Siolim Zagor: When an ancient practice comes alive

Vitthal Devraj Shirodkar performs at the zagor

Eunuchs play a significant role in the celebrations
                  Eunuchs play a significant role in the celebrations

As the final hour of 2012 ticks away, a ward in  Siolim village of  North Goa, where Goa's famous  musician Remo Fernandes lives, will begin rituals to usher in an event they have been celebrating for centuries - the Zagor.

Basically, Zagor is an ancient form of Goan folk drama that mixed
prayer to God but also invocations to the 'deumchar', or the spirit of
the place. The second part of the Zagor is entertainment - songs of
harsh satire and crass vulgarity, all sung to the raucous beat of the

 'ghumot' or drums. 


 Earlier, a huge bonfire was lit at the
venue of the Zagors.

What is curious, or special, about the
Siolim Zagor is that, as its organizers boast, only the Siolim Zagor has
 both Hindus and Christians acting in it. What may also be special about
 the Siolim Zagor is that while Zagor has become rare in Goa since the
1960s, the Siolim Zagor is a certainty in the last days of December.

Half an hour before midnight on December 31, 89-year old Vittal Devraj
Shirodkar from Dando, Siolim, will lead a dance-procession of actors and
 people waving lit torches of palm fronds from near his house to the
temple nearby. There, to the accompaniment of the 'ghumot', Shirodkar
will begin singing the 'ovio'.--

Shirodkar, a Hindu,


 will sing
this Konkani verse that is purely a Christian prayer. Translated, the
verse means, first praise to God the Father, second praise to God the
Son and third praise to God the Holy Spirit; all three are one. The
verse also has praise for 'Mary's Prince' and invocation to Jesus

Gonzaga - Hanv Saiba Poltoddi Vetam 


Konkani Song :  Goa Amchem

Shirodkar has been singing the 'ovio' for the last 52
years but has no idea about their origins or who wrote them. What he
does know is that he is the fourth in his family to sing the 'ovio'. He
claims his family members have been enjoying the central role in the
Siolim Zagor for the last 150 years or more.

 If the Zagor
begins with Catholic prayer, it follows with an act where Shirodkar's
brother's son Avinash acts the role of the 'Gadgaddiya' or 'Zagoriyo',
locally known as 'deumchar' or spirit of the place. It is supposed to be
 a dumb spirit but is powerful nevertheless.

The Siolim Zagor
has its genesis in the belief that only after locals pleaded with the
'Gadgaddiya' and promised to celebrate one day in his honour, did the
bunds of the nearby river remain unbroken. Earlier, the bunds would
break inundating the fields with salt water and ruining the crop. "If we
 don't celebrate the Zagor, we believe some calamity will befall us,"
says Shirodkar.

At the end of the Zagor, Shirodkar will plead
for favours from the spirit on behalf of villagers. On the night of the
Zagor, hundreds will offer oil, candles and cashew fenny to the
"Gadgaddiya". Shirodkar said that some years ago, the Siolim church
wanted the Zagor stopped.

The Siolim Zagor has another act
called "Bharbariya
". This act was earlier reserved for the local
Christian families - D'Souza, Rodrigues, Pereira and Fernandes. But
while the elders of these families passed away, the younger ones
migrated mostly to Bombay for jobs. Now the Hindus enact the roles of
the Christians. But Shirodkar says that there is still one Christian
dancing in the Zagor. Shirodkar also mentions, with a tinge of pride,
how Remo Fernandes performed at the Zagor some years back.

the last 15 years, the main Siolim Zagor is followed by a 'tiatr'-the
modern Konkani drama
, popular mostly among Christians. But writing,
directing and acting in the Siolim Zagor 'tiatr' is a local Hindu -
Kishor Pomburpekar. In the beginning, Kishor cast himself as the hero,
later became villain and then switched to comedy. His latest production
is called "Ixtt vo Dusman" (Friend or Foe)


 Widely considered the precursor to Goan theatre, a zagor
exemplifies far more than just local drama. Its importance is threaded
between the state’s Christian and Hindu communities, binding them closer
 in communal harmony.

 The Wednesday market in Siolim –








 Ovi Songs: Ovi songs are a kind of 'wedding music' principally played
among the Hindu society in Goa. Goan women hum Ovi hymns while anointing
 the bride and groom with coconut squash milk, or while making
seasonings for dinners. At the time when Christianity was brought to
Goa, the missionaries introduced biblical contents into the Ovi songs.
Goans frequently assemble around a bonfire and reverently sing Ovi hymns
 created by the missionaries.
The ghumot 101 ... learn more about Goa's age-old traditional drum ...

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  • Ghumot

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    The ghumott (Konkani: घुमट or ಘುಮೋಟ), ghumot, gumot or ghumat is a membranophone instrument from Goa, India. Ghumat
     is a percussion instrument of earthen vessel having both sides open; on
     the bigger opening a leather (drum membrane) of monitor lizard is
    mounted. Generally ghumat is accompanied by 'samel', another traditional
     instrument with wooden drum and goat leather mount. This instrument is
    still very popular amongst by the Konkani diaspora.


    Ghumat forms an integral part of Goan folk, religious and temple
    music. It serves as an accompaniment to the folk songs and to the
    'mando' music. But most importantly it plays a vital role in the muic
    played in Goa during the Ganesh festival. It also used in most of the Goan temples during the spring season in an orchestra called as Suvari Vadan.

    Shree Ramanath Devasthan, Ramanathi, Goa