Thursday, October 29, 2009




Church bells are believed to have been imported from Europe, especially from Italy,
during the Portuguese rule in Goa. Mostly, each Church has two towers. While one of
them houses bell(s) the other one is a show piece.

In the olden days, Church bells ruled everyday life in the villages. They announced
marriages, births and deaths. Laborers woke up to the Angelus bell at dawn to start their daily chores. Long distance journeys like a pilgrimage to Old Goa, shopping trip to Aronnem (Aronda) on foot began at the stroke of morning Church bell.

In Anjuna, there is a steep staircase built into the tower, which leads to the top where bells are located. In the olden days, each Church had at least four pede, who besides other Church-related duties also rang bells.

The Anjuna Church has two bells - one gives bass sound and the other a little lighter sound. The pede employed in our Church in those days were expert in ringing these bells.

Two pede were required to ring these bells. They stood on a wooden platform, which was placed in the middle of the staircase well next to the bells. They pealed the bells thus:

Ttanv-ttanv, tti-ttanv, tti-ttanv
Ttanv-ttanv, tti-ttanv, tti-ttanv, tti-ttanv
Ttanv-ttanv, tti-ttanv, tti-ttanv, tti-ttanv, tti-ttanv
Tttanv-ttanv-ttanv-ttanv, tti-ttanv, tti-ttanv, tti-ttanv; ttanv, tti-ttanv, etc.

Our pede had such a good ear for the music that even the pealing of bells was done

Fr. José Leandro de Abreu, served Anjuna Church as a Parish Priest from 1923-37. He
hailed from Saligao and carried an ancestral nick name - “Kombo Padr Vigar”.
Obviously, his home was known as “Kombeager!” He knew solfas (music notes) and
loved music.

The above-mentioned ringing style of Anjuna Church bells was created by Kombo Padr
Vigar. He taught Anjuna boyyas to ring the Church bells rhythmically on ‘do-re-mi’

Just out of context, here is an incident that took place in Anjuna Church while Fr. José
served as a parish priest, as narrated by Epifanio D’Souza, colloquially known as Efulo,
who though 85 years old, still goes about everywhere on his bicycle.

The daily nustekarn brought fish to the Church. Kombo Padr Vigar asked her: “Aiz
nustem kitem haddlam gho?” (What fish did you bring today?) She replied: “Kombe,
Padr Vigar!” The moment the parish priest heard this he was furious because he thought
the nustekarn was teasing him by his nick-name.

So, he went inside, brought his “rot” (walking stick) and started beating the nustekarn
mercilessly until Church cook came to her rescue and told Padr Vigar she did not mean to
tease him but that the name of the fish she had brought was “kombo.”

The parish priest felt sorry. He put his hand in his pocket and gave her Rs.20 and asked
her not to tell anyone what had happened. Keep in mind that Rs.20 was a very big
amount in those days.

The warmth of money was so much that the nustekarn told everyone what had happened
placing emphasis on the gift of money rather than the beating she received. Thus, the
news spread all over Anjuna like wild fire.

Every week, pede kept on rotating their place on the plank while ringing bells in order to
avoid striking them in the same place, thus extending their lifeline.

The rhythmic ringing filled the midnight air on Christmas Eve, New Year and Easter; at
baptism ceremonies, at nuptials, at the end of salvi, at vespers, at the feast Solemn High
mass, etc. Our Church bell-ringing sounded the best and may have been one of the best in
rhythmic ringing in Goa. I thoroughly enjoyed ringing of our Church bells.

Today, there are no pede in Anjuna Church to ring bells. A long rope is tied to each bell
and bells are pealed by a Church servant or a sacristan from next to the Church “roz-
angnnem” (inner church garden.)

There is a saying in Konkani: "Te poder mele, te undde kabar zale" (With the passing
away of bakers from those days, came the end of their bread). Similarly, “te pede gele ani
teo ghantto marpachem kabar zalem” (those grave diggers went away and with them the
rhythmic ringing of bells was silenced.)

Children were forbidden to go to the tower housing the bells but sometimes when we
found the pede sleeping in their niches in the afternoon during our Catechism classes, we
would quietly climb the stairs and enjoy the view from atop the Church tower. Since we
were small, we couldn't reach the window opening. So, we sat on each other's shoulders
and watched the view by taking turns.

Once, one of our stupid friends struck the bell which awakened the pede. We were caught
running down the staircase. Pede asked us as to who rang the bell. We had no alternative
but to name the friend who received a tight slap from the pedo with a warning never to do
that again. Thank God, he did not report us to the Padr Vigar who would not only pinch
us but would also hit us on the head with a big door key!

At the end of nuptials or christening of a child, the Church pede would hurriedly
approach the groom or parents/godparents of the child and plead thus: “Baba/Baie, hea
khoxechea nadar amkam kiteim diat re/gho!” (Sir/Madam, please give us something at
this happy occasion!)

Mostly, people gave them generously and they quickly thanked them in the Goan way:
“Baba/Baie, Dev borem korum, Dev tumcher bessanv ghalum!) (Sir/Madam, thank you –
may God bless you!)

But there were others who were “imtte” (miser.) When pede approached them for tips,
they spoke to them roughly: “Chol, voch!” (Go away or get lost!) To them the boyyas
quietly murmured: “Tumchem padd poddonv” (May you be cursed!)

If a child’s parents/godparents resorted to the above-type of rough behavior, they would
murmur among themselves: “Tuka dista hanchea bhurgeachem borem zatelem? (Do you
think their child will prosper?) His partner would reply: “Kednanch nam!” (Never!)

Every year, Maundy Thursday was a special begging day for the Church pede. They
would place a white handkerchief on the stairs on the North and East entrances of Anjuna
Church compound and expect people to place alms for them on their handkerchiefs,
which most of us did.

After a Church feast was over, some women from the Mhar community and even Church
pede were seen begging alms, especially at the North and East entrances of Anjuna
Church compound from where people exited and went to the feast fair to buy chonne,
kaddieo-boddieo, mana’a, laddu, khajeacheo biyeo, etc.

Most people gave them generously, as it was an opportunity to serve the poor at the end
of a feast.

We are grateful to the boyyas for bringing joy into our lives by ringing our Church bells

We are grateful to the boyyas for bringing joy into our lives by ringing our church bells


The pede always maintained slim-and-trim figure – none of our pede had a paunch. Do
you know why? It was because every time they were required to ring Anjuna Church
bells, they had to climb up two long staircases.

The first staircase has 28 stairs – it starts on the ground floor and ends by the choir door.
The second staircase has 32 steps – it begins outside choir door and runs through the well
of the bell tower.

The Catholic Church reminds us through Church bell to pray to God five times a day as
per the following timings:

(1) The first Church bell rings at 5:00 a.m. - MATINS - reading wake-up. It is a wake up
call to parishioners. As children we woke up at the sound of the Church bell, thanked
God for giving us a good night sleep and for helping us to wake up, said our morning
prayers and began our morning studies.

(2) The second Church bell rings at 6:00 a.m. - LAUDS - morning prayers. It is a
reminder to people to begin their day with prayers; attend holy mass. Most people in the
olden days went to Church for 6:00 o'clock mass.

(3) The third Church bell rings at 12:00 p.m. - SELT - mid-day prayers. It is a reminder
to people for mid-day prayers followed by lunch. Most people in the past ate their lunch
soon after the mid-day Church bell rang. Laborers stopped their work to have a meal
followed by the mandatory Goan siesta.

(4) The fourth Church bell rings at 7:00 p.m. - VESPERS - evening prayers. It is a
reminder to people for evening prayers which is usually followed by the Angelus. When
the Angelus bell rang, all stood and prayed.

In the days of yore, movement outside one's home came to an end at the stroke of the
Church/Chapel Angelus bell. Children stopped play, came home running and the family
gathered at the ‘oratorio’ or olotor.

Children had only 5 minutes grace time to report home after which they were punished as
soon as the Angelus was over. This is when we used all our energy to sprint 100 to 500
meters or more, depending on the place where we were at the time of the bell.

“Petrolache dive” or kerosene lamps, which were later, substituted by chimney lamps,
followed by Aladdin lamps and in some houses by petromax, and candles were lit, and
the Angelus was said.

Well before the Angelus bell rang, the domestic animals would have been gathered and
put into their respective places “kombieancho, dukrancho gudd,” (chicken’s coop,
pigsty), “gorvancho, bokddeancho gotto” (cattle, goats stable) for the night.

(5) The fifth Church bell rings at 8:00 p.m. - COMPLINE - night prayers. It is a reminder
to people for night prayers. People prayed for the departed souls at the stroke of this bell.
Most people ate their dinner soon after the bell rang.

The ringing at the above-mentioned five events was with a single stroke of the bell –
dong; dong; dong!

Besides, pede were also required to toll the bell for the dead. For this purpose, they used
each bell alternatively - ttanv, ttanv-ttanv; ttinv, ttinv-ttinv and so on.

If the Church bell rang continuously and unusually, it meant that something had gone
wrong with the Church premises or its staff - remember there was no telephone or any
other mode to communicate with parishioners.

In my life, I witnessed such bell ringing only once when I was about 6 years old. It was
when Padr Kur's (curate's) room was robbed. As for St. Anthony's Church in Vagator,
people there have had many chances to witness such bell ringing because, to my
knowledge, that church was burgled many times since its inception in the mid 1950s!

The above ringing as well as ringing of the bells at the daily three masses (presuming
three priests were available in a Church, as sometimes there were as many as five priests
in a Church) resulted in boyyas climbing up the stairs at least 480 times (60 stairs X 8
times); they climbed down the stairs that many times, plus they tolled bells for the dead
as well as at masses for the departed souls. So, on an average a boyya climbed up and
down around 1080 (540 + 540) stairs every day – a feat none of us were and are able to
do in our daily life!

