times, when electricity wasn't available in villages, these men would walk with bamboo sticks, lit with fire. People also light lamps outside their homes during the dance.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The cross which is the starting point of the mussol </p></div>

The cross which is the starting point of the mussol

Picture Courtesy: Venita Gomes

Origin of Mussol

The book ‘Goa Cultural patterns,’ edited by Dr Saryu Doshi talks about the origin of this dance. It mentions that the dance made its way to Goa through the Kadamba Dynasty, which ruled the place between 980 A.D. to 1005 A.D. However, people believe that this was first performed to commemorate the victory of the Vijayanagar king Harihara, who gained victory over the Cholas.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>The young, as well as the&nbsp;old, join in the traditional dance form</p></div>

The young, as well as the old, join in the traditional dance form

Picture Courtesy: Venita Gomes

Fading tradition

As people migrate to foreign countries for better opportunities and work, the members of this community are decreasing, and hence there are less people participating in it.

Secondly, even though they are trying to keep this folk form alive through annual performances, it is fading with time.

When: Monday and Tuesday of Carnival

Where: Cotta and Cavorim, Chandor

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Members of the Christian Chardo (Christian Kshatriya) community of Chandor, pray at the chapel of St Tiago, Chandor, before the dancing commences</p></div>
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