No longer does the bogey-man cometh in Divar!

The ‘Potekar’ festival is unique to the island of Divar, in Goa, and is virtually a cross between two festivals — Carnival and Halloween. Fortunately, it has ceased to be a scary festival for 'Divarkars'.
No longer does the bogey-man cometh in Divar!

No, this isn't a scene from Michael Jackson's Thriller. These ghoulish beings were part of the Potekar festival in Divar in February 2022

PIC COURTESY: Venita Gomes

The island of Divar is situated approx 10 km from Panjim, and is bordered by Ribandar, Old Goa and Narve. It is connected to these villages via ferry.

Two feasts are hugely popular in Divar — Bonderam and Potekar (sometimes called Mone, meaning ‘dumb’) — which draw people from all over Goa. The word Potekar means ‘shabby’ in Konkani. The name is derived from the costumes and masks, worn by the men on the festival day.

This festival is unique to Divar, and is very similar to Halloween, which is celebrated annually in October in the Western world.

ORIGINS OF THE FESTIVAL

The Potekar festival began in the pre-Portuguese era, and coincides with Carnival. And, like Carnival, this is a three-day festival of fun which is celebrated before Ash Wednesday, and is an opportunity for families and friends to cook and make merry together, bringing the entire village together as one.

The origin of the festival are a mix of folk tales and legends. While this fest may seem like the stuff of superstition, some people are of the opinion that it had an educative, or disciplinary purpose, since it taught children moral values and good behaviour.

According to another story, it is believed that in the olden days, some people would sweep gardens and compounds, and demand a fee for the same. Yet, another tale says that people roamed the village, in disguise and masked voices so as to hide their identity, and thus avoid from being mocked by the youth.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Creativity is at an all-time high as people create their own 'scary' masks</p></div>

Creativity is at an all-time high as people create their own 'scary' masks

PIC COURTESY: Instagram/Marius Fernandes

HOW IT’S CELEBRATED

No specific programs are chalked out for these three festive days. The islanders don animal costumes and homemade masks, and then roam the village, carrying a sack. They also wear cowbells on their ankles and around their waists, the sound of which can be heard for miles. Due to their garb and masks and altered voices, they cannot be recognised when they do the rounds of the village.

When they visit different homes, they are offered food, traditional sweets (goddxem), beer and at times, even lunch.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>People don scary costumes as part of the <em>Potekar </em>festival in Divar</p></div>

People don scary costumes as part of the Potekar festival in Divar

PIC COURTESY: Instagram/Marius Fernandes

Back in the day, when children would see a Potekar, or hear the bells jingling, they would be terrified and run for cover, and it was basically a scary festival. But it is no longer so, and children do not hide when they hear the sound of bells.

In those days, only men would dress up in scary costumes, but of late, even women have been participating and donning festive attire. The event is an opportunity for the youth to be a part of the fun-filled festivities.

Although Carnival and Potekar are held at the same time, the latter is a village festival, wherein everyone is involved in some way, or the other, thus fostering a community spirit.

WHAT: Potekar festival

WHEN: February 26, 2022 to March 1, 2022

WHERE: Divar

<div class="paragraphs"><p>No, this isn't a scene from Michael Jackson's <em>Thriller</em>. These ghoulish beings were part of the <em>Potekar </em>festival in Divar in February 2022</p></div>
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