They also engaged themselves in cleaning and mopping the Church every day, plus dug

No wonder, they were able to maintain a trim and slip figure! Weren’t they some of the
most tough people?

I attribute our childhood upbringing to the pede because had it not been for their pealing
of bells, we might not be what we are today!


Today, people hire a hearse van to carry a dead person’s body from a hospital morgue to
his/her home and from there to the Church cemetery.

In the past, two pede, who were also known as boyyas, carried a dead person from his
home to the cemetery.

They pulled an empty carriage from the Church to the dead person’s house and brought it
back to the Church with the dead person in a coffin.

Mind you, in those days mud roads were full of pot holes. Poor boyyas, they walked
bare-feet and pulled the loaded carriage like two bullocks tied to a “boilancho ghaddo”
(bullock cart) or a “zot” (yoke of oxen.)

In those days, if the Mhars had gone on a strike, nobody would be buried since doing a
pedo’s job was considered below dignity and nobody was prepared to do it.

So, don’t you think we should be grateful to them for doing the job for us?

To be continued …………….

To be continued ........
Anjuna, Goa

© All rights reserved

Forwarded by
gulf-goans e-newsletter (since 1994)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 8

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 8

By Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna, Goa
Mobile: 9420979201


Until the Sixties each Church employed at least four “pede or boyya” (grave diggers).

In the Fifties, the Anjuna Church had four resident priests, and it employed six pede. Four of them were required to carry the machila or the palanquin.

The pede worked day and night. While five pede did day-duty, the sixth pedo was assigned night duty, which lasted for a week. They worked on a rotational basis. He rang the bell at night when a “sontesanv” (the sacrament of the infirm) was given to a parishioner; he also accompanied the priest.

He was assigned a small room on the left side of the cemetery where he spent the night; the others joined him in the room during day time or rested in the niches under the staircase leading to the choir.

Besides cleaning and mopping the Church, pealing the bells, watering the Church and cemetery garden (there were croton plants all around by the inner cemetery fence) and coconut saplings in the “igorjechem bens” (church property,) sweeping the Church compound of fallen leaves, gathering and breaking firewood, etc., they also dug graves and carried the Machila. The salary of a pedo was Rs.20 per month!

Today, Churches in Goa do not employ pede; instead, they employ laborers, mostly migrants, but they are hardly familiar with a pedo’s intricate duties.

Pede were experts in digging graves and burying people. When it came to burial, the four of them worked as a team.

The coffin is carried from the Church to the cemetery by pall bearers. As soon as people enter the cemetery, everyone proceeds to the grave dug for the deceased person.

Once at the grave, the coffin is kept on the pile of mud. The boyyas/pede would place ropes in coffin handles at both ends and lower a kaixa or kaixanv (coffin) into the grave. They rarely faltered because they were experts at this job.

The priest recites prayers, blesses the grave, catches “foreacho danddo” (hoe handle) and throws “tin forim bhor mathi” (three hoe-full of mud – actually, it is three fistful of mud) in the grave and walks away; everyone follows suit. Finally, the pedo fills the grave with mud and closes the cemetery.

Today, when a coffin is about to be lowered in a grave, practically everyone who was carrying it tries to help the lonely laborer to lower it in the grave; the result: Sometimes helpers land in the grave!

Not only that, there have been instances when people found out at the last moment that a grave was not dug (this never happened pre-1970s.) There being no other option, the relatives/friends had to dig a grave themselves in the cemetery.

Did that make them a pede?


Besides using bones of a “natuk” (owl) and “balgem” (female fox/hyena), roots of certain trees for manually-prepared “vokot” (medicine) to drive away “devchar” (evil) and “dixtt/nodor”(evil eye), which was prepared by rubbing on a “fatorn” (granite stone), a sorcerer also used bones of a “meleli avont” (a woman who dies with a child inside her womb.)

Who do you think obtained those bones? Of course, it was our pedo who had the chart of each and every dead person’s grave – mind you he did not know how to read or write yet he knew in which grave who was buried!

In the olden days, with a smaller population to contend with, a person’s grave was dug out after five years. Later, the process was reduced to three years, and now sometimes a grave is dug within a period of less than two years!

For the sorcerer’s purpose, the bones of an avont had to be obtained at night, preferably after midnight, and the only person who had the guts to do that was our Mhar brother – the pedo. Of course, he didn’t venture out alone; he always had his friend for his company - the “soro” (liquor!)


The mhars were also quack doctors!

Many Goans were and are still used to having a yearly ritual bath in the sea, which they believe helps circulation of blood.

In the past, they exercised this ritual in mid-May, as by then they would have made all the monsoon provision such as drying boiled paddy and husking it, extracting “khobreachem tel” (coconut oil), preparing paddy fields for “dhumpek” (kharif crop) and repairing and/or stitching houses – a yearly practice to clear “ganvtti nolle” (local tiles) of tree leaves and other dirt which, if not removed/cleaned, causes water to leak through tiles.

Besides the above, there were other methods which helped Goans keep their blood pressure under control – so at least it was believed.

Some Goans used leeches to withdraw supposedly “vaitt rogot” (bad blood) – I say supposedly because they actually sucked good blood.

One just bought about half a dozen leeches from Mapusa Friday bazaar, or from any pharmacy where they were kept in mud in a bottle. Leeches were held in hand and applied on the desired spot – lower legs - calves, thighs, etc.

When leeches fattened with blood, they were removed by puffing cigarette/beedi/pamparo smoke at them; application of a little salt also immediately dislodged leeches from the skin.

Some people performed “xiro marop” (cutting of veins) - it was more of a figure of speech than cutting of the veins.

This job was undertaken by a “malo” (barber). He usually performed the task by lacerating the inner forearm with the help of a razor. He then withdrew blood by placing a “ventoz” (fomentation with cups) on the area.

Similarly, one of the Mhar community male members was hired to suck blood. Just like a malo, he, too, lacerated the spot on the inner forearm and used a “gorvachem xing” (bull’s/cow’s horn) to suck blood through its thin end! Sounds disgusting but that’s exactly what he did!

About application of leeches, kharem udok navop ani xiro marop, the present-day doctors and scientists may find it bizarre but it worked perfectly well for the people in olden-days!


In today’s world, if anything goes awry we call it ‘bad luck.’ In the past everything was attributed to ‘dixtt’ (evil eye) cast by someone who was jealous of your possessions, prosperity or even general well being. This ancient belief was deep-rooted until the late Seventies/early Eighties.

When one was diagnosed with dixtt, he/she was taken to a dixttikar/dixtikarn - a person who draws out the negative energies from the body and rids it of the 'evil eye'.

The Mhars or the so-called lower caste of Goan society had the powers to remove evil eye and the tradition would automatically go down to the next generation of the family but not if the daughter married a member of a higher caste.

Their hand was said to have the power of being able to rid one of the evil eye - they were believed to possess powers of exorcism. The ritual of driving away evil spirits was performed on Sundays and Wednesdays – the two days on which these powers were believed to be activated.

Children, especially infants, are considered to be the most vulnerable and many methods were used to thwart the evil eye. That’s why children were always made to wear black beaded cords. Black dots of kaajal were applied on the forehead, chin and cheeks. Kaajal was also applied around a child’s eyes; a black cord or a munz was tied around the waist of a child.

People also prepared pendants with owl’s nails/bones and tied them in the form of small “pottleo” (bundles) on necklaces. Similarly, garlic is believed to be a repellant of evil; hence, it was tied in a cloth in the form of a pottli and added to a child’s necklace.

It is believed these tools can ward off the evil eye cast by people seeing the baby for the first time or, if they are envious of the baby’s lively personality.

When an evil eye is cast on a child, the child cries non-stop, it stops eating and eventually falls sick. In the past, those who could afford, would take their children to a doctor or consult the elderly and yet find no cure. Their next stop would be a dixttikar’s/dixttikarn’s place.

There are two types of evil eye: One is weaker or mild, the other is of a stronger force. Some children get well immediately, others have to visit the dixttikar/dixttikarn, at least thrice for a complete cure.

A mild evil eye requires the dixttikar/dixttikarn to say a short prayer while he/she sprinkles a few drops of holy water and freshly ground roots of the addoso plant. The plant is commonly used in homes to drive away the evil eye.

Mothers are known to pray over their children and sprinkle the mixture of holy water and addoso if they appear to be frightened or act strangely. This practice is known as “vokot marop” (application of medicine.)

The stronger evil eye, it is believed, does not leave a person straight away. It is believed certain people have a ‘bad eye’ and once cast upon a person, can harm the person in an unhealthy way.

To rid of this evil eye, dixttikar/dixttikarn recommends three chillies, a handful of salt; an egg, whole bread and a banana to be looped around the head of the person in circular motions and discarded at a crossroad. This is called ‘umvaddi vovdavop.’ Mothers do this over their children at night and keep them indoors till dawn.

A dixttikar/dixttikarn’s tools are chilies, a piece of rock candy and one mixture of holy water and ground addoso root. Evil eye is removed only on a Wednesday and Sunday, the days considered auspicious for cleaning the people.

When it came to chasing away evil eye, spirits, cobras, the Mhars were simply the best. Just like a voijinn (mid-wife / local female doctor), the Mhars were summoned by Hindus as well as Christians to exorcise evil eye and spirits.

The Mhars were associated with their demon deities. They worshipped the devil-god ‘Maru’, who lived on hilltops and treetops, especially “oddancher” (on banyan trees.)

Whenever they wanted to drive away evil, they would call out their devil-god thus:

“Oddavoilo Guru, Ximevoilo Maru, amche gorjek pavu.”
(Oh devil-god who dwells on the banyan tree and who controls the borders, please help us in our need.)

