Tradition and heritage: Shigmo in Goa

What unites people and communities if not for their beliefs and faith?
An age-old tradition, Shigmo in Goa.
An age-old tradition, Shigmo in Goa. Gomantak Times

While the orange triangular flags are out, hanging on strings and connected by electricity poles all over the streets of Panjim, the Divja circle, among the many other circles in the state, stand decorated with statues and cut-outs of men and women dancing to the distant sound of an echo of thunderous music that will be heard in different parts of Goa in March 2023, extending a regal welcome to the festival of Shigmostav in Goa! 

An age-old tradition, Shigmo in Goa.
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Shigmotsav, locally known as Shigmo, is a spring festival and is celebrated by the Hindu community of Goa. Sometimes pronounced “shigma”, the word “sheeg” in Konkani and Marathi means “abundance”, thus capturing its very essence and highlighting what this festival is all about – plenitude and prosperity.

Unlike most festivals, Shigmo is celebrated on a community level rather than on a family basis.  

An age-old tradition, Shigmo in Goa.
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Shigmo begins on the 9th day of Falgun (a month in the Hindu calendar) and peaks on Sansar padvo (first day of the new year). The duration between these days is designated as Shigmya mhayno (month of Shigmo).

During this time, villages celebrate by performing various rituals that involve fire walking and several other practices in accordance with age-old traditions. The south of the river Mandovi is known as dhaklo (younger) Shigmo, while the north is known as vhadlo (elder) Shigmo. 

An age-old tradition, Shigmo in Goa.
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Engaging in communal harmony, the festivities and rituals do not begin unless invitations are extended to all the religions of the region. The town of Ponda, Goa, especially extends an invitation of Shigmo to the Muslim brethren of the area. 

The streets of a few lucky areas in Goa witness parades of lifelike floats, folk dancing, musical instruments and fun-filled extravaganzas. Unlike the similar festival of the Goa Carnival, the theme that the Shigmo parade ardently follows is pure Indian mythology.

An age-old tradition, Shigmo in Goa.
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In Goa, the three aspects of celebrating Shigmo are its rites and rituals, artistic expressions and festivities. On a decided day, the villagers gather at a spot that they refer to as a mand. Of course, not forgetting their instruments such as the dhol and the taso, among others.

Starting with the naman (salutation), they sing traditional devotional songs to invoke the gods and goddesses and other entities, spirits and the supernatural. For the sake of the welfare of the village, the entire pantheon of divine beings is summoned to arrive at the mand and requested to retire on the last day of the ritualistic festival. 

An age-old tradition, Shigmo in Goa.
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Music is a very important component of Shigmo. It is robust and vibrant – making it close to impossible for anyone not to tap their feet or jive to the rhythmic beats of the traditional instruments that are passionately played during the festivities.

In days gone by, the festival of Shigmo was celebrated mainly by farmers, artisans, potters and other working-class sections of society while the upper castes of people were absent from the festivities.

An age-old tradition, Shigmo in Goa.
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Today, the festival is celebrated in royal style by all, with singing and dancing. Although the festival has become commercialised over the years, its authenticity, sentiments, traditions and the dedication of the people of Goa towards their heritage remain unmatched!

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