THE FORGOTTEN TRIBE - MHAR - PART 11
KAZARACHO MATTOV ANI NETTOVNNI
"Poixe aslear aiz tujean kiteim viktem ghevnk zata" (Today, if you have money, you
can buy anything). The more money you spend, the better things you get.
Each Catholic parish now has a wedding hall. In the Anjuna Church compound, we have
CECILIA de GAMA PINTO MEMORIAL HALL, which was built in memory of the late Miss
Cecilia, daughter of the late Dr. Olencio de Gama Pinto.
In the past, there were no halls in the villages. Weddings were held either in
houses or in a mattov - it is erected on festive occasions, such as weddings or
religious ceremonies, to shelter large number of people who cannot be accommodated
in the residence of those who are celebrating the occasion or in the sacred
If a wedding celebration was held on the outside of a home, men from the
neighbourhood gathered and erected a "kazaracho mattov" (wedding pavilion) in front
of the house. Those that could afford gave a short contract to an individual.
In Gaumvaddy, we had Patris (Patricio/Patrick) who took such contracts. He belonged
to the Mhar community. He lived on a mini marodd, which was about three hundred
meters away from the main marodd. Other adjoining villages also had mattov
decorators who belonged to the Mhar community - they were simply the cheapest and
Patris used "maddanche vanxe" (coconut tree rafters) as pillars and "mani" (bamboo)
for the framework. He arranged a kind of skirting from the ground made of bamboos
and koddnnam, and covered it with a beautiful reddish cloth border.
He covered the top of the pavilion with long strips of white sheets, which were
stitched together. The process was called "mattvachea matheak fôr marop" (to cover
the top of the pavilion with the lining.)
The top border of the mattov was decorated with fringes; net curtains were hung all
around the pavilion, which were further decorated with bunches of balloons in
different colors and sizes.
In one of the corners of the "mattov", he erected a small stage for the brass band
from where the musicians played instruments like saxophone, trumpet, flute, clarinet
and drums and entertained the crowd.
The well-heeled also asked the decorator to decorate the house. The interior of the
house was decorated first. He stood on a chair or climbed a "nisovnn" (ladder),
hammered nails into the walls and fixed the thread from one corner to the other
according to the pattern of decoration.
The folds of cut crepe paper were then released into long strips and arranged in a
manner in which they would be used. Once he decorated the interior and exterior
(verandah/balcony) of the house, he began decoration of the "mattov."
Once paper decoration was over, he would begin to inflate balloons and install them
in bunches all over the mattov as well as in the interior and exterior of the house.
The pillars of the main entrance were decorated with halves of "chudd'ttam" (coconut
leaves). They were cut and separated in the middle and each half was twisted around
the rafters and tied with a sumb.
Leaves of fern plants were fixed to all the pillars in an "X" shape and thin strips
of crepe paper were thrown over them to enhance the décor. The decorator removed
"bendor" (parasite plants) from nearby mango trees, arranged them into round
bunches, hung them from the ceiling of the pavilion at different spots with a piece
of "sumb" and decorated them with fine strips of crepe paper in different colors.
In those days, Patris was quite a well-off person. Besides taking decoration
contracts and owning decoration material, he also owned over two dozen "gorvam"
(cattle,) out of which a dozen were "zotache padde" (oxen used to plough fields), as
he was a "zot-koxi" (cultivator of paddy fields); he did "kamot" - cultivated fields
for others. He sold cow milk and also worked as a laborer.
Patris loved to drink. He did not smoke but chewed "panancho dentto" (tobacco leaf
stem). Just like his father, Zuzulo (José,) he, too, was very good at playing the
He always went about in a kashtti with a singlet on top. When he attended a funeral,
he wore a coat over his bare body. As a matter of fact, he never missed any
funeral - not because he considered it his duty to transport a dead person to the
cemetery, but because he would get free drinks at the end of the funeral.
Whenever Patris ran short of money for drinks, he would remove his kashtti and use
it as a "khaddum" - a rope-ring used by a coconut-plucker around both his feet at
the ankles for climbing the tree. He would climb up a coconut tree, ensconce in the
cluster of fronds, remove tender coconuts/coconuts by twisting them, bite at the
husk (he had all teeth intact,) pull out little ends of the fiber, tie them into
pairs and fasten them to his kashtti. He then placed the bunch on his shoulder and
climbed down (one doesn't need a "khaddum" to climb down) with as many tender
coconuts as he could place on his shoulder - fastened to the kashtti. A clever
method to steal tender coconuts without throwing them on the ground, which would not
only break in the process but would also invite trouble for himself.
He went around in the village and sold the stolen addsoram to his customers, mostly
Gulfies. He would lure them thus: "Baba, addsoram ekdom borim; sarkim kulerachim
ré!" (Sir, tender coconuts are very good; fit to eat with a spoon!
Patris was a funny character. He was quite familiar with local medicines but this
one stole the limelight.
His sister, Santana, suddenly had a paralytic attack - her right side was totally
paralyzed. What do you think Patris did? He went into the kitchen, gathered dry
chilies, black pepper, cloves, cumin, etc. and ground them together with fenni on a
"mirim vanttpachi fatorn" (masala grinding stone.) He then took the paste and
applied it liberally on her body. The application of concoction set Santana's body
on fire and forced her to stretch her limbs in order to run away - the result:
Continuous struggle to fight against burning sensation on her body gradually did
away with the paralysis and she was back on her feet within a couple of days. Wasn't
that some treatment?