This is why we saw small shrines around the base of odd and pimpoll (fecus indica) trees, where Maru was placated with offerings of miniature clay horses. Such trees were never cut down. Here’s an example:

When one enters Mapusa from Panaji, there is a roundabout with statue of Gandhiji. During Portuguese times, there was a big 'oddachem zhadd' (banyan tree) with many zageache sorop (snakes belonging to the spot) around it. The Hindus lit “telacheo ponntteo” (earthen oil lamps) and “agarbatis” (incense sticks) on the pedestal around the tree, and threw coins at the foot of the tree.

The Portuguese government tried in vain many times to get rid of the tree in order to widen the road but people, especially the Hindus, were simply not ready to take on the task in their hands and those who volunteered were punished with injuries, including deaths. Finally, the tree was cut by the Portuguese military personnel but not without paying for their lives.

In 1960, the Portuguese introduced a modern 'rotunda' (roundabout) in place of the oddachem zhadd and installed the statue of Mr. Manuel Antonio De Souza – the hero of Massangano.

But within less than two years, precisely four days prior to Goa’s Liberation, the statue was destroyed by a bomb purportedly by the Portuguese military intelligence from the Mapusa quartela, but the blame was put on the Indian government in order to create mixed feelings among Goans. Obviously, some people attributed the destruction of the statue to the devil-god, Maru!

The Mhars used salt to perform an “umvalli” – an act of exorcism in which a spoonful of “mitt” (salt) and “tin sukeo, motteo mirsango” (three fat, dry chilies) are held in the right hand and passed over affected person’s body from head to toe while at the same time murmuring:

“Saiba, ghorcheanchi dixtt laglea zalear, vatten ietea-voiteanchi dixtt laglea zalear, vaddeantlea lokachi dixtt laglea zalear, cheddeanchi/cheddvanchi dixtt laglea zalear, sogleanchea dolleanim mitt poddonv, tanche dolle futtonv. Soitana, hea bhurgeache/munxeache kuddintlo koddsor ani nattak zav!”

(Lord, if the person is affected by the evil eye of his/her relatives, passers by, villagers, boys/girls, may the salt get into their eyes and may they go blind! Evil, leave this child’s/person’s body and get lost!)

Finally, the “dixttikar/dixttikarn” stands in front of the person and makes three anti-clockwise circles with his/her hand around the affected person’s head.

At every circle, which begins and ends at the face, he/she asks the evil-affected person to forcefully blow at the fist and say: “KHAK THU!”

Once the “umvaddi” is taken, the “dixttikar/dixttikarn” hurls the salt and chilies in a “chul” (fire place) where it bursts like little crackers and chilies make a crackling sound – TTOV-TTOV-TTOV at which the “dixttikar/dixttikarn” exclaims:

“Dixtt geli! Pollelam mungo bai/baba, mirsangancho koso far zalo to? Tujea putak/dhuvek, bhavak/bhoinnink jerul konnancho tori dollo laglolo punn atam bhirant nam; to dollo futtlo ani itlean tuzo put/dhuv boro/borem zalo/zalem.”

(The evil eye is gone! Did you notice how chilies burst in the fire? Surely, your son/daughter, brother/sister was affected by an evil eye but don’t worry, that eye is destroyed and your son/daughter is now cured of the evil eye!)

But if the chilies just burned quietly, the dixttikar/dixttikarn and others looked at each other in consternation and interpreted the foul odor emanating from the flames as “Dixtt vochonk nam.” (The evil eye has not left).

Obviously, people paid the Mhar community for their services.

Wasn’t the Mhar community a fearless tribe??

To be continued ........
Anjuna, Goa

© All rights reserved

Forwarded by
gulf-goans e-newsletter (since 1994)

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 7

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 7

By Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna, Goa
Mobile: 9420979201


The “sotrekarn” was a female who carried a “tambddi, viludachi vo domaskachi sotri” (red, velvet umbrella) at weddings, religious ceremonies/processions, receptions of dignitaries, etc.

Usually, she was well-built and dark in complexion; she always had a smile on her face. She came from the Mhar community.

At weddings, she wore a “suti” (cotton) or “chitachem” (printed calico - derived from the Portuguese word ‘chita’) kapodd. No matter what the quality of material of a kapodd was, she had to wear a red kapodd at a wedding ceremony.

In the past, when one’s close relative(s) passed away, it was the norm to wear black clothes in the first year of mourning.

If a sotrekarn who was arranged for a wedding ceremony was mourning, she would not take up the assignment but would instead send another sotrekarn who was not mourning and could wear red clothes.

At a wedding, she became part of the groom’s and bride’s company at every step, right from the beginning of the function till the end, including the “portovnnem” (reciprocation) ceremony.

The tambddi viludachi sotri is big in size and quite heavy. “Sotrecho danddo” (The stick of the umbrella) is about 6 feet long. Golden tussles are fixed all around the border of the umbrella, which added to its allure.

On a wedding day, the sotrekarn is the first person to arrive at the groom’s/bride’s residence with a folded sotri placed on her shoulder. Keep in mind the sotri is big and heavy; so, she can’t carry it in hand like an ordinary umbrella!

She would enter the mattov, proceed to the balcão, place the sotri in one of the corners of the balcão and then take a seat on a sopo.

On learning that the sotrekarn has arrived, the “ezman” (groom’s/bride’s mother) would take her to the temporary kitchen mattov behind the house and offer her tea in a “kanso” (bowl) and a couple of bread. She would eat one of the bread and place the other in a small cloth pouch, which was tucked to her kapodd at her waist line.

As soon as “besanv” (blessing) is over, the bride/groom leaves her/his home for the Church. The sotrekarn opens the umbrella and accompanies the bride/groom to the car (in the past it was a boilanchi ghaddi” (oxen-ridden carriage.)

When the bride/groom reaches the Church compound and alights from the boilanchi ghaddi or car, the sotrekarn again opens her umbrella and leads the bride/groom to the entrance of the Church under the shelter of the tambddi sotri.

After the nuptials, the sotrekarn accompanies the bride/groom from the church door to the boilanchi ghaddi or car.

Usually, the groom as well as the bride hired one viludachi tambddi sotri each for the occasion. But sometimes, to show off, more than one viludacheo tambddeo sotreo were hired, mostly by the groom’s side.

In such a case, one would witness three umbrellas instead of two – one from the bride’s side and two from the groom’s. If the bride’s father was a well-off person, he, too, hired two umbrellas with two sotrekarni. Obviously, the sotrekarni had good company and they also received good remuneration from both the parties!

Singing of Mandde/Dulpods/Dekhnni/Zoti at Goan weddings adds flavor to ceremonies. At every stage, a Manddo/Dulpod/Dekhnni/Zoti is sung. For e.g. when the bride’s folks arrive at the groom’s mattov, the following zoti is sung:

Man ghalun sokol
Kaibori cholta hi vokol
Man ghalun sokol
Kaibori cholta hi vokol

Novro voklek sangta kanni
Kaiborem voklechem nanv Annie
Novro voklek sangta kanni
Kaiborem voklechem nanv Annie

The sotrekarni were very good in singing Goan Mandde/Zoti, etc. They never hesitated to show off their singing talent, especially at weddings when they were treated differently; thus, they would give company to others who sang.

The following Dekhnni is sung at a portovnnem (reciprocation) ceremony. In this Dekhnni, bride’s brother requests his brother-in-law to use an umbrella to take his sister. He further requests him to take her under the shade of an umbrella so the sunshine won’t effect and make her dark:

Manank mojea sotri lavn, sotri lavn, vhor kunhada
Manank mojea sotri lavn, sotri lavn, vhor kunhada
(Please, brother-in-law, take my sister by using an umbrella)
Manank mojea savllechean, savllechean, vhor kunhada
Manank mojea savllechean, savllechean, vhor kunhada
(Please, brother-in-law, take my sister under the shade of an umbrella.)

One of the duties the “sotrekarn” was entrusted with was to look after the evil spirits throughout bride’s journey from her home to the Church, to the photo studio and back to her new home, and later from her husband’s house back to her house on the third day for the portovnnem.

The Mhars had a connection with evil spirits!

As explained in my article “Devchar (Evil Spirits) ani Voijinn Maim”, people then believed in evil spirits and it was believed that they controlled village boundaries and roads, especially road crossings, including a “Tiskem” (connection of three roads – a T-shaped road) where a lot of “azneri” (strange incidents) took place.

For this reason, one found and still finds a Ghumtti erected at borders of villages. The locals traveling in the area seek blessings of the “rakhnno” (guardian) at the Ghumtti to protect them along their journey.

How did a sotrekarn please the evil spirits? She carried enough “pan-bedde” (betel leaf & nuts) in a “lugttachi poti” (cloth bag), which she tucked into her kapodd at her waistline.

The moment they reached a cross road/tiskem, she would remove one of the “pan-beddo” from her bag and throw it away, supposedly for it to be picked up by the evil spirits who would be pleased with it and would not attack or do something bad for the bride/groom.

When transportation became available, the “sotrekarn” always sat by the window so she could toss out the “pan-beddo” at every road crossing and “xim” (border). She strictly instructed the bride/groom not to look back while she did the job either while they walked the distance or traveled by a car.

While “xim portop” (reciprocation of border or bridal departure ceremony where an imaginary line is drawn by pouring liquor separating groom’s and bride’s coteries) took place, the sotrekarn quietly moved aside and did her duty – tossed out a “pan-beddo”.

The sotrekarn also accompanied “ezman” (bride’s mother) with tambddi sotri when she went around inviting people in the ward for the portovnnem.

The ezman would hurriedly visit each neighbor’s house and extend invitation thus: “Hanv portovnneank sangonk aileam; vegim kens-matem korat ani mattvan eiat.” (I have come to invite you for the reception at our place; comb your hair, dress up quickly and come to the pavilion.)

