This unusual ‘jatra’ is held once in three years in South Goa
If one wants to experience the real Goa, then a visit to a Goan village is highly recommended. In Goa, every village has its own identity, culture, which are well reflected in its annual feasts and zatras (or zatra), or fairs. Unique festivals or rituals are also attached to a particular village, and that, in a way, defines the place.
One such unusual jatra is the Gadyaanchi Jatra, which is held in the village of Poinguinim, Canacona. It is held in the open space around the Shri Betal temple, highly revered and the guardian deity of the village. This jatra is held once in three years. This year, the jatra will be held on May 21 at 4 pm.
BEHIND THE ZATRA
Rohit Phalgaonkar, assistant professor of history at the SSA Government College of Arts and Commerce, Pernem, and an expert on the temples of Goa, explains that each of the three years have their own significance. In the first year (of the three-year cycle), a ritual called Jevnni is performed. During the second year the famous Ttakaa procession is carried out, and in the third year, the Gadyaanchi Jatra is held.
The Ttakaa procession is believed to be an invitation to all the deities of the three villages of Poinguinim, Loliem and Kharegaall.
The procession is lead by a representative of the deity, Betal, followed by four men, called
Gade, with two tarangaa, and two satris (umbrella shaped icons representing deities). The Ttakaa is a cloth inscription with three lines embroidered on the top, with images of Shri Betal in the centre and different deities at the sides. Below him is seen the emblem of the Kadamb dynasty – a lion with a raised paw. He further informs that the Ttakaa lines praise the deity Shri Betal, who is believed to have conquered 12 kingdoms in Goa.
FOLKLORE & TRADITIONS
Folklore says that in the 13th century, Shri Betal conquered Poinguinim and annexed it to his 12 other kingdoms. The villagers requested him to reside peacefully in Poinguinim, in return for which, he was promised a jatra after every three years. Since then, the famous Gadyaanchi Jatra has been held.
However, prior to the main jatra, various events are held. This year, they started a month earlier, when a tall tree was chopped down and taken to the temple premises in a procession.
Then, on May 8, 2022, there was a ritual of breaking a bamboo, and using it, along with wood, to make a large demon. This demon is then destroyed late in the evening, three days later. This is known as Daitya Jagor, and was held on May 11. Prior to this, a Perni jagor is held, where the people who perform the Perni jagor perform this folk art form by wearing masks. It is just a representational form of the Perni jagor.
On May 18 evening, there’s another jagor which is called Choran Jagor. While explaining this, Phalgaonkar says that the men who are part of this jatra, known as Chowgules, have to stay at the temple premises for a few days after the actual jatra. They are not supposed to go out of the premises. So, in order to get provisions, at night, they used to visit neighbourhood plantations and steal fruits like coconuts, jackfruits, mangoes, etc. So, this act is known as Choran Jagor.
Prior to the jatra, the tarangaas, the satri and the pillkucho (bunch of peacock feathers) are brought ceremoniously to Poinguinim from Amona, near Cotigao. Two massive tree trunks called khaamb – around 13 to 14 meters high – are erected in front of the Shri Betal temple. A huge wooden spindle called the raat with four arms is mounted on these khaamb.
On the evening of the jatra, a metal hook is pierced into the back muscles of the four gade. The Gade climb the khaamb, wearing a turban and a dhoti. They hold a sword in the right hand and a piece of cloth in the other. Each Gado (singular of Gade) is tied to the arm of the spindle. The spindle is then rotated.
The Mhaal Gado (chief) then poses four questions to the crowd below. “Lolyekaar Aayle?” (“Have the villagers from Loliem arrived?”); “Poinginkaar Aayle?” (“Have the villagers from Poinguinim arrived?”); “Khargaallkaar Aayle?” (“Have the villagers from Kharegaall arrived?”); “Khushi Jaali?” (“Are you all happy?)
After receiving a loud positive response, the spindle is rotated and stopped, thus marking the end of the jatra.