Sadly, Patris succumbed to drinks and died a pauper.
Weren't the Mhar an all-round community, multi-skilled?
FEAST CELEBRATION AND CHURCH DECORATION
The Mhar has come a long way - perhaps he was one of the first to get converted to
When the Portuguese began to convert Goans, they introduced many attractive methods
to attract non-Christians to the Christian Church.
They built Churches and beautified their interior with attractive gothic-style
altars, paintings, etc.
A feast was celebrated by a "festacho prijent" (feast president), who spent lavishly
on decoration of the Church during the novenas, vespers and feast.
Fireworks, including "kombo ani kombi" (hen and rooster) at the end of a vespers,
was an added attraction because of which people made it a point to attend the
vespers however busy they might have been. On the feast day, too, fireworks added
worldly (not spiritual) colors to the celebrations.
Another attraction was the introduction of the brass band before and after the feast
mass. The band also played on the evening of the vespers.
The status of a feast president depended on his spending. If he hired a local band
to play alvorada early in the morning at 5:00 am, it meant the president was well
off. Some well-to-do feast presidents hired the brass band for eleven days - the
entire feast period!
Until around three decades ago, the Mhar community monopolised all decoration works
in Goan villages. The decorative skills were passed on from one generation to the
next among the Mhars.
Whenever a Church was decorated, parishioners mostly used crepe paper but they also
used bamboo baskets, which were prepared by none other than the Mhar community.
These baskets were hung below chandeliers and were filled with fresh/paper-made
flowers. Sometimes, bunches of parasite plants were simply placed into these baskets
and fine cut crepe paper was strewn on it.
These facts bear testimony of the Mhar existence in Goa since time immemorial.
Although the telephone was introduced in Goa in the 1940s, it was a rarity until the
late Sixties. Electricity arrived in villages in the early Seventies. Public
transportation hardly existed. In the absence of these facilities, communication was
a significant problem. Most messages were transmitted by word of mouth.
However, the last decade of the last century witnessed the communication networks
progress by leaps and bounds, which created wonders for humankind, due to which it
is now possible to transfer information momentarily between individuals located
thousands of miles away using satellite technology, via the Internet, mobile phones,
Presently, we cannot leave our home without a mobile or do without staying in touch
with our dear and near ones via e-mail. So, how did people in the past survive
without e-mail or telephones, and how did they communicate with each other?
While Church bells pealed five times daily and tolled for the dead, Church bells
were also used to inform parishioners of immediate problems like assault, theft,
illness of Church staff, etc.
The priest also conveyed messages to his parishioners through announcements made
during the Mass at the Church. He still does whenever Comunidade, Gram Sabha and
other important meetings take place in the village.
In Anjuna, very important announcements were posted on the Church bulletin board on
the wall besides the staircase leading to the Comunidade office. During the summer,
messages were affixed on the main doors of the Church.
Many hired the services of a pedo from the Mhar community to go around in the
village to announce a death in a family.
The individual walked the whole village with a "kampinn" (small bell) in his/her
hand, which he/she kept on ringing from one end of the village to the other
informing those who wanted to know as to who had died and on which day and time the
funeral would be held.
In Anjuna, it was mostly Idalgem (Idaline) or her husband Zunvlo (João) or his
brother Antongo (Antonio) or Severlem (Severine.)
Similarly, whenever Comunidade office arranged for "zonn"-related meetings, auction
of Comunidade fields or fruit bearing trees like mango tree (ambo rendak korunk),
and imminent visits of the Church and government authorities like the Governor,
health officials, etc., the services of a messenger from the Mhar community were
For Comunidade-related announcements, mostly two persons were hired - a male and a
In Anjuna, during our time, it was always Caru (Caridade) and his wife, Severlem
(Severine) from Tembi mini marodd. Caru carried a "dhol-tax or tombor" (kettle
drum), which he hung around his neck with a "sumbacho dôr" (coir rope) and went on
playing it to the following rhythm while he walked the village:
While Caru stopped beating the drum, his wife rang the "kampinn". People approached
and asked them what the "perganv" (announcement) was about to which they replied as
they were instructed by the authorities.
The messenger(s) halted at important places like the village Tintto, where people
gathered and he announced the message aloud.
They also carried a written announcement on a piece of paper, which they handed to
anyone who asked for it - mostly bhattkars and a few others, who were privileged to
read and write.
This mode was called "pergão" (announcement) derived from the Portuguese word
In Goa, whenever one repeats the same behavior/thing/story time and again, they say:
"Kitem re, sodanch tench reng-tte-tte-tteng vazoita!" (What man, you always play the
same reng-tte-tte-tteng rhythm!)
Comunidade office was and is still located in the Church premises. Peons/servants
employed in the Comunidade office belonged to the Mhar community - at least I did
not come across any other community taking up these posts - maybe because of their
(Mhar) affiliation with the Church.
So, how can we despise the Mhar community who were so instrumental in our lives?
To be continued ........
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