In the days of yore, prior to the availability of the car, the groom’s sister along with another female companion covered the distance from groom’s house to the bride’s on foot. They were accompanied by another female, usually a sotrekarn, who belonged to the Mhar community.

She carried a “pett” (trunk) on her head containing bride’s wedding dress and other garments, gold ornaments, bobby pins, powder, etc. The moment the three women left the groom’s house, a barrage of crackers were fired which was an indication that groom’s people had left for the bride’s house with “voklechi nesovnni” (bride’s garments).

A red velvet umbrella was also used whenever church or political dignitaries visited a village. Obviously, a sotrekarn was hired to accompany them with a tambddi sotri.

The Hindus, too, used a tambddi sotri at processions carrying a deity, etc. and they, too, hired the services of a sotrekarn.


In the olden days, everything was done in the name of God and everyone invoked God’s blessings in everything.

Once the portovnnem was over and vokol returned to her husband’s, she visited the ward on the fourth day and distributed “vojem” (weight) - a basketful of Goan sweets like “bol” (sweet, hard bread made from coarse rice, jaggery and grated coconut), “kokad” (a sweet prepared from coconut), bananas, etc. given by the girl’s parents as part of the bridal trousseau.

The vojem had a connection with the dowry i.e., the number of bol depended on the amount of dowry. If a dowry of Rs.10,000 was agreed upon, “ek ozar (1000) bolanchem vojem divnk zai aslem” (one thousand (1000) bol had to be given.) For a dowry less than Rs.5,000, “painxim bolanchem vojem divnk zai aslem” (five hundred [500] bol had to be given,) and so on.

The vokol was dressed in a “saddo” (reddish color dress) that looked bright; the “chuddo” (green and yellow glass bangles) in her arms added beauty to her body. She also wore all the gold which was given to her by her parents and in-laws to show it to her new ward members.

Some of the neighbors and relatives took a closer look at the necklace, earrings, and bangles and rings, praised the design and enquired as to which “sonar-xett” (goldsmith) crafted the ornaments.

The main purpose of a vokol distributing the vojem was to get acquainted with the ward people, and, of course, to sweeten their palate with sweets and leave a long-lasting sweetness in their mouths. Along with sweets, she also carried and revealed her character.

While the vokol distributes vojem, it gives an opportunity to her neighbors/ward people to get a closer look at her, notice her behavior and judge her instantly whether she is a friendly or a reserved person.

A sotrekarn accompanied the vokol and vojem with a tambddi viludachi sotri. She followed the vokol at every step, covered her head with the umbrella and protected her from sunshine. Since the umbrella was big enough, the “dheddi” (bridesmaid) and even other accompanying members sometimes took shelter under the umbrella, especially during the hot summer season when the heat is really unbearable.

The dheddi accompanied the vokol with a “dalem” (large tray woven from bamboo – a pettaro cover) on her “bhendd/mhatem” (waist/head,) which mainly contained bol, “chonneanchi doce” (a sweet meat made from gram flour) and bananas; sometimes “dodol”, “kokada” and “bathk” were also included. The top of the basket was covered with a white, net-type cloth.

In Anjuna, tambddi viludachi sotri was available on hire in Mazalvaddo at “Celestinamger/An-Morieger” (Celestine’s/Anne Marie’s); in Mapusa it was available at Bhairão shop. The sotrekarni hired the red velvet umbrellas from these sources.

The only sotrekarni I knew in Anjuna from my childhood until the 1970s were Mrs. Idalina Fernandes, colloquially known as “Idalgem” from the Mhar vaddo, and Mrs. Severine or Severlem from Tembi mini mhar vaddo. Both belonged to the Mhar community!

Wasn’t the sotrekarn a part of our culture?


In Goa, no function is complete without firecrackers – it’s a must for every occasion, including birth of a child.

In the olden days, at the end of Salvi, feast mass, Christmas and Easter midnight mass, weddings, etc., our Church employees, pede or boyyas, prepared and fired fozne (mortars.)

Two pede were positioned on the tower to ring the Church bells and two were assigned to prepare and fire fozne.

Since a match stick usually goes off in the open air, people find it easier to use a “ujeachem sodnn (burning husk of coconut) to light firecrackers. Most pede smoked a pamparo or beedi. About ten minutes before Church ceremony came to an end, pede would prepare a small fire with soddnnam and then add some xirputtam (firewood sticks) to it.

Fozne were somewhat conical in shape with broader base; their top and bottom was flat. Each fozno weighed around 10 Kg. The pede filled them with dharu (gun powder) with the help of a bamboo piece. Each fozno had a little hole at its bottom.

When all fozne were filled or charged, they were arranged and kept individually or in separate rows, depending on how they were planned to be fired.

A line of gun powder was drawn on the ground from one fozno to another until it reached and touched the tiny hole at its bottom. Once fozne were filled or charged, they were arranged and kept at a distance of around six feet from each other.

When it was time to fire fozne, pede would pick a burning stick or sodnn and get ready to set fire to the gunpowder line on the ground.

The signal to fire fozne was the pealing of the bell. The moment they heard the bell ring, they lit the gunpowder line, which got to each fozno and instantly activated packed gunpowder and produced a big blast.

Fozne fell flat on the ground as if the life in them was over! The blast was so powerful that it could be heard in all the adjoining villages.

The pede were experts in preparing fozne; rarely any of their fozne failed. It was interesting to see them prepare fozne, light them up and run way.

As children, we knew when it was time for the fozne to go off. So, we would stand in a safe place, away from the firing site and enjoy the blasts, which sounded like bomb blasts. They were arranged and fired from outside the west entrance of the Anjuna Church compound.

Anjuna Church had a set of twelve fozne which two pede fired simultaneously. They were stored in a corner next to pede’s resting place “kontrel” (niche) under the main staircase leading to the choir.

Gornal (hand made grenades), which were prepared by a “foger” (manufacturer of artificial fireworks) were also used at the above-mentioned festivals/occasions but they were not as effective as fozne because their sound did not travel as far.

Wasn’t preparing and firing fozne another feather on the Mhar community’s cap?

Here I recall the good old Konkani proverb: “Rogddea khustar san’nam; Fulu khustar fozne!” (Make merry at others’ expense!)

To be continued ........
Anjuna, Goa

© All rights reserved

Forwarded by
gulf-goans e-newsletter (since 1994)


The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 6

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 6

By Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna, Goa
Mobile: 9420979201


Until the Fifties and the Sixties, most Goans in the villages lived in the 'Stone Age'. I say so because I witnessed people starting a fire by rubbing two stones together. Keep in mind the first non-poisonous match was made available for public use since January 28, 1911!

Similarly, paddy was husked at home in a “varn” (round hole in the floor - hand mill to husk paddy or corn) with the help of a “musoll” (life size pestle.)

The husking job was undertaken by two women. At every thrust of the musoll, each woman would utter: Shov, shov – shov, shov – shov, show … Do you remember the following lines from one of the Dekhnnis?

Shov, shov Juana
Modlea varnant far poddonam
Shov, shov, shov kanddtta gho
Kannpinnincho mathro ghov!

(Shov, shov Juana
The stroke doesn’t get into the middle of the varn
Shov, shov, shov - the husking goes on
It’s the husker’s old husband!)

Few villages had rice husking and flour mills by the mid of the last century. Until then, people ground all types of cereals at home on a “dantem” (millstone) and produced flour at home. Here are two lines of a dantem-related Dulpod:

Apttun-dhopttun gho, cheddvan dantem manddilem
Doilolem pitt sogllem, kombien xinvravn uddoilem

(With great difficulty, the girl set the grinding stone)
But all the ground flour was strewn around by the chicken.)

In the olden days, for every day breakfast people ate “gonvacheo bakreo” (hand made wheat bread) and “nachneanchem tizan” (a sweet dish made from the millets.) For this, they needed “gonvanchem ani nachnneanchem pitt (wheat and millet flour,) which they ground on a dantem.

In the days of yore, practically every household owned a set of dantem. They ground rice and cereals on it every day - it was a daily task.

At Christmas time, besides “churnancheo nevreo” (nevreo filled with grated coconut mixed with jaggery,) people also made “chonneanchea pittacheo nevreo” (nevreo from gram flour.)

Chonneanchi dal (gram lentils) was fried and ground on a dantem. Sugar was also mixed along with chonnenachi dal and ground together. When grinding was in session, children would visit the dantem or millstone every now and then, pick a handful of sweet ground powder, place it in their mouth and walk away.

Although most villagers were uneducated, they were particular about hygiene. Whenever rice and other cereals were to be ground on a dantem, they would place it on a “khanddiem” (a kind of flat, square mat with elevated sides approximately 6” high.

In order to avoid spill of ground flour on the khanddiem, a cloth was placed underneath the dantem. The khanddiem was to avoid surrounding dust particles from getting into the flour. With the khanddiem in place, people walking about the house could not step into it and the contents were protected from the dust.

The Mhar community manufactured this little protective item – the khanddiem!


There was no electricity supply in Goan villages until the early Seventies. In Anjuna, we received electricity supply in 1974. Today, every household has ceiling/pedestal fans and/or air conditioners. How do you think people cooled themselves and survived in those days?

People used “hatan kel’lo mancho ain’no” (hand-made bamboo fan.). Almost every house had a couple of bamboo fans, which they used during their leisure time and in the summer. They also used them while making the first fire in the morning.

People sat either on a “sopo” (a bench of stones) or an “umbro” (ridge outside a door), conversed with each other and fanned themselves. People also carried these ainn’nne to the Church, weddings and other functions.

These ainn’nne were sold at main feast fairs like St. Francis Xavier’s feast at Old Goa, Milagres feast in Mapusa, Holy Cross feast at Santa Cruz, Our Lady of Assumption feast in Panaji, Holy Spirit feast in Margao, etc.

