One of the most important deities of Goa’s Hindu community is Shantadurga, who is a form of the Hindu goddess, Durga, popularly known as Mahamaya (Mhamai in Goa). This warrior goddess is not linked to any male gods, and her primary role is combating demons.
'Shanta Durga' means ‘peaceful Durga’. The other forms that she takes are that of Kali, Durga, Lakshmi, Sitala and Saraswati, to name a few. In Goa, she is known as Shantadurga.
ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
Shantadurga is the goddess of Cuncolim village, located in the Salcete taluka. People visit from all over the state, especially during the Shantadurga temple zatra, to pray for the gift of a son, cures, prosperity, to make vows etc. She is considered an all-powerful and holy mother, and the festival of Sontrio, in Cuncolim, is connected with her.
During this festival, the deity is taken ceremoniously from the temple in Fatorpa, to her original home, in Cuncolim, where it was enshrined. This event takes place every year on the 5th of Phalgun, or the dark half of the month of Phalgun, which is usually in the month of March. On this occasion, the image of Shantadurga is placed in a silver palanquin, and taken in a huge, colourful procession, crossing the hills from Fatorpa to the Sri Shantadurga Kunkalkarin Temple, in Cuncolim.
The traditional route that is followed by the procession is the reverse of the one used centuries ago, by the Hindus, who fled to safety (carrying the image of the deity with them), from its original location in Tolleabhat, Cuncolim, to Fatorpa. The festival is called Sontrio (umbrellas), because it is led by a procession of twelve colourful umbrellas, placed on top of tall decorative poles, made of metal or wood.
THE JOURNEY HOME
The white umbrellas represent each of the 12 vangodds, or original settlers (the twelve Kshatriya clans of Cuncolim). The red umbrella represents the deity. The umbrellas are carried by youth, who dance merrily along the route, during the entire duration of the procession.
Red powder is smeared on all the male participants in the festival, while handfuls of powder are tossed in the air around the palanquin as it moves along. These ‘sacred umbrellas’ are accompanied by hundreds of people along the journey.
When the procession finally reaches Cuncolim, a traditional arti is performed near the Chapel of the Martyrs. The procession then moves to a pandal, specially erected for the goddess, and decorated with coconuts, fruits, leaves and a stalk of bananas. The red colour, the coconuts and fruits highlight the goddess’ ability to propagate males.
Two bands — a Western one with brass instruments and an Indian, percussion band — play festive music. This festival is popular among, both, Hindus and Catholics. The Catholics who attend generally include the agricultural Kunbi caste as well as the Kshatriya (Chardo) clans of Cuncolim.
This year’s SOTREO festival is on March 22, 2022, and starts around 11.30 am