The ainn’nne were manufactured in attractive colors i.e., they used at least 3-colored hevam (layers) – green/blue, red/violet, yellow.

Who do you think manufactured the ainn’nne? Of course, the Mhar community!

Some other fragrance smelling fans were also sold but they were more of a delicate nature, whereas the ones made of bamboo lasted for a long time. People used them carefully so as to last for at least a year – they would buy new ones at one of next year’s above-mentioned fairs.

During the Portuguese regime, shopkeepers imported fancy Japanese fans, which were made of fine wood and cloth and had beautiful designs printed on them.

Whenever a wedding took place, common girls and women carried “manche ainn’nne” (fans made from bamboo), whereas the elite and well-to-do carried imported fancy ainn’nne.

Once a dance was over, girls and ladies returned to their seats, opened their fans and fanned themselves. They then waited for the boys/men to approach and pick them up for the next dance.

When approached, girls/ladies usually obliged them without any fuss. When they were picked up for the next dance, they left their ainn’nne with their mothers or sisters or relatives.

Shouldn’t we be grateful to the Mhar community for providing us comfort when there was no electricity supply?


A famanchi maddi is a straight pole like a betel nut tree announcing a forthcoming feast.

In the past, celebration of a church feast in Goa consisted of three parts: (1) Fama or fam’ (fame); it always took place on a Thursday, (2) nine novenas, inclusive of vesper, and (3) the feast. The whole process lasted eleven days.

Presently, due to shortage of priests, a Tridium is held i.e. only three novenas are held followed by the feast. Here we shall talk only of the first part – the fam’.

On the day of the fam’ a famanchi maddi announcing the forthcoming feast is erected in front of a church or chapel. Villagers gather and prepare the maddi, which needs the following:

“Ek lamb ubhi man” (one straight long bamboo), “ek maddachem tornem chuddeth” (one raw leaf of a coconut tree), “manchi mandd” (bamboo-woven halo), “sumb” (coir rope), “santacho regist” (holy picture of the saint) and a “paroi” (crow-bar).

At first, chuddtteo (palm leaves) are removed from a chuddeth and they are tied all around the bamboo pole in the form of bows – these are tied about five feet above the ground so cattle can’t reach and eat them. The tip of the bamboo pole is slightly slit and the pointed end of the halo is inserted into the slit bamboo tip, which is then tied tightly with a coir rope. A holy picture is then pasted on the halo.

The presiding priest says prayers and blesses the maddi, which is then fixed into a hole dug in front of the church or chapel making sure that the picture faces the road so people know which saint’s feast is being announced.

Sometimes a maddi is fixed without a priest in attendance. Simultaneously, church/chapel bell is rung followed by a barrage of “fogotteo” (firecrackers), “gornal” (hand made grenades) and even “fozne” (mortars), which is another form of announcing the beginning of a feast.

Usually, a famanchi maddi was prepared by village boys but whenever a feast was celebrated by an individual or a president, one of the members from the Mhar community prepared it for him/her.

The bamboo-woven halo was fabricated by the Mhar community. It may have been a small item but it was of great significance, especially in the olden days when celebration of a feast consisted of three parts - after all, the Mhars had a good sense of decoration!

We still have a bamboo-woven halo, which we bought for our St. John’s chapel in Anjuna over two decades ago. Every year after the feast is over we remove it from the maddi and store it carefully in a safe place.


Every year in the month of April or May, Mhar families, mostly women, were brought at home to repair damaged dalieo, soviim, supam, panttleo, panji, konnkeo, konndde, etc. They also prepared “virlim” at the customer’s place and/or made them on order.

Before they could start work, they would visit the house a couple of days in advance in order to assess the material needed to repair worn out items.

Accordingly, people arranged for fresh “okondd man” (whole bamboo) on the previous day and kept them ready for the next day.

They worked from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, inclusive of one hour lunch break.

Upon arrival, they would say: “Bai gho, il’li chav asa zalear diat.” (Madam, please give us some tea [if you have any left.]) They were so humble that we would give them not only tea but also “bakri” (chapattis) or anything else that we had – after all they were our guests for the day(s).

Once they had their breakfast, they would take a “koito” (machete) and begin to split bamboos into two halves and then proceed to peal off “hevam” (strips/layers of bamboo) according to their need and repair torn portions of the items listed above.

They were jolly in nature; they always hummed tunes of Zoti, Goan Mandde and Dulpods while they worked. They were experts in singing “zoti” and “vovieo” - special songs sung at ‘Ros’ and other wedding-related ceremonies.

Today, cricket players, especially bowlers, plaster their fingers to get a better grip of the ball. Poor Mhar women tied pieces of cloth to their index and middle fingers to avoid cuts while cleaning hevam.

At around 10:30 am they were provided a “marnon” (earthen container) full of kanji (soft rice) along with “chepnnenchea toranchem lonnchem” (pressed raw mango pickle) or “kalchi koddi” (yesterday’s or stale curry). For lunch - rice, fish-curry, fried fish and pickle were served, and for dessert mangoes or bananas or any other fruit that was available from the home garden was served.

While they worked at our place, as children it was an opportunity for us to collect as many bamboo pieces as we wanted, which we used not only to play the “Koinnddo Bal” game but also to play “marini” – a game similar to that of Koinnddo Bal in which shorter, blunt pieces of bamboo are used.

People, especially middle class, treated the Mhar workers nicely and they in turn worked sincerely. Today, we don’t come across sincere workers.

All the products prepared by the Mhar community were sold at the weekly Mapxencho (Mapusa) Bazaar on Fridays, at the Congottcho (Calangute) Bazaar on Saturdays and at Siolecho (Siolim) Bazaar on Wednesdays.

The products were also sold at main feast fairs – Our Lady of Milagres feast in Mapusa; the feast of the Holy Cross in Santa Cruz, the feast at the Holy Spirit in Margao, etc.

Weren’t the Mhars a craft-oriented community? No wonder in the past they were referred to as the ‘artisans’ of Goa!


Today, it has become a fashion to have an attractive floor with tiles. People even go through the trouble of traveling as far as Rajasthan in order to buy the best of marble tiles for their houses from there.

Pre-liberation, most houses in Goa had “xennanchi zomin” (cow dung covered floor,) which was made from a mixture of mud and gravel; it was soaked and beaten with a “pettnem or bato” (a flat wooden piece shaped like a cricket bat but much thicker and heavier; a pounder) until a flat surface was achieved. It was then covered with cow dung which kept it tidy.

It was a practice to treat the floor with cow dung at least once a month but it was repeated whenever there was an occasion like blessing of a house, a birthday party, engagement party, relatives' visits, local feast celebration, weddings, etc.

People from the poorer class did the job themselves but the middle and upper classes hired the experts in the job from the lower class. And, who do you think those experts were? They were none other than our Mhar community!

The job may seem low and dirty, but the Mhars were instrumental in keeping our houses tidy.

To be continued …………….
Anjuna, Goa

© All rights reserved

Forwarded by
gulf-goans e-newsletter (since 1994)

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 5

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 5

By Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna, Goa
Mobile: 9420979201


In the olden days, practically every family in Goa raised chickens - some made a living by selling eggs.

Before nightfall, chickens had to be kept indoors. If they were left outside to perch on the trees, they could be eaten by a “kattandor” (wild cat.)

By the time the Angelus bell rang, people would be busy calling out chickens - bha-bha-bha-bha-bha.... in order to bring them indoors. The chickens recognized the call was for them to get indoors and go into their “ghudd” (coop) where they would spend the night.

Those who had many chickens built a “kombieancho ghudd” (chicken coop) where they spent the night. But those who had few chickens used a “korondd” (a special bamboo-woven basket similar to Mittachi Konnki but much broader and larger in size); its top had a cover.

If all the chickens could not be accommodated in a ghudd or koronnd, they were gathered in a place inside the house and covered with a “panz” (a large basket like a cage made from bamboo with little windows.) A large “munddkutto” (wooden log) was placed on the top of a panz so chickens could not escape from it.

We all know that a mother chicken is very protective of her chicks. Whenever crows or eagles hover in the air, she hides her chicks under her wings and protects them.

During the day, a panz was used to cover newly born chicks to protect them from the clutches of predators.

Panz reminds me of a Konkani proverb: “Kombeak panji pondak dhamplear to sad ghalinastannam ravchonam.” (A rooster will crow even if it is kept under a panz; or just because the rooster didn’t crow it doesn’t mean that the sun won’t rise!

Here I recall a Konkani duet titled “Kombo kombiechi amizad” from Oslando’s cassette ‘Boas Festas’ in which the male owner of a rooster asks the female owner of a hen, as to how much dowry she would give to which she replies thus:

Male: Sang almar tum ditoli kosli. (Tell me, what type of a cupboard you will give.)
Female: Panz kelea zonelanchi (I have prepared a panz with windows....)

Here again, it was the Mhar community who made the koronndd and panz and helped Goans make a living out of chickens!

Weren’t these items indigenous?


In the olden days, we came across two types of “chavni” (strainers – devices with perforations through which finer particles pass through to separate them from coarser ones) – one made of metal, which was used by the well-off people, and the other was bamboo-woven, which was used by the middle-class and poor people.

The latter was manufactured by the Mhar community. It was mainly used to sieve husked rice and other cereals.

Even drying of boiled paddy has a method – it has to be dried just right so that when it is taken to a husking mill, it does not produce “konnieo” (broken rice.)

As a matter of fact, boiled paddy is never dried fully in the sun; it is brought home and left to loiter on the floor for a couple of days “zuim taka ravon-pavon chavo marit ravtat” (where it is turned over every now and then.)

In case boiled paddy is over-dried, you get mixed quality rice - whole and semi-broken. This type of rice is not considered good for daily rice consumption at lunch or dinner. But it is okay to prepare “pez” or kanji and also to prepare breakfast items like kailoieo, poye, san’naa, etc. where rice is soaked in water overnight and ground into “vanttlelem pitt” (ground flour) the next morning.

Goans may have been poor but they had their own standards and one of them was to eat good staple food with whole rice grains - not broken.

Therefore, whenever the husking machine produced broken rice, after it was brought home, next day the women of the house sat down and separated whole rice from konnieo.

They placed a few handfuls of husked rice into a bamboo-woven chavon, held it in both hands and moved it in a clockwise position while at the same time hitting its sides. In order to hasten the sieving, they held the chavon in left/right hand and placed free hand into it and stirred the contents, thus forcing konnieo to fall through tiny perforations at its bottom. The process is known as “chavnnem ghalunk” (to sieve.)

Usually, konnieo were fed to the fowls, which in turn gave eggs; so, it was worth it. Konnieo were also used to make various rice-based sweets.

Wasn’t the ingenuity of the Mhar community admirable?


A pettaro is a basket just like a panttli but it had four small legs to keep it elevated from the floor; and it had a cover. It, too, was a multi-purpose item.

In the olden days, no feast or occasion was complete without ‘san’na’, which were prepared from soaked ground rice, grated coconut and leavened with “maddanchi sur’ (coconut toddy.)

San’nas were prepared in special enamel ‘pirieo’ (saucers) which were then placed in a “konfro” (a large copper container with a dome-shaped lid and a round metal plate with holes in the center) on which san’na, sirvoieo, pudd’dde, etc. were placed and cooked.

Depending on the size of a konfro you can cook a dozen san’na at one time by placing six saucers on the metal plate and another six on top of each other.

Once san’na were cooked, they were taken out from konfro and placed in a pettaro.

Similarly, during Christmas time, every house prepared ‘kusvar’ or Christmas sweets at home like nevreo, kolkol, etc. The first item that was prepared and dip-fried was a cross made of maida flour. Once all the kusvar was fried, it was stored in a pettaro.

The pettaro used during Christmas time was prepared with colored “hevam” (layers of bamboo,) mostly red, green and yellow, which made it look more attractive during the festive period.

Whenever we felt hungry, we would go to the ‘kuart’ (room), open the pettaro and eat as many sweets as we wanted.

If the contents of the pettaro got emptied faster than they were expected to last, our mother would sarcastically remark: “Kednam don paimanche undir pettareant pavlet ani nevreo khavn kabar keleot tor?” (When did the two-legged rats get into the pettaro and finish the nevreo?) The only item which remained intact and safe in the pettaro after all the kusvar was consumed was ‘the cross,’ which we dared not eat!

During distribution of vojem, bol and bananas were placed in a pettaro, and doce, kokad, bathq, etc., were placed in its cover and taken around.

The cover of a pettaro was also used to make ‘soji’ – a Goan delicacy served at a bhikareanchem jevonn. Soji is made from ukdde bhatache tandull (boiled rice), datt ani patoll narlacho ros (thick and thin coconut juice,) ‘borddilele gonv’ (broken/course wheat) and “maddanchem godd” (coconut jaggery.)

Broken wheat is soaked overnight in water. Thin coconut juice is boiled and ukdde tandull added to it. Borddilele gonv are then added to the mixture and allowed to cook until the mixture turns soft.

Finally, maddanchem godd is added to the mixture along with the thick coconut juice and the contents stirred until the mixture thickens. Just like on’n, soji has to be constantly stirred with a large wooden ladle, as the liquid can burn at the base of the vessel in just a blink of an eye. Fresh plantain leaves are then placed in the cover of a pettaro and soji is spread on it.

While on the subject of a Pettaro, I remember whenever children went around without any clothes on, people remarked thus: “Xi, xi, xi, nagddo pettaro.” (What a shame, what a shame, you are naked! This expression was used for both genders, male and female.

Also, while massaging and giving bath to a child, the massager/parents/grandparents would sing thus:

Nagddo pettaro
Xetan gelolo
Xetkarachem mut pion ghara ailolo!”

Wasn’t the Mhar community wonderful designers of utility items?


As we all know, Goa is a land of coconuts. In the past and even now as soon as a piece of land is bought, people dig a well and plant coconut saplings in and around their properties.

Until around the Seventies, properties were wide open - there were no compound walls separating them; only “nis” (landmark or boundary stone) separated properties.

Goa had and still has a lot of cattle – cows, buffaloes, goats, etc. The only difference now and then is that present owners do not look after their cattle; they just leave them lose day and night, thus troubling the whole village; whereas, previously, owners either looked after their cattle or hired the services of a “gorvam raknno” (cowherd), who took them to graze in open areas or on a hill.

During the Portuguese regime, if any cattle ate home garden plants or paddy fields, all one had to do was to catch them and hand them in to the Regidor, who was the sole authority in the village – more on this authority some other time. Keep in mind there were neither Gram Panchayat Offices nor Police stations in villages then.

“Zonvarank dhorun voron Regidorager depostan ghaltalet” (The animals were caught and deposited at Regidor’s residence.) Once the offenders came to know that their cattle were detained at Regidor’s, they would approach him for their release.

The Regidor then sent for the person(s) who had brought in the cattle and met with both the parties. The cattle were released to their owner only after paying a fine with a severe warning not to repeat the mistake. If none approached the Regidor to claim the detained cattle, they were sold to a slaughter house.

When stray cattle, especially cows and buffaloes graze, they don’t spare “kavote” (coconut saplings.) Therefore, the kavote were protected with a “virlem” (cylindrical cage with small holes.) It looked somewhat like an hourglass but its mid-section was much broader. It had a tapering top to allow palm leaves to grow.

Virlim were also used to protect other plant saplings like those of mango, chickoo, jackfruit, etc. and even decorative plants. Nowadays, people use empty tar barrels to protect various saplings outside compound walls by the roadside.

The virlem is kept in place with the support of at least three “khunttieo” (wooden poles) around the sapling. As the sapling grows, smaller virlem is replaced by a bigger one and at this stage the khunttieo are removed and the virlem is tied to its “pidde” (palm leaf stems) with a "vayo" (fibrous peel from the upper surface of a green frond) or a sumbhacho kuddko.

People ordered their requirement of virlim in the summer for use in the monsoon when coconut saplings were usually planted.

The Mhar community took bulk orders for the manufacture of virlim. When the product was ready, they arranged them into bundles and delivered them to their customers.

To the naked eye, the bundles looked huge, as at least 8-10 small virlim were tied together; 5-7 large ones. The person carrying the bundle looked so tiny underneath that we (children) thought it was an ant carrying a huge load on its back! Actually, the virlim are light in weight but the sight of the huge bundle on a person’s head looked funny; at least to us, children!

Today, if we see vast stretches of coconut trees and have palm-fringed beaches throughout Goa, it is because the Mhar community helped protect them with virlim!

Does anyone think of the Mhars’ outstanding service to our society? Weren’t they great?

To be continued …………….
Anjuna, Goa

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The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 4

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 4

By Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna, Goa
Mobile: 9420979201


A “sup” is a large dustpan-shaped kitchen appliance made of bamboo - a winnowing fan.

It is a multi-purpose item. It comes in two types or sizes; both are household implements made of woven bamboo, shaped to form an extended plate with one side curving up into a triangular pocket.

One sup is a little flatter than the other and is used to “tandull ani dusro orov asddunk” (winnow rice and other grains), while the other, which is rounded, is used as a measure.

It is also used to gather and clean paddy at harvest time, in the fields, before the paddy is brought home.

Once the paddy is harvested, before it is transported from the field to the home, good paddy is separated from “pol” (chaff) and this is done with the help of a sup. The process is called “bhatak varem ghalop vo bhat varea korop” (to separate paddy from the chaff using simple implements and the power of the breeze.)

One of the “bhat movpi” (paddy thrashers) fills up a sup with freshly trashed paddy, lifts it up with both hands to shoulder level and stands against the breeze. He then slowly releases paddy from the sup which gets blown away by the breeze from behind.

In the process, good paddy falls straight down on the soviem and the chaff flies away. If there is no strong breeze blowing, a “kamerem” (female laborer) holds a “konn’ vo morl” (woven palm leaf) in both hands and fans the paddy from behind the person holding the sup.

Here is a sup-related Konkani proverb: “Varem ieta toxem sup dhor.” (Hold the winnowing fan in the direction of the wind.)

Next, a sup is used to separate “kunddo” (bran) from husked rice. The process is called “tandullank varem ghalop vo tandull varea korop” (to separate rice from the bran by using the power of the breeze.) Here again, if there is no strong breeze blowing, a kamerem holds a konn’ in both hands and fans rice which is released from a sup.

With the arrival of electricity in the Seventies, some people used large-blade pedestal fans, especially ‘Almonard’ brand fans to tandull varea korunk.

A sup is also used to separate whole rice from “konnieo” (broken rice).

A few handfuls of rice is placed in a sup and it is then moved back and forth, gradually throwing it up in the air and catching it back into the sup. As a result, konnieo come to the fore of the sup, which are removed by hand, and whole rice remains at the back of the sup. Bran, if any, is blown away from the sup with a blow of breath.

At big functions like a wedding, bhikareanchem jevonn, etc. large quantities of grated coconut had to be ground on a ghonnsunno.

People usually own one ghonnsunno per home. Therefore, the randpinni (female cooks) would grate coconuts at a wedding house and send it to a neighbor’s house in a sup to grind it there. They made sure that a plantain leaf was placed on the sup, as otherwise “kantleli soy vo churn” (grated kernel) got into the grooves of the sup, thus inviting ants.

Here is another sup-related Konkani proverb: “Supantle hanstat, vorlentle roddttat.” (Rice grains in the winnowing fan laugh; those in the vorli cry because they are destined for the pot!)

As we all know, an elephant has large ears. People, therefore, refer to them as winnowing fans.

Sometimes, if you observe minutely, you will come across people who have large ears, which resemble a sup. To them, our elderly would remark: “Tache kan supa sarke!” (His/her ears are like winnowing fan!)

Furthermore, a sup is used to dry “ambeachim solam” (raw mango slices), “suko galmo” (tiny dry prawns), “sukeo mirsango” (dry chilies,) gonv (wheat,) nachnne (millets,) etc. and also to spread sugar on it and keep it in the sun to drive away ants, which might have invaded the sugar container.

What an idea! Wasn’t the Mhar community creative?


A smaller version of a sup is called “supli.” It is used to clean grains like “nachnne” (millets.) It is also used to collect dirt from the house.

As mentioned earlier, most houses in the past had mud floors, which was treated with cow dung. Every night the floor was swept with a “vhiranchi saronn” (broom of palm leaf stalk) and the dirt was collected in a supli. Today, we use plastic dustpans.


In Goa, salt was one of the monsoon provisions. In the days of yore, as soon as the month of May began, people would be busy making preparations to store salt.

Salt was stored in a “mittachi konnki” (a bulging barrel-shaped salt container made from bamboo.) And, who do you think manufactured this container? Of course, the Mhar community!

If the konnki needed repair, they would call one of the bamboo weavers from the Mhar vaddo and have it repaired, or have a new one made.

Every year, prior to monsoon, the exterior of the konnki was treated with a thick coating of “xenn” (cow dung) so as to cover its pores and over that a “sampddeanchi sai” (a skirt made from the front tips of palm leaves) was fixed.

The opening of konnki was closed with a large, round kurponn also made from bamboo. A “tizal” (large earthen utensil used especially for cooking large quantities of sorpotel, roast meat, vindalo, etc) or a kodem would be placed upside down on the top of the konnki so its neck rested on the upper ends of sampddeanchi sai.

The konnki was covered in such a way from outside that not a single drop of rain water would penetrate either through its top or from its sides.

Wasn’t the Mhar community imaginative in providing us with an indigenous storage for salt?

Nowadays, there is no need to go through all these difficulties to store salt. You just go to a grocery shop/supermarket and buy a packet of Iodized Salt!


Agriculture used to be the only means of livelihood for a major chunk of the population in Goa. And paddy was their staple diet. This being the case, tilling of paddy fields was one of their main professions until the 1960s. Our ancestors made their living mainly by tilling paddy fields.

Once the paddy was harvested, the paddy was brought home, dried and stored in an “orovacho koddo” (grain storage).

A koddo is woven from bamboo. It is usually a flat mat of thicker layers of bamboo measuring approximately 12-20’ long X 6.5’ high, including feet.

It is strengthened by placing a little thicker bamboo poles at about a foot’s distance from each other. The ends of these poles are left out at the bottom for about half a foot so the koddo can stand on its feet in an upright position when placed on the ground.

To make a koddo, both ends are seamed together by overlapping it for about a foot and it is given a cylindrical shape. A small, square, door opening is kept at its bottom through which paddy is removed.

Just like a mittachi konnki, every year the exterior of a koddo is treated with a thick coating of “xenn” (cow dung) so as to cover its pores.

Before filling the koddo with paddy, sand is placed on the floor and dry hay spread over it. The koddo is then kept in place and paddy filled in from its top opening. It is finally covered with dry hay. Sometimes gunny bags are also placed over the hay.

Bhatache kodde (paddy storages) were available in different sizes – eke khanddiecho koddo (one khanddi koddo), don khanddieancho koddo (two khanddi koddo), panch khanddieancho koddo (five khanddi koddo), dha khanddieancho koddo, (ten khanddi koddo), and, rarely a kumbhacho koddo (20 khanddi koddo).

If the Mhar community did not manufacture the kodde, where would we store our paddy? Later, by the Sixties, some people replaced “manche kodde” (grain storages made of bamboos) with “fatranche kodde” (grain storages made of laterite stones,) which also had an opening at its bottom, which was closed with a sliding metal plate door.

Nowadays, very few Goans till paddy fields; they buy their rice requirement from grocery shops. As such, there is no need to prepare orovache kodde.

If field conversions continue in Goa, there won’t be any fields left to be tilled.

However, kodde have found another use by the foreigners. They use them to prepare an “oddop” (fence) to cordon off their properties to discourage and keep off locals. They buy them from Mapusa market. They are made by the migrants.


“Koddsorieo” are bamboo woven kodde of a little lighter quality, which were and are still used for “zhodd vo addos” (a protection cover).

Until the early Fifties, very few houses in Goa were built with stones – most houses were built with mud bricks, which had to be protected from rains during the monsoon season or else they would get soaked with rain and collapse.

Mud walls were protected by raising a zhodd vo addos.

Whole bamboo poles were planted in the ground in a slanting position, about a foot away from the mud wall and their tops were tied to the “vanxeachea pontak” (rafter ends.) Half split bamboos were horizontally tied to poles at a distance of about eighteen inches. Thus, a framework was prepared to which a zhodd/addos was fixed. Either “konn’nnam” (woven palm leaves) or koddsorieo were tied to the framework with the help of “sumb” (coir rope).

A “balcão” (balcony) of a house was covered all around with a zhodd, as otherwise rain water splashed inside and ruined the floor, which usually was made of mud and covered with cow-dung.

Well-to-do people preferred to make a zhodd of koddsorieo instead of konn’nnam for their balcão.

Today, there is no need to fix a zhodd to protect walls because houses are built with stones and plastered with cement.

Come to think of it, the Mhar community was instrumental even in protecting our homes!


Goans being agriculturists, their main occupation was cultivating the fields.

As soon as it rains, (1) paddy fields are ploughed; (2) over that a “gutto” (flat horizontal wooden plank) is applied, which makes ploughed ground flat, and (3) over that a “dantro” (teeth-like horizontal wooden bar) is applied and then “rov” (sprouted paddy) is strewn, which falls in fine tracks caused by a dantro.

The other mode of cultivating a paddy field is to follow step number one and two above and then transplant paddy saplings.

Once rov/paddy saplings take firm roots in the ground, “nonddnni” (the process of removing weed) begins. This work mostly takes place during the month of July when it rains quite heavily.

In those days, hardly anyone used a raincoat in the fields. Raincoats were used only by the elite and some middle-class people.

During rainy season, male laborers generally used a “kamboll/kambllem” (a black blanket made of pure wool), which was folded into a shape like a cone and placed on the head; its bottom had hanging tussles, which helped rainwater fall straight to the ground.

The kamboll did not only provide shelter to the user but it also provided warmth on the inside, as it was made of wool. It was fairly heavy. Rainwater fell on it and rolled away. Many used it as a blanket at night; it probably was one of the best blankets compared to other available blankets.

Here is a kamboll-related Konkani proverb: “Thonddaient kamboll zodd konnank lagta? (Who feels the weight of a blanket when it is cold?)

As far as “kamerim” (women laborers) were concerned, they used a “konnddo” (protection of palm-leaf cover against rain) when they worked in the fields during raining season.

A bamboo framework was prepared and it was covered with “konn’nnam vo morlam” (woven coconut leaves.) The Mhar community manufactured the konnddo.

There was another type of konnddo, which was prepared entirely from bamboo wood. It had a deep, round curve in the middle to accommodate one’s curved back when bending and working in the field.

It resembled a “kongo” (snail) with a fine peak on its top. It was covered with a thick layer of cashew leaves, which were woven together with a vhir - just like a potravolli.

This konnddo, too, was manufactured by the Mhar community and it was used mostly in the fields by middle-class women.

Nowadays, you rarely see laborers in the fields using konndde. Most migrant laborers simply fold and place a piece of plastic cloth on their head – just like a kamboll, which reaches their knees, and wrap another piece of plastic around their waist.

I recollect a konnddo-related Konkani proverb: “Nonddnni koxii zanv, konnddo ghott!” (It doesn’t matter if the process of picking weed is not followed but the style of konnddo is great!

There is yet another similar Konkani proverb which goes thus: “Nonddonk kollona, konnddo boro haloita - applies to those who make empty sound. Similarly, “Ticho konnddo varean halta” means her konnddo shakes with the breeze, or she is making empty noise.

To be continued …………….

Anjuna, Goa

© All rights reserved

Forwarded by
gulf-goans e-newsletter (since 1994)

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 3

The Forgotten Tribe – MHAR – Part 3

By Domnic Fernandes
Anjuna, Goa
Mobile: 9420979201


Not too long ago fish vendors, especially “nistekarni” (fisherwomen), were a common sight in Goa, but not anymore.

Fisherwomen bought fish from “ramponnkar” (fishermen who catch fish by casting a net – now it is caught in mechanized trawlers) and transported it in panttleo to the village tintto on foot.

Some went around visiting every household with a panttli on their head calling out loudly: “Nistem zai ghe?” (Do you want fish?) Now men bring fish on motorcycles and use the “puku-puku” horn to notify customers that they have brought fish.

Just yesterday, I witnessed a new method of selling fish in villages. A man now comes in a second-hand Maruti 800 car with his lady partner sitting next to him on the front passenger seat. The rear seats have been removed to accommodate plastic containers with fish. He uses the same “puku-puku” horn from the driver’s window to attract and invite customers’ attention.

Since the sale of fish from automobiles is a new method, most people don’t know about it. So he stops his car approximately every 100 meters, exits the vehicle and sounds the horn. He then opens the back door of his car and displays fish. His fish is a little more expensive than the motorcycle fish-seller; obviously his car consumes more petrol!

If there were no panttleo to carry fish, what would have happened to our fish requirement then?

Of course, basket weaving by other communities continues and fisher folks still use nisteacheo panttleo, but keep in mind, in those days, there were no migrants in Goa to do the basket weaving job!


All those born prior to the Eighties surely remember the Goan "poder" (baker), who was also known as a "mest" (chef.)

Every morning, he dutifully carried on his head a “poderachem pannttem” (large bamboo-woven basket) filled with crispy, aromatic, traditionally leavened, “khornan-bazlele” (oven-baked) Goan “pão” (bread), “katreanche pão” (bread with four corners – do you remember “katreanche vistid” (girls’ dresses with a side or back cut?), kunddeachi poyi (bran bread) and children’s most favorite “unddeachim kanknnam” (bread-bangles).

He visited each house barefoot. For his support, he carried his trademark in his right hand - the poderacho danddo. He also made a second round in the afternoon.

Every morning "lok dollean tel ghalun poderachi vatt polletalo" (people anxiously waited for the baker) to arrive with hot-hot bread, etc. which they consumed immediately before they lost their warmth and aroma!

The Fifties and the early part of the Sixties were the era of the bicycle. The poder was tired of walking. So, he grabbed the opportunity and bought a bicycle for himself.

He fitted a large steel carrier over the rear wheel of the bicycle and fixed a poderachem panttem on it. He was fortunate then because he could still reach each house on his bicycle through “paim-vatt ani bidi” (foothpath and path with rubble-fence) on either side, as most compound walls separating properties came into existence from the Seventies onwards.

During summer and winter, he covered the bread in the panttem with a thick cloth. But during monsoon season he closed the top of the panttem with a plastic cloth, which was held tight around the basket with an old bicycle rubber tube.

I say hats off to the Mhar community for coming up with a specific basket to carry and serve bread to the Goan community!

Today, we may not get the old traditional toddy-leavened bread but the trend to carry bread in a poderachem panttem on a bicycle continues.


The Mhar community also made a special, extra large “narlanchem panttem” (coconut basket) to carry coconuts. These were made using the external epidermis (green) of bamboos, i.e., they did not shave off the skin, which for all other weaving purposes was pealed and thrown away.

In order to strengthen these baskets, they were made of thicker layers of bamboo and the top edge was woven in a twisted manner – it gave a good grip, especially while lifting the panttem up with loaded coconuts. Unlike a standard panttli, the weaving of a narlanchem pannttem all around and even at the bottom was spaced out with little windows.

In the olden days, bhattkars chose one of their trusted munddkars (tenants) as a “mukdom” (in-charge/supervisor) of their properties. He was responsible to look after their properties, hire coconut pluckers, pluck coconuts and then store them in a “loz” (derived from the Portuguese word ‘loja’ meaning shop - coconut storage,) which was usually built in a mukdom’s plot. If there were no such narlanchim pannttim, how would a mukdom carry thousands of coconuts to the “loz?

The bhattkars may have despised the Mhar community but they are the ones who helped store their coconuts in the loz!


A panttulo is a small basket. It, too, was a multi-purpose item. All builders, including our Kunnbi brothers, used panttule to fill and carry mud and other material. Panttule were used extensively for road construction work.

Mud, sand, gravel, etc. were filled in trucks with the help of panttule. Even when wells were cleaned, the dirt was filled in panttule and brought up with the help of a “razu” (coir rope) via a pulley. “Potreacheo/plastikacheo/roboracheo kaili” (corrugated metal/plastic/rubber pans) arrived at a much later date - sometime in the Seventies.

A ghaddekar always carried and still carries a panttulo with him to fill his ghaddo with “mitt, mati, xenkaro, renv, bhat, adi” (salt, mud, gravel, sand, paddy, etc.) A panttulo is a measure for the ghaddekar to fill his ghaddo.

At home, a panttulo was used to store “kande, bottatte, tamottam, alem, losunn, torkari, adi” (onions, potatoes, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, vegetables, etc.)

In the past, many parents sent their children early in the morning to neighbor’s “gotto” (stable) with a panttulo to collect xenn for application on cow-dung floor.

Those who tried to steal dung from stables got hind-kicked by cows/oxen, suffered injuries and also lost the panttulo in their struggle to run away from the cattle - it got crashed under cattle’s feet!


Every year, the novenas of Mount Mary began on Sunday, August 30; the feast took place on September 8. We just celebrated the feast on last Tuesday!

During our childhood, these were the best novenas besides “Salvi”, which preceded “Advogad Saibinnimchem fest” (Our Lady of Advocate feast) in Anjuna, when few children were selected to dress as “anj” (angels). Unlike Salvi, at Mount Mary’s novenas, all the children got a chance to participate in “Devache Mathe!”

Although we had a lot of flowers in our garden and vases, we still wanted to have a variety of flowers in our little basket at each novena. So, every evening during novenas we would go to neighbors’ house(s) and request them to give us flowers. Nobody ever refused because they knew the purpose very well.

We would bring flowers and immerse them in a container so that they remained fresh until the next morning. If we didn’t find time to collect flowers in the evening, we would wake up early next morning and go to our neighbors’ house(s) to ask them for flowers. Here again, they did not mind our disturbance. On the contrary, they sometimes thanked us for waking them up.

Most important was a flower-carrying basket, which the Mhar community prepared for us. It was tapering and round in shape and had a small “argol” (handle) to hold. It was weaved with a little spaced out weaving all around so we could tuck flower stems from inside out.

As soon as we woke up, we would first fill the base of the basket with natural confetti (May-Flower branch leaves) and then meticulously arrange flowers and croton/ferns leaves in the basket by tucking them to its sides.

When we finished dressing and wore white tennis shoes, we would finally place white crepe paper flower crown on our head. Once it was on our head, we looked in the mirror and got that majestic, angelic feeling!

Those who had received the first Holy Communion would have saved their crowns for use at these novenas and it would be used until it lasted or did not fit one’s head. Others had to buy new ones.

We would then leave home for the Church. We walked to the Church slowly but briskly making sure that the basket was held tight in our hand and flowers did not spill on the road. For that, we had to stop the usual swinging of our hands.

When the novena mass came to an end, children would get up from their benches and stand in two parallel rows in the main isle of the Church with baskets in their hands.

This was the time when church-goers took notice of flower arrangements in our baskets and complimented us after the novenas.

Finally, while the “igorjecho mistir” (church master) began to play the tune of “Virgem Mãe de Deus” (Devache Mathe) on his violin, children held the panttulo in their left hand, placed their right hand into it and got ready to toss up the contents of the basket.

Everyone began to sing the hymn. Every time ‘Virgem Mãe de Deus’ line was sung, we tossed up the flowers and natural confetti. Similarly, we tossed natural confetti at each other across the isle.

We always saved the best flowers for last. Children then proceeded to the statue of Mount Mary and placed the best flowers at her feet, thus bringing an end to the novena ceremony of the day.

Boy! Did we enjoy carrying the flower basket to the Church? We surely did! Unfortunately, this tradition has been discontinued in our churches and the present generation misses the spiritual fun and excitement we had.

As children, Mount Mary’s novenas meant a lot to us; they were some of the happiest moments in our lives. Yes, those were the angelic days to which we belonged and which now remain only memories in our minds.

Once the feast was over, we would save the paper crown in a box. Similarly, we would hang the Devache Mathecho panttulo at the end of a "dannddi" (clothes hanger made out of a bamboo bar) where it remained safe until next year.

I am indebted to the Mhar community for bringing joy in our childhood!


A vorli is a sort of square container with a round opening and a little bulge in the middle on all four sides. It came in several sizes.

It, too, had a multi-purpose use. It was mainly used “chunancho ros kaddunk” (to extract coconut juice) to prepare Bebinca, Dodol, etc.

There were no electric grinders or strainers in the olden days. So, how did our ancestors extract coconut juice?

Well, they grounded grated coconut on a “ghonnsunno” (round, granite stone with a hole in the middle), placed it in a vorli and pressed it hard with hand resulting in juice, which was collected in a container.

A vorli was used to wash rice at big occasions like weddings, feast celebration, etc.

But it had a specific use by the randpinni while preparing a bhikreanchem jevonn. Usually, “tandull” (rice) is washed indoors at a wash basin in containers or in buckets. But at the preparation of a bhikarenchem jevonn, according to Goan tradition, rice is placed in a vorli/vorleo and taken to a water well where one of the randpinni draws fresh water from a well and pours it directly into the vorli/vorleo, and another randpinn washes the rice!

A vorli was also used to serve “od’de” (fritters of flour) and cooked rice at a bhikarenchem jevonn.

Home-grown fruits like chickoo, custard apple, papayas, etc. were placed in a vorli to get ripe there.

A container similar to vorli was also used by “pagi” (a fisherman who fishes with the help of a “pager” [a sweep/casting net.]) He always carried a long bamboo stick on his shoulder. At one end of the stick, he placed his ‘pager’ and “buthi” (food pack) and at the other end he fixed the “guddvo” (vorli-type container) in which he placed freshly caught fish, mainly “sungott-burantto” (shrimps and miscellaneous small fish.)

Do you remember the good old Konkani saying: “Vorlenui doronam ani supanui doronam?” (Can neither be contained in a vorli nor in a winnowing fan?) This expression is used mostly on mischievous children who don’t sit in one place and are always on the run!

There is yet another vorli-related Konkani saying: “Bhagacho vantto vorlen kuso!” (Joint share would rot in a vorli!) A vorli was used to carry items of vojem like doce, bol, bathk, etc. A joint share was kept in a vorli but neither of the two parties would decide on its distribution. As a result, the share would get rotten in the vorli.

To be continued …………….

Anjuna, Goa

© All rights reserved

Forwarded by
gulf-goans e-newsletter (since